A conversation with a client the other day about how to engage her team more completely led to an important question. She had some conversations with team members recently that revealed that the team is losing hope about their chances for success in the face of a very challenging business climate. For her team “Yes we can.” was becoming “No we can’t.” Fast action is required without a doubt. But what’s a leader to do? In times of adaptive change, our teams want a message of hope and a reminder that through working together and trusting one another that they achieve their objectives. It is the role of the leader to provide hope and create an atmosphere typified by trust.
While instilling hope in our teams and organizations is the desired outcome, I want to focus on what it means for an individual leader to be a person of hope. For it is always true that we cannot give what we do not have. Erich Fromm said, “To hope means to be ready at every moment for that which is not yet born, and yet not become desperate if there is no birth in our lifetime.” How do we sustain an atmosphere in which we and our teams can make ready what must emerge for us to be successful?
Hope presupposes trust. Without trust, there is no hope; for hope is fundamentally a sense of trust that all shall be well. Why shall all be well? Because I trust in my own abilities and I trust in others. Trusting in our individual and collective strength and capacity to achieve is hope-inspiring. Whatever I wish to do, dream I can do, or believe I can do, I can do. That is hope based on trust of self and trust of others.
A lack of trust in an organization is deadly. Without trust in leadership, in other teams, in products and services, in systems, you name it, there is little hope that the organization can accomplish what it sets out to do, nor that leaders will follow through on promises to people. In times of adaptive change (like now), the leader must be a person of hope and must inspire people to trust. To do that, the leader must trust himself and others. In that way, the leader demonstrates what it means to be a person of hope.
What does it mean to be a person of hope? The seeds of hope are either planted or scattered early in our life. What we learn about trust at that early age is reinforced in our relationships throughout our life. We each have beliefs that determine how and to what degree we engage life and people, including our work and our business relationships. We fundamentally trust others to be there for us when we need them or not. We fundamentally trust our own worth or not. These are deep, core beliefs that we each hold and use as filters for decision making every day, albeit unconsciously. Knowing our core beliefs, we can begin to shift our mindset if necessary in order to engage others and our work in a more productive way.
Self-awareness of our core beliefs about trust, mis-trust, and hope empowers our self-leadership and growth. Are you a person of hope? Do you believe in yourself and your abilities? Is there a part of you that cannot have hope? Do you dread the future or anticipate it excitedly?
How would you answer these questions?
I look forward to tomorrow. YES NO
I like to spend time with others. YES NO
I believe my needs were met and I was well cared for as an infant. YES NO
I am a very capable person. YES NO
I believe that I can make what I want of life and that there are people out there who can help me. YES NO
I easily trust other people. YES NO
I become upset when someone violates my trust. YES NO
I prefer to work alone. YES NO
I trust myself to make the right decisions for me. YES NO
I can count on others when I need help. YES NO
I am comfortable working in groups. YES NO
I easily delegate tasks. YES NO
I look forward to tomorrow with excitement and anticipation. YES NO
I have hope in the future. YES NO
The glass is half full. YES NO
Life is an adventure. YES NO
The more ‘yes’ answers you record the more likely it is that you are a person of hope. The more ‘no’ answers you record the more likely that trust may be an issue for you.
When we want to make a lasting transformation, we want to change not only our outward actions, but also our inner thoughts and feelings. Transforming thoughts and actions are inter-related and codependent. If I change my activities, my thoughts will go along. If I change my thoughts, I will act accordingly as well.
I offer a couple suggestions for further exploring hope and trust:
1. Read. Find some books or articles on trust and hope and/or people who you believe to embody these traits and see if you can find some attitudes or behaviors to emulate. Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning is a tremendous and powerful expression of hope as is The Art of Happiness by HH the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler, M.D.
2. Every day when you get up, tell yourself to have hope. Tell yourself that you have what you need to make a wonderful life for yourself today. Tell yourself to make a conscious effort to trust someone today. Make a sign that says “hope” and put it up in your bathroom, over your desk, on the dashboard of your car, somewhere, anywhere where you will be reminded to trust and have hope today.
3. Connect with other people of hope. Associate with positive and optimistic people.
4. Dream. Set some goals for yourself. Put a plan of action into place to make your dream a reality. Hint: Doing number three will give you the support system you need to accomplish number four!
By exploring and growing our individual capacity for hope and trust, we grow our capacity to lead others in times of adaptive change.