Is Your Glass Half Empty or Half Full?
Are optimists are best suited to lead entrepreneurial organisations? What happens when disaster strikes?
Optimism and pessimism are strong, stable traits that reflect our coping strategies. We live in an uncertain world. To cope with uncertainty, most people basically assume that things will either turn out well (the optimists) or turn out badly (the pessimists).
That said is it better to have an optimist or a pessimist at the helm? If we always chart a middle path then we never take risks but also never look on the dark side of opportunity where danger and ruin reside. Just being TOO rational is bad for us and the organisation and can lead to inactivity and even organisational paralysis.
Glass Half Empty types will always focus on safety and security. This drives you to seek and find safe havens, establish clear advantages, and protect resources. When uncertain or unconvinced about economic recovery families save money and companies build war chests. When the news is bad and likely to get worse, a pessimist is your best ally because pessimists thrive on fixing errors.
To get the most out of the pessimist in your organisation there needs to be specific feedback available on how bad things are and what has gone wrong. This will motivate Glass Half Empty Person to modify products and services and make sound operational decisions but at the expense of real measurable innovation and potential market growth.
Glass Half Full types will always strive towards thinking about how they can advance and grow. They will have considerably larger social networks they can call upon, use collaboration to solve problems and seek help from their networks. For them positive feedback is a life-source and the desire to deliver incremental successes drives them on to new projects and developments.
Glass Half Full types always will lead product and service development and have an optimistic outlook but are best when paired with some form of Glass Half Empty types who can act as a sounding board and exercise a voice of caution (which is hopefully listened to!).
Juggling the Half Empty/Half Full Dilemma.
Whatever your personal view both approaches have some merit and we are all effectively a mixture of the two depending on the set of circumstances we find ourselves with at the time. If I have a 360 BHP sports car and can see a small gap in the traffic for overtaking I am optimistic that I can overtake the Bus quickly and safely; if I have a 78 BHP Trabant I will be pessimistic of my chances in the same set of circumstances. Business risk taking is not dissimilar although true Entrepreneurs will try to overtake in the Trabant!
When setting up and considering new strategic plans have a big glass Half Empty with a focus on all the things that can go wrong in the future. But when the task requires flexibility and had work toward uncertain goals have a big Glass Half Full person at the helm. Perhaps quality long-term planning and investment requires an optimistic approach, with contingency planning by pessimists—as things never go as expected.