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Hang om to Your Knife & Fork - The Importance of optimism Right Now

01 February 2013

We hear a lot about the power of positive thinking, optimism, about praise and recognition – sometimes disparagingly referred to as “…that warm fuzzy stuff”. So is it all ‘fluff’, or does being good at the ‘softer’ or people skills, along with being optimistic during tough times, really do anything for you, your team or the company?

In their book published in 2004, How Full is Your Bucket, Tom Rath and co-author Donald Clifton of the Gallup Organisation presented the results of over 50 years worth of distilled comprehensive psychological and workplace research.

In total, some 4 million workers from across the world (a pretty hefty sample size!) and from diverse industries were surveyed on the topics of recognition and praise, and they found some startling results. An estimated 20% of workers are presently “actively disengaged” or extremely negative in the workplace. The estimated cost of this in the USA alone stands at $300 billion a year in lost productivity, which is possibly an underestimate, as it doesn’t account for the increased absenteeism and illness that result when workers are disengaged from their work and their companies.

On the plus side, Gallup found that workers who regularly receive genuine recognition and praise, and who have a positive and optimistic boss, increase their individual productivity; there is also increased engagement among employees; they have better safety records and fewer accidents on the job; they are more likely to stay with the organization longer and receive higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from customers.


Companies that were reported as being better at the ‘Soft’ Skills, consistently showed the following improvements in ‘Hard Results’ over those that were not so good:



  • Productivity higher by 22%


  • Customer satisfaction higher by 38%


  • Profit higher by 27%


  • Retention higher by 22%


Pretty impressive results, simply achieved through being a good people manager, and being optimistic about the future.


Some more facts from How Full Is Your Bucket?

  • The number-one reason people leave their jobs: They don't feel appreciated
  • 65% of people received no recognition in the workplace last year
  • Negative employees can scare off every customer they speak with, for good
  • 9 out of 10 people say they are more productive when they're around positive people.
  • The magic ratio: 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative interaction/piece of constructive criticism.
  • Increasing positive emotions could lengthen your life span by 10 years!


Given the possible negative effects on morale of the current economic climate, coupled with the growing gap between the number of skilled people leaving and entering the workforce, then this research points towards having in place a strategic workforce plan which includes a robust talent management process......and great people managers who excel at the ‘Soft Skills’.

In his book The New Leaders, Daniel Goleman’s team found that 20% to 30% of bottom line results - and that’s positive or negative results - can be directly attributed to the effect of the corporate climate. And who is responsible for the climate? Of the thousands of people interviewed, up to 70% said that the manager determined the climate or how people feel about working for a company. That’s a lot of profit - or loss.

Gallup’s research also tallies with Jim Collins’ findings around the style of leadership that his team consistently found at the helm of companies who had transitioned from being good to being great. He calls this Level 5 Leadership – The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve. The latter is what he describes as a type of optimism even in the face of very difficult times. Not a Pollyannaish view of the world but the “intense professional will” to do what’s required to achieve success.

This form of fierce resolve or optimism is undoubtedly what allowed a number of companies to thrive during the Great Depression. History showed that those companies that were open to being innovative, and who kept a positive focus on the future, did far better compared to those who cut costs and jobs, hunkered down, and waited until it all ‘blew over’.


Most of the successful ones also focused on one primary thing: emotional connection with people. They kept themselves visible to their consumers, to the community and to their people, knowing that to appear to ‘abandon’ people at that time would be disastrous for their future brand and positioning. And they were right, with many of their competitors disappearing altogether.

So, as we head into a new year, and with a renewed sense of positive anticipation, lift your head up out of that pod, open your eyes and ears to the opportunities to connect, and above all, hang on to your knife and fork, heading in to the future knowing that something more is on the way!


Penny Nesbitt, Director, Rocket Blue

M: 0403 895097