Managing disgruntled optimists
I recently wrote a blog in which I wondered if most business or nonprofit founders are, at their core, disgruntled optