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How are you and your leadership using optimism to drive execution of your strategy?

by Victor Perton

The Centre for Optimism's second web-based survey was entitled "Strategy and Optimism: Through the Pandemic and on to a Brighter Future" and commenced in March 2020.

375 people from at least 250 organisations from 16 countries,  experienced in strategy creation, completed the survey by mid-April.

Our earlier research based on asking strategy experts one-to-one had led us to a view that good strategy relies on optimism.  We waited in anticipation for the results of the on-line survey.

We asked those who had worked in an optimistic strategy process and were using optimism to drive strategy, "How are you and your leadership using optimism to drive execution of your strategy?"

Here are selected answers:

"Optimism is implicit to strategic development - the prevailing belief that goals can be reached and a difference can be made."

"By creating an optimistic vision, casting the role/purpose as benefitting society or community as well as providing service to customers."

"Optimism is critical to calculated risk-taking. Our strategy builds in flexibility to take risks that have the potential to deliver significant payoffs in the future."

"Anticipating and developing scenarios that are focused on optimistic outcomes as well as worst case so we know which way we are heading on any given day so we can course correct."

"As an inner force to power my passion so that my team ignite their enthusiasm and self determination to drive a focused pathway to a brighter, better and more inclusive world."

"You begin by visualising and considering the discrete elements of a brighter future, and then selectively taking some of the elements from the challenges around us to help us enable that future."

"We train mediators and conduct mediation in the work place and in Family Law circumstances. Our goal is to encourage positive self determination and achievement of the advancement of individual utility for each party (Win Win not Win Lose) If we do not start in an optimistic frame of mind we are destined to accept a suboptimal outcome."

"We believe that the current environment is one that suits the growth of our business and are therefore prepared to investing more resources at a time when many are retreating."

"Optimism is about believing that you can achieve your goal. Without optimism, the gaols will feel like lead weights and progress will be like pulling a tonne weight up a steep hill."

"Focusing on positive outcomes and solutions in a challenging market and looking to innovation to drive results."

"We plan for 3 conditions- current environment (expected), a range of downside environments (worst case), and a range of upsides (best case). We also have a longer term view of late 2020/21 which is BAU / growth oriented."

"Belief in positive outcomes backed up by research and networking."

"Painting an ambitious and optimistic future of the institution. With this strategy in place, we will change the world for the better--we need to be purposeful and optimistic about that."

"Optimism is a mindset that drives strategy and execution"

"Optimistic leadership for me is something you deliberately communicate with people to drive and execute in achieving goals. It gives people a set of positive perspectives on what they could to best to attain their targets. On the other side, as a leader, I also need to be more discerning and cautious in every possible adverse result that a decision or action may occur. So it is also equally important that people are also informed what are the red flags in the process."

Any strategy one would create is always projected to make things better, it’s highly important that everyone involved in its implementation understand the essence and believe in it. And optimism is a must throughout the process fo reach the desired result."

"We're looking for opportunities and increased need for our services through the pandemic. Our messaging emphasises that the pandemic will pass and the success of the public effort to flatten the curve."

"Working as usual whilst observing within, the rules and restrictions in good humour and with generosity re outcomes."

"We see current conditions being both supportive for our business ideals and services and that the community mindfulness being experienced is driving change that will be beneficial."

"We are thinking about and looking for opportunities in the midst of the current crisis whilst ensuring business delivery still meets our clients needs as best as possible."

"As soon as any negativity enters our planning, we consciously change it to a positive."

"Basing our actions on our idealised end-state."

"Trying to help people retain hope that there are still 'sunny uplands' on the other side, even if they will be different. Also embracing virtual tools to ensure that physical distancing doesn't become social distancing ;-)"

"We are looking to the future new opportunities that are going to arise out of this situation and are developing new ways to work together and service our clients needs going forward. The landscape has changed and we need to adapt as well."

"By allowing us to include specialists from outside our sector to assist in unfettered innovation."

Optimism and Innovation

"Optimism is a high priority as I work with troubled clients; calm and strong are two objectives I emphasise."

"By applying an optimistic framework of expected outcomes across our objective setting process."

"As an instrument to inspire people to imagine a better future (outcome). Defining ambitious but achievable goals."

