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Harvesting hope post-holidays

Did we hit the pause button? Two to three weeks ago many of us ended our working year and commenced our summer holiday break. 2020 couldn’t have ended sooner! We turned off our laptops and stopped checking our email with the regularity that had held our attention for the many months prior. Our Zoom calls came to a close and we felt liberated stepping away from the gaze of our colleagues and regained our homes for the festive season.


As with the uncertainty of the last 9 months of 2020, the remaining last weeks didn’t fail to disappoint. Increased Covid-19 transmissions and new global variants lead to NSW and Queensland lockdowns. Border closures arrived without invitation, and for many our intended holiday plans were varied once again.


Now as we return to the workplace, having experienced another adjacent period of unexpected adjustment and flexibility, one wonders whether we have simply pressed pause on 2020, and now commence a new year which feels very much like the last.


The repetition of negative uncontrollable events can lead to a state of learned helplessness, where individuals feel a lack of control and lose impetus to try, even where opportunities for change may exist around them (Seligman, 1974). Similarly, when it is perceived that the outcome of a situation can no longer be controlled, hopelessness may result (Yeasting & Jung, 2010). Coupled with the challenge of post-holiday blues, leaders need to consider how they can support team members with motivating them on their return to work.

Harvest hope

Leaders who invest in re-articulating their team goals can assist their team members with rediscovering their work-related motivation. On return from the holiday break, leaders are encouraged to regroup with their team and remind them of their common team goals, noting with positive intent the purpose or context of the goals so as to bring these goals to life.


Goals which are purpose led, provide meaning, hope and optimism, and may inspire your team to draw upon their competencies to participate in, and fulfill the goals. Reigniting their interest in your team goals can shift the dynamics within the workplace and assist the team with understanding where they are navigating to in 2021, providing an atmosphere of increased hope and intent. It can also provide each team member with a frame in which they can hang their personal work-related goals, noting how they contextually relate to their team’s goals.


Hope Theory

The implications of dips in team member motivation may be addressed by applying Hope Theory (Snyder et al., 2002). Where life does not go as planned, a hopeful person is able to maintain positive expectations towards possible outcomes (Miceli & Castelfranchi, 2010).

Hope Theory can be used to focus a team member on developing their agency (goal-directed determination) and pathway thinking (ways to achieve their goals), overcoming their fear and assisting with striving for what is worthwhile in life (Steinfeldt, 2015; Snyder, 2002; Pury & Kowalski, 2007; Hannah et al., 2010).


This may be particularly useful in the current environment, where environmental, economic, and global factors have and continue to create much uncertainty and concern. An individual’s overall wellbeing can be safeguarded by the cognitive processes associated with hope, including increased positive emotions.


Identifying creative ways to reach a goal through different pathway thinking, coupled with encouragement to raise the team member’s confidence in achieving the goal, will better the outcome (Snyder et al., 2002; Park et al., 2012). A leader can role model how they will approach their goals and express their own plans of how they will step forward in 2021. A leader can by example, demonstrate their pathway thinking and discuss how they will utilise their personal strengths to support their goal attainment. They can seek ideas from the team to assist them with navigating any obstacles which are evident at the outset.


Demonstrating your appreciation of collaboration and valuing others’ ideas and proposed solutions can instill increased team confidence and create a positive working environment. Inviting team members to contribute their ideas in a psychologically safe manner, where individuals do not feel at risk of humiliation or embarrassment, can increase participation, motivation, engagement, and inclusion.


A leader can recognise the success which the team has had in achieving prior goals, and outline what was learnt from such success which may be applicable to the current goals. This may include highlighting particular skills or competencies of team members and expressing how they may be drawn upon in the current circumstances. Discussion of team members strengths and success can lift the confidence of all team members and assist them with building their agency and pathway thinking towards their present goals.


Energise and build confidence

Attending to your team on their return from their holiday break provides an opportunity to connect, energise and engage with your team members. Leading with a growth mindset and discussing what is possible in 2021, builds hope and the confidence of your team, encouraging and inspiring them to act. This may mobilise individuals to advance into 2021, rather than being caught in 2020.


Team member confidence and agency can increase where individuals recognise and are able to apply their personal competencies toward goal attainment. Where they require additional skills, they can utilise Hope Theory and apply pathway thinking to develop their skills further. This may include skills-based training and learning from others when working towards goal fulfillment.


Increased personal confidence creates a positive sense of self which in turn will assist with choosing to take risks, building further confidence, and increasing the likelihood of acting towards the accomplishment of their goals in 2021 (Amos & Klimoski, 2014, Fredrickson et al., 2003).


As a first step on return to your workplace, reconnect with your team. Focus their attention on the team goals and opportunities which can encompass their skills and competencies and invite them to play a part in building pathways towards their successful completion. Your support in instilling hope in your team members will provide a greater likelihood of increasing their motivation as they step into 2021.


References

Amos, B., & Klimoski, R. J. (2014). Courage: Making teamwork work well. Group & Organization Management, 39(1), 110-128.

Fredrickson, B. L., Tugade, M. M., Waugh, C. E., & Larkin, G. R. (2003). What good are positive emotions in crisis? A prospective study of resilience and emotions following the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11th, 2001. Journal of personality and social psychology, 84(2), 365.

Hannah, S. T., Sweeney, P. J., & Lester, P. B. (2010). The courageous mind-set: A dynamic personality system approach to courage. In Pury, C. L. S., Lopez, S. J., & American Psychological Association (Eds.) (2010). The psychology of courage: Modern research on an ancient virtue (1st ed.). Washington, D.C: American Psychological Association.

Miceli, M, & Castelfranchi, C. (2010). Hope The Power of Wish and Possibility. Theory & Psychology, 20(2), 251-276.

Parks, A. C., Della Porta, M. D., Pierce, R. S., Zilca, R., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2012). Pursuing happiness in everyday life: The characteristics and behaviors of online happiness seekers. Emotion. Washington, D.C., 12(6), 1222-1234.

Pury, C. L., & Kowalski, R. M. (2007). Human strengths, courageous actions, and general and personal courage. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2(2), 120-128.

Seligman, M. E. (1974). Depression and learned helplessness. In R. J. Friedman & M. M. Katz (Eds.), The psychology of depression: Contemporary theory and research. John Wiley & Sons.

Snyder, C. R. (2002). Hope theory: Rainbows in the mind. Psychological Inquiry, 13(4), 249-275.

Snyder, C. R., Rand, K. L., & Sigmon, D. R. (2002). Hope theory: A member of the positive psychology family. In C.R. Snyder, and S.J. Lopez (Eds.). Handbook of Positive Psychology. 257-276. London: Oxford University Press.

Steinfeldt, J. (2015). What are Coaches Afraid of? An Exploration of Courage and the Path to Coaching Mastery. University of Pennsylvania. Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) Capstone Projects. 76

Yeasting, K. & Jung, S. (2010). Hope in Motion, Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 5(3), 305-319

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