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The power of optimism

Empowering employees can enhance a company brand's without adversely impacting the bottom line.
Empowering employees can enhance a company brand's without adversely impacting the bottom line.
Photo of staff and students by Ashley de los Reyes

Does Your Brand Include Optimism?

I will never forget the day I walked into my office, and saw a letter sitting on my desk. I picked up the letter and quickly realized it was from a customer - a guest. At the time, I had just started working as a consultant in a luxury hotel, completing a project to decrease levels of staff turnover.

The letter was one of the most disturbing pieces of customer feedback I have ever read, partly because of its level of detail. In summary, it said that this customer had overheard staff in the hotel – front desk staff – looking frustrated, acting short-tempered and speaking badly about other guests. You don’t want any of your staff “losing it” in a hotel of course, and this letter probably indicated that other incidences just like it were happening a lot more than anyone realized.

After reading the letter, I thought about the hotel’s reputation. The property was known for being high luxury and very exclusive. It was definitely a one-of-a-kind type of place. The brand had an absolutely bullet-proof pedigree that we wanted to protect. Then it hit me. The brand was missing a key ingredient: optimism.

What is optimism?

Psychology says that an optimistic bias is the disposition of believing you have mastery over your life, that you control your own destiny. In psychology, it is described as having inherited an "easy" temperament and possessing a feeling of well-being most of the time.

That’s what we all wanted: Hotel staff and leadership who could keep an “easy” temperament no matter what was going on. Who believed they had control and some level of mastery over their own and the guest’s well-being. And also felt empowered to create highly positive end results. We already knew that every staff member had an impact on the brand’s destiny. We just had to make sure that the impact was a positive one that demonstrated a sense of optimism.

If you are already successful at infusing optimism into your brand, culture and vision, you probably already feel more positive and fortunate than most companies. Let's face it, if nothing else, having optimism as an integral part of your brand means you already believe that you are more successful, positive and empowered than other companies and that good things are happening and are going to continue to happen. And that’s great.

However, making optimism an active part of your brand has very little to do with insisting that everyone think on the bright side and paste on a Polly-Anna-ish smile. In fact, infusing and building optimism into your brand (very ironically) begins with being somewhat of a pessimist. It starts by focusing on what you do when things go very wrong.

Optimism centers on getting positive results and knowing better outcomes are attainable, no matter the circumstances. First, take the time to tap into what motivates your customers, clients (external stakeholders), employees and leaders (internal stakeholders).

Next, build and then communicate responses, processes and solutions. Create them by using what motivates the stakeholders involved and defining the results your company strives for.

Finally, empower people to implement solutions and grow mastery. Recognize, praise and reward those who take control and execute mutually beneficial outcomes using the most responsive path to the win-win. (I call it the “win-win-win”, a win for the customer, for the employee and for the company). Especially when they occur in circumstances that are stressful.

After reading the letter that morning, I knew we had some challenges to overcome in demonstrating optimism. The first things we did to improve the hotel’s brand were implemented immediately and cost absolutely nothing to the bottom line. We communicated a new pledge to support staff and empower them to create positive outcomes; to take the reins themselves to turn things around when stress levels rose. I facilitated debriefings and “huddles” to problem solve and allow staff members to vent when they needed to (all in the back of the house!).

At the same time, we started providing higher levels of recognition to build reinforcement and mentoring to build confidence. We were now quickly and actively infusing optimism into our brand by implementing positive, mutually beneficial outcomes.

Things went so well that the owners started investing an impressive amount of revenue into our pledge, and one of the final outcomes was that a large, beautiful staff lounge was built. It quickly became known as the “huddle hive”, and evolved into a space where impressive solutions, deep connections and some of the most incredible stories of positive leadership were shared. It was the place tucked in the heart-of-the-house where we did the hard, difficult, elbow-grease polishing so that our front-of-the-house brand shined. And it all began by focusing on tenets of optimism.

No matter what your company service or product happens to be, you have put a lot of thought, time, work and investment into your brand. Infuse optimism. It is critical. Then go out there and shine by showing what you actually do, believe, foster and pay attention to when things are not going as first expected.

About the author

Dr. Mia Mulrennan is President and Chief Motivations Mapper at Rave-Worthy Consulting.  She advises clients in effectively applying tenets of psychology to achieve positive business results in areas of talent management, organizational development and service branding.  

Oct. 28, 2014 by Mia Mulrennan, Psy.D.

See also: Business, Faculty