Yes We can

I am inspired by an article written by Dick Mc Cann, an australian business coach, who like the President Obama proclaims “Yes We can”. Yes, we need the optimism to move out of today’s zone of turbulence, where and every day the media keeps reminding us of the gloom. I see this very morning a very bright sunshine through my window and breathe the fresh air and look forward to a wonderful day. I rather listen to my inner voice that peps me than the news on the Radio. Yes I am making my day. I wish that the optimism with the firm belief that I have the capacity and  the will to move ahead is more spread in the Mauritian population.

Where does “Yes We can” come from?

Mc Cann writes:

The Linking Leader Model identifies six People Linking Skills, five Task Linking Skills and two Leadership Linking Skills. Successful managers need to be good at the People Linking Skills and Task Linking Skills but it’s the two Leadership Linking Skills that make the difference between a manager and a leader. Let’s look at one of them – Motivation.

For most people, individual jobs need to be connected to a larger purpose or achievement to be genuinely motivating. Motivation is all about engaging people in an endeavor that will inspire their commitment and energy consistently over a longer period and cause them to put extra effort into the challenges that lie before them. We can break down the skill of Motivation into six measurable elements:

1. Articulates a compelling vision of the team’s future

2. Focuses unwaveringly on clear goals

3. Is someone team members want to follow

4. Can make others feel optimistic about the future

5. Inspires team members to perform

6. Takes a stand on controversial issues affecting the team

Effective leaders articulate a compelling vision of the team’s future (item 1). If people are to give of their best they need to have a clear picture of what lies ahead. In addition they need to be persuaded that this vision is worth pursuing and it’s here that the linking leader has a real chance to motivate the team. Along with the vision there needs to be a set of clear goals that act as beacons to follow (item 2). A leader who focuses unwaveringly on these goals will inspire team members to give of their best. Nothing demotivates people more than when the goals are constantly changing.

To articulate a compelling vision for the team a leader must believe in the value of their aims and are willing to explain and defend them, even in the face of a challenge. A vision of this kind can’t be contrived. It is rooted in a person’s sincerely held belief about the intrinsic value of their end goal and is fired by a genuine desire to achieve it. It is this that brings the vision to life for them and others. Most commentators on the USA Presidential Elections would give Barack Obama a good rating on how he presented a compelling vision of America’s future and the voters have certainly indicated that he is someone they want to follow (item 3).

The importance of optimism (item 4) to the human race is shown by Martin Seligman’s work (Seligman, 1991) in analyzing USA political speeches using his CAVE technique – Content Analysis of Verbatim Explanations – where he analyzed the nomination acceptance speeches of candidates for the American Presidential Elections. In the 22 Presidential Elections from 1900 to 1984, Americans chose the more optimistic-sounding candidate 18 times. In all elections in which an underdog pulled off an upset, he was the more optimistic candidate. The exceptions were three elections contested by Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Humphrey-Nixon election of 1968. Roosevelt’s proven ability in a crisis and the impact of the Chicago riots at the time of Humphrey’s speech seemed to have more than negated the opposition candidate’s more optimistic speech. It seems that people want to hear about rosy futures and will support someone who helps create a sense of hope, optimism and wellbeing within an individual.

In the classic book, Pollyanna, by Eleanor Porter, we can see how someone with a focus on opportunities can affect those with a negative view of life. Pollyanna’s positive attitude helps Aunt Polly, Mrs Snow and Mr Pendleton see the world in a new light and the book is a tonic for anyone who feels at all depressed.

Pollyanna’s behavior is often described as a naïve form of optimism. She believes that things will always turn out for the best and that no matter what happens, there is always something to be glad about. There are never any obstacles, only opportunities!

Pollyanna would cope with any misfortune by playing the ‘Glad’ game. She teaches her game to several characters in the book who have a decided tendency towards seeing the obstacles. It lifts their spirits enormously and has a major effect on their lives. Pollyanna’s attitude to life has led to the coining of the psychological term known as ‘Pollyanna-ism’. Pollyanna accepts anything that happens to her by reflecting that things could always have been worse.

This noble view of the world is not always an asset in managing a business or running a country. The reality of the business and political world is often summarized, tongue-in-cheek, by Murphy’s Law, ‘If anything can go wrong, it will‘. Therefore it’s important not to sit back, accept what happens and continue to paint a rosy picture of the future. It’s essential to identify all the obstacles that might occur and have an alternative plan of action to implement, should things go wrong.

So it’s easy to say, ‘Yes we can.’ This is the compelling vision that people want to hear. But in a few years will we be able to say, ‘Yes we have,’ or will the President-Elect of the United States of America follow the path of the overwhelming majority of nation leaders whose political career ends in failure?


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