"Articulating a future vision for the company that is ambitious and has positive impact on our global community. Setting achievable stretch targets. Issuing equity to staff across the company to align staff with company success. Conducting adequate risk management to ensure downside scenarios can be managed through if need be."

"With uplifting clients and leading industry thinking."

"With reasonable expectations and an acknowledgment of risk in the creation phase the best possible outcome is achievable."

"We tell staff that the organisation has a proud record of delivery which places us well to radically change to be the first in the world in our sector to shift to a new way of working."

"By building a set of objectives first from the inside out, using a fibonacci structure, then from the outside in, using a visual perception model -- creating an attractive set of integrated strategies and objectives with strong mnemonics."

"I'm framing EVERYTHING I do in terms of opportunity, constructive change and long-term benefit. Every conversation with every stakeholder has this focus."

"By creating positive and uplifting messaging coupled with specific tools & resources to help others. Not just story telling but also story doing :-)"

"Being positive sends good messaging and helps outlooks which contribute to productivity."

"By defining a positive vision and mission."

"By establishing a clear vision."

"Our strategy is aimed at positioning children and young people to thrive in a complex and rapidly changing world. It does so using their sense of community, sociability and curiousity as natural advantages."

Optimistic About Youth and Youthful Optimists

"All strategy must have both a start and planned landing , its how we get there that will realise the best outcome. There needs to be objectives with rewarded outcomes at the very least anticipated . Goals that are both interesting and achievable. Teamwork is paramount no matter how small or large the team because people working in anticipation of hopefully achieving a goal will work hard to achieve it and often that team will do much better than a competitor that has a team full of champions that find it hard to subvert their personal need for their success."

  1. Reinforcement of the innate worth of our mission, goals and strategies.
  2. Reminding our staff that they are the best in the business.
  3. That they must go out and deliver that view to clients and potential clients.

"We identify the goal and then work backwards to identify impediments and how to address them as we work through the strategy. By implementing this approach we become optimistic in achieving the goal. No use implementing a strategy that is impossible to achieve. But in doing so we do try to stretch our capability and capacity but not in an unrealistic manner but stretch all the same. For example for one company that I am a board member we decided to double our ARR compounded for the next 5 years. In doing so the senior management mapped out how this could be achieved for each year and what impediments we may encounter and what strategy we need to reduce the risk of the impediment. In actual fact this has worked very well and the company is on track in an optimistic manner."

Brilliant Women Global and Brilliant Leadership Global

"My business practices, drive our strategies with purpose. Purpose is best served with optimism and motivation for optimal productivity and outcomes."

  1. Positioning for opportunities after the pandemic
  2. Build business case to improve performance through digital & autonomous

"Optimism or self-interest, you need at least one of these to motivate people. I have found greed a weak motivator that encourages shallow thinking and short-termism, e.g. our politicians and most corporate leaders. Self-interest narrows the field of view and moves away from compassion and connectedness with customers and stakeholders. Optimism is infectious, it opens the breadth of view to see what is possible and find innovative ways to realising positive outcomes. When our team ask ourselves the questions of, Is this worth doing? and, Should we do this? the lens of optimism helps see the benefits whereas the lens of self-interest focuses on the cons."

"Stretch goals"

"Blue sky thinking."

"By looking at the positive themes coming out of the current situation and thinking about which ones might stick."

“By not exaggerating the situation and by stand with my team and support them and telling them that there are no permanent crises, whatever it is, it will pass, and we will overcome it.”

“By reminding people that very good outcomes will come out of the current pandemic, and this is an excellent time to reconsider and be creative. Optimism is healing as it allows people to look for what is going well and what can go well.”

“By staying positive. These are testing times; however, it will end.”

“Changing attitudes, communication and execution.”

“Communication with the wider team and internal team to keep energy levels high.”

“Constantly looking for new ways to be useful and valuable to our community by creating new opportunities to share information and ideas and to participate.”

“It’s core.”

“Creating a positive frame for future outcomes ...”

“Currently working to make sure that the XXXX Neighbourhood House survives the pandemic and is ready to open its doors and welcome its members back inside when it’s over. (Pandemic risk went from a conversation at our Feb 2020 strategy day, to a risk identified in our strategy, to a key theme in our strategy as we are currently implementing it).”

