We all bring who we are as people into the workplace as employees. From entry-level worker to C-suite staff, we bring our biases and baggage along with our talents and expertise. When I wrote my second book Traveling Hopefully, my goal was to share what I’d learned about how to let go of unwanted baggage that no longer serves you so you can be as effective as possible in work and life.
While the book was inspired by own chaotic upbringing, the title was inspired by a powerful quote from Robert Louis Stevenson that has stayed in my head since I was in grad school —“To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.” In the book, I help readers understand how to dissect their past in order to direct their future with an approach that involves shifting perspectives from limiting (hopeless) to liberating (hopeful).
It's no accident that I speak and write about hope. I truly believe hope is the most important—and also the most overlooked—element in the workplace today. Researchers of "hope theory," who emanate from the medical and positive psychology communities, view hope as a combination of belief and expectation. More specifically, a belief that change is possible and an expectation that an individual's actions can result in a more positive future - for themselves, their teams, their organizations, or maybe even the entire planet.
In more than 15 years in the corporate world and now 13 years as an executive coach and consultant, I’ve observed how belief drives behavior. When you genuinely believe that change is possible, then the strategies you put in place are far more effective. It's that ability to provide hope and tools to others that turns managers into leaders. Whatever the tools - skills training, coaching, or performance reviews - if you fail to instill the hope that those tools will work, it’s like giving someone a power drill with no electricity. Useless.
But when you feed hope by demonstrating a commitment to ongoing improvement, creating a culture of respect and trust, and instilling a sense of radical purpose in your employees, you'll reap the rewards of a workforce who aspires to more than having just jobs or careers, but who truly wish to live their callings.