Avoid the Slippery “Hope Slope”
As a leader, you’re probably a hopeful person. By that, I mean you generally have a positive outlook about the possibility for success and a personal belief that you will find a way to make it happen. But as a leader, you’ve got to be careful with “hope” because it can become a slippery slope. For example, there are times when leaders recognize they’re in a precarious situation, and instead of taking action, they just hope things get better. At MAP, we coach our clients to understand that hope by itself is not a strategy for success. You have to make things happen using your talent and abilities to succeed. That said, hope is helpful for inspiring and motivating you and your team, so don’t discount it altogether. Just be careful not to slip down the “hope slope,” putting all your faith into hope alone.
In regard to your leadership, here’s what you need to know about hope:
How hope helps:
Without a doubt, hope can help you and your team. It is part of having an optimistic “attitude” and will help fuel courage when you’re challenged or fearful. Also, if you role model this attitude of hope, you will send the message to your direct reports that positive perspectives matter. Without a doubt, when leaders are hopeful, they are more inspiring in general—they more often motivate themselves to succeed and ignite the fire of success in others as well. When you have hope, you humbly recognize that there’s always some element in your strategies that you cannot control, yet you are optimistic that, in spite of what may happen, success of some degree or another will be the result.
How hope hurts:
When you depend on hope as your go-to strategy for problem-solving, things can get seriously problematic for your leadership and all those affected by it. As MAP Consultant Lee Froschheiser illustrates in coaching his clients, leaders often mistakenly rely on hope when dealing with a poor performer. They just hope this person will quit or change, yet the employee rarely does. This results in a “failure-to-act” situation that hurts everyone and helps no one. Facing such a scenario, the best thing leaders like you can do is take action, either getting them the support they need to change and develop, or let them go. But simply relying on hope in and of itself won’t do anyone any good.
What to do if you’re relying on hope as a standalone solution:
As stated, leaders call on hope usually when they’re facing a challenge. It’s good to have a hopeful perspective about overcoming your challenge, but it’s equally important if not better to dig deep and determine what’s going on and develop concrete strategies to move beyond the troubles and win. Here are five questions you can ask yourself when faced with such challenges that may be influencing you to lean on hope alone:
- Am I being honest about the situation?
- Do I have all the facts?
- Have I exhausted every option to solve the problem?
- Have I asked others to help? If yes, then who else might have ideas?
- Am I contributing to the problem? Is something about my leadership, personality, habits, shortcomings, or abilities preventing answers or progress?
In your leadership capacity, when do you tend to rely on hope as a strategy for success?