Did you wake up this morning looking forward to work? Work plays a significant role in the lives of over 165 million Americans. In a study of 10,000 employees over three years, Gallup sought to understand the emotional needs of engaged and committed followers. The most powerful question asked was about the future. They found that 69% of followers who strongly agreed that their leaders made them feel enthusiastic about the future were engaged. Only 1% of those who disagreed were engaged. Given the past couple of years and a grim news cycle, feeling enthusiastic about the future might seem unrealistic. So, I'd like to make a case for hope. If you are a leader that purposefully builds hope, this will explain why you have made a smart decision. If you haven't considered it, hopefully, you will be convinced why it's crucial to build hopefulness and how you can start – and the sooner, the better.
"Everything that is done in the world is done by hope." Martin Luther
What is hope?
Hope is often considered an emotion and can be challenging to define. However, hope is both an emotion and a way of thinking. Hope Theory suggests that hopefulness is a human strength comprised of three distinct, interrelated components:
Goals Thinking – identification of valuable goals
Pathways Thinking –specific strategies to reach those goals
Agency Thinking – motivation to apply strategies
Concerning leadership, hope is a positive state that contributes to leaders and followers pursuing, expecting, and achieving organizational goals.
Hope is not optimism. It is related but distinctly different. Hope emphasizes setting goals and following through on them to attain a positive future outcome. Also, hope is not self-esteem or self-efficacy thinking. Hope involves a belief that a goal is possible and the willpower for continuous goal pursuit.
Why does hope matter?
Being hopeful translates to business results. Numerous research studies have linked hope with many individual, team, and organizational benefits, including:
Increased revenue and decreased operating costs
Improved employee retention
Enhanced ability to deal with ambiguity
Job satisfaction and organizational commitment
Sustaining innovation during significant changes such as mergers and acquisitions
Lower levels of stress
Improved employee and team performance
Increased organization citizenship behaviors
In the following Tedx, Dr. Hellman explains the science and power of hope to change.
Why measure hope in the workplace?
Hope plays a vital role in the well-being of employees, and it facilitates change. Measuring hope can be especially beneficial when used as a pre-post measure for large-scale change initiatives.
Levels of hope can vary dramatically depending on the person and the situation. People generally considered hopeful can still experience low levels of hope when facing significant stressors.
The Adult State Hope Scale is a valid short survey that takes less than two minutes to complete and measures the degree of hope at the moment. Higher scores correlate to a more significant state of hopefulness. Respondents use an eight-point Likert agreement scale where one is definitely false and eight is definitely true for each of the following six questions:
If I should find myself in a jam, I could think of many ways to get out of it.
At present, I am energetically pursuing my goals.
There are lots of ways around any problem that I am facing now.
Right now, I see myself as being pretty successful.
I can think of many ways to reach my current goals.
At this time, I am meeting the goals that I have set for myself.
4 Ways leaders build hope in the workplace
Effective leaders are organizational hope dealers. In a crisis-driven workplace, influential leaders engage followers in hopeful thinking to account for increased goal difficulty and effort.
Although hope can not be taught, the following are four proven strategies leaders can use to build hope in the workplace:
Hope Builder 1: Vision
Articulating a compelling vision clarifies direction, inspires confidence and action, and coordinates efforts. Evidence suggests that a compelling vision is directly and positively related to creative performance. A vision needs to be desired, beneficial to others, challenging, and visual to be considered compelling. Stories and metaphors are powerful ways to connect with others. How well followers can visualize, the future is fundamental to hopefulness.
"Developing a vision is an exercise of both the head and the heart, it takes some time, it always involves a group of people, and it is tough to do well." Kotter, Leading Change
Hope Builder 2: Positive Reinforcement
Make recognition a daily activity. Consequences have the most significant impact on influencing future behavior. Encouraging leaders reinforce the value of organizational goals to the follower and the organization. Effective reward and recognition systems are:
targeted toward specific behaviors
applied immediately or frequently
customized to what the individual values
focused on what is achieved and how it is achieved
present everyone the same opportunity to achieve the reward or recognition.
"Bringing out the best in followers requires purposeful performance reinforcement rather than management of poor performance." Doolittle, Breaking 10 Leadership Bad Habits
Hope Builder 3: Collaboration
In a crisis, leaders can build hope by working with followers to identify alternative paths to achieve goals and reset priorities. Leaders support collaboration with followers by active listening, providing frequent and open communication, and creating access to information.
"Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success." Henry Ford.
Hope Builder 4: Coaching
Coaching is partnering with followers in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. High-quality trust-based leader-follower coaching relationships build hope by creating new possibilities. Evidence suggests that 80% of people who receive coaching report increased self-confidence. Over 70% of coaching relationships result in improved work performance, relationships, and more effective communication skills. 86% of companies that provide coaching for employees report that they recouped their investment in coaching and more.
Conclusion: Why Hope Should be a Leadership Strategy
Hope is more than a wishful way of thinking; it is a leadership habit. Although hope can not be explicitly taught, evidence suggests leaders can build hopefulness through a compelling vision, positive reinforcement, collaboration, and coaching.
How can you cultivate moments of hope for followers in the workplace?
Adams, V. H., Snyder, C. R., Rand, K. L., King, E. A., Sigman, D. R., & Pulvers, K. M. (2002). Hope in the workplace, in Giacolone, R. & Jurkiewicz, C. (Eds.), Workplace Spirituality and Organization Performance, NY: Sharpe.
Brim, B. (2021). Strengths-based leadership: The 4 things followers need. Gallup.
Daniels, A. (2016). Bringing out the best in people: How to apply the astonishing power of positive reinforcement (3rd edition). McGraw-Hill.
Gwinn, C. and Hellman, C. (2019) Hope Rising, How the Science of Hope Can Change Your Life. Morgan James Publishing
Helland, M., & Winston, B. (2005). Towards a deeper understanding of hope and leadership. Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies. Vol. 12 (2).
Kirk, S., & Koeske, G. (1995). The fate of optimism: a longitudinal study of case leaders' hopefulness and subsequent morale. Research in Social Work Practice, 5, 47-61.
Ludema, J. D., Wilmot, T. B., & Srivastva, S. (August, 1997). Organization hope: Reaffirming
the constructive task of social and organizational inquiry. Human Relations, 50:8,
Luthans. F., & Jensen, S. M. (2003). Hope: A new positive strength for human resources development. Human Resources Development Review.
Mukherjee, U. & Sharma, P (2020). Hope at workplace: A review of the literature. International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation, Vol. 24, Issue 06.
Sitten, T., Mutonyi, B., & Lien, G. (2021). Does organizational vision really matter? An empirical examination of factors related to organizational vision integration among hospital employees. BMC Health Services Research.
Snyder, & Snyder, C. R. (2000). Handbook of hope theory, measures, & applications. Academic.
Snyder, Sympson, S., Ybasco, F., Borders, T., Babyak, M., & Higgins, R. (1996). Development and Validation of the State Hope Scale. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70(2), 321–335.
White-Zappa, B (2001). Hopeful corporate citizenship: A quantitative and qualitative examination of the relationship between organizational hope, appreciative inquiry, and organizational citizenship behaviors. Dissertation Abstracts International, (UMI No. 3012630)