“Daily Zoom’ huddles’ for encouragement and sharing news and ways to help people. Helping all our clients to choose optimism and invest time in planning their future.”

“Drive better outcomes for society and communities.”

“Ensuring investment is vested in long term relationships.”

“Everything we do at XXXX Voice Productions aims toward the shift from Dark Age to Renaissance.”

“Exploring different ways of service delivery building in prior knowledge and skills.”

“Finding the positive side - opportunity through crisis - looking for new ways of operating and achieving the goals...”

“Focus on a survive and thrive end game while being aware of but not absorbed into the doom and gloom of daily distractions.”

“Focus on creating a future that is better than the present in at least one way.”

“Focused on opportunities, the energy of creative problem solving and identifying new potential.”

“Focusing on the “and” and not the but.

“Focusing on the future coming through the current COVID-19 situation focusing on the future opportunity and how to be well placed to harness that opportunity and being positive about the future.

“Focusing on the goal, rather than the obstacles, and always looking for means to achieve the goal.

“Frame strategy on Sustainable Development Goals and consumer insights/trends. This means we look for growth areas that deliver shared value and a basis for differentiation.

“Having a more optimistic explanatory style behind our strategy is important to us as our whole business is linked to Positive Psychology. At the same time, we have a balanced view based on what is going on in the world.

“I am training 32 undergrads and 12 mature students online to achieve their certification for their careers. I am bringing in optimistic stories, poems, 6 Thinking Hats, to support their mental wellbeing in this challenging time. I am optimistic we will see a more humane society through the experiences the students are now going through - and myself, of course. We will use a mix of behaviours and technology to create a richer optimistic world.

“I have a view that problems or issues facing our community are opportunities, albeit sometimes challenging, for us to use innovation, collaboration and a positive attitude when planning for what can be achieved. I lead an organisation with the preparedness to tackle wicked issues because I believe, optimistically, that we can make a difference.

“I lead a program that deals with Bullying, Harassment and Lateral Violence in Aboriginal communities. The end result is often drawn out mental health issues. The strategy we use is a holistic approach to beating inherent issues across the entire community without blame. Everyone is possibly both a victim and a perpetrator.

“I look at life as a journey of growth, learning and discovery. Everything I do is based on who I want to become, what I want to create, and how I can add value to humanity. Circumstance is just circumstance. How I respond is up to me. I will always look for what steps I can take to create a brighter future.

“I teach this - a uniting purpose for not only stakeholders but the wider ecosystem, leading with transparency and trust, understanding that an optimistic workforce is a productive one with a myriad of flow-on benefits

“I work in opinion poll research in the UK. We have commenced pro bono work on aspects of Britain’s society, economy and culture that focus on social cohesion, kindness, collaboration and adherence to public health strategies. Narratives need data - good data can drive good narratives. 1940s Wartime “national effort” narratives relied on censorship and elements of propaganda. This era, courtesy of the Internet and social values requires greater nuance.

“If you can dream it, you can create it!

“It is starting to focus on the opportunities that will open up at the end of the crisis.

“Keeping an Optimistic Attitude: Built an 18 Month Business Continuity Plan Keeping in touch as a Team at ( am every morning via Zoom Creating Plans how to delight our Customers Looking for New Markets Keeping in touch with Family and Friends

“Keeping the vision and motivation.

“Knowing that so many have lived their entire lives for whatever reason in isolation shunned by society.......

“Leadership is embedding positive, future-focused and inspiringly optimistic language in all communications associated with strategy.

“Looking at how to get a win-win outcome.

“Looking at opportunities and options for the future with a positive lens to grow the business and industry. Still considering risks, but also risks of playing too small and not being optimistic enough.

“Looking at the natural world around me and seeing wildlife in the CBD which never existed here before.

“Looking at what we can do, how we can improve what we do now, and when things get better, communicating better and talking to our customers.

“Looking beyond the current situation.

“Looking for positive ways to move forward through this crisis and finding the positives in the current situation.

“Looking for the positives in every moment.

“Looking to a position of growth following the current downturn.

“Making plans for when we come through this temporary hiccup.

“Making the assumption we have an optimistic outlook and planning for a 2021 touring season.

“Map out a plan for the next six, nine months. Position priorities. Action. Review weekly.

“My commitment & dedication leadership using optimism to drive execution of my strategy.

“Navigating through current challenges while staying focused on the end goal...

“Plan for the best, protect for the worst.

“Plan for the worst, hope for the best but PUSH for the best.

“Points made do not include negative ethos - Importantly goals are set annually stating what is to be achieved, physical contribution is the key - personal aims underwritten by the support of those we serve

“Positive attitude, fun and laughter

“Positive goals. Aspirational plans. Realistic communication and awareness. Engaging based on the combination of goals and reality.

“Positive thinking

“Pragmatic optimism - what is possible as we can see at this juncture without over-inflating expectations

“Preparing an exit strategy for when we get back up and running, encouraging the team to stay positive and continue doing the right things to keep safe.

“Project origination in new areas. Setting targets for outcomes/outputs that are aggressively competitive

“Prospecting across new markets. Keeping all staff 4 days a week. Last week developed many new products and acquired major new customers. Conserving cash to pursue acquisition opportunities.

“Safe navigation of the present to get to the other side.

“Setting a positive purpose and supporting it with a measurable objective to achieve the strategy.

“Setting stretch goals based on past performance and skillsets of the team.

“Sharing the opportunity for new and different futures that reduce inequality, improve skills and deployment of resources.

“Showing how executing our strategy will lead to benefits for all stakeholders.

“Start with “stretch” objectives and let optimism, creativity, innovation, measured risk-taking and persistence fill in the gaps.

“Staying focused on the end goal and seeing each shift as part of emergent learning ( six stages).

"Strategy is aimed at creating a desirable outcome and optimum result so how can it be anything but optimistic?

“Taking upside view of market potential Being aggressive in setting results for key targets Focus more on what it takes to win vs what do we do to protect our position.

“Telemedicine to assist Psychologists, Therapists, Clinicians, Teachers & Coaches to use Biofeedback / Psychophysiology

“That by cooperating now on some rules and guidelines we will all see better days.

“The 5 to 1 ratio of critical applied analysis

“The assumption is longevity and steady growth based on the run of history... Saving for a rainy day doesn’t prevent you from planning for a picnic in the sunshine.

“The key part of our strategy is to increase and widen our reach with an optimistic focus, all while we continue to create positive impacts in the lives of sick children and their families.

“The mission and objectives define the progress towards a better world.

“Thinking long term, remaining in contact with everyone we trade with, despite their inability to trade at the moment.

“This too shall pass, but in the meantime, it gives us an opportunity to provide more immediate benefit to our customers, in the way of timely information.

“Three scenarios strategy.

“Through the connection to our leadership, our Gift, we are naturally solution-focused.

“Through our implementation of Visible Wellbeing strategies for staff and students, including understanding relationships, attending and awareness and working with character strengths.

“Through believing in the best in people and to walk the extra mile by offering your advice and services, privately as well as in business, without any expectations on getting something back besides a smile and feedback, that what you’re doing makes progress in some shape and form.

“Tomorrow will be a better day because of our collective ability to work together To create a better workplace, life and environment.

“Turning weaknesses into opportunities.

“Ultimately you need to believe that “things will work out” or you will be consumed by doubt and likely concomitant inaction which will result in failure. Need to set optimistic goals and strategies to achieve them while recognising that not fully achieving those goals is not ipso facto equivalent to failure.

“Using open, transparent communication with a clear vision for the future.

“Using Kroner Gregor to mitigate risks, solve problems and keep positive.

“We always look to plan for the best outcomes. Building plans that focus on the positive aspects works best for us.

“We always use stretch targets which means we have to be optimistic to both set the goal and to achieve it.

“We are always optimistic about positive outcomes.

“We are creating global digital collaborations to spread hope, positivity and kindness. We have also launched a mobile app to connect people across the globe in prayer and hope.

“We are developing what a brighter future looks like and also considering strategies that respond to future risks and how we could take advantage to operate and grow during these times.

“We are in regular discussions with our customers and asking them how we can better serve their needs. This ensures we are externally and not internally focussed and thinking about ways to grow the business and innovate. It’s a gradual process, but we are looking to adopt a Growth Mindset across our business at every level. We think this requires all employees to adopt an optimistic approach.

“We are looking ahead, post current circumstances and determining how and what it is we can achieve to contribute to the economic and people recovery.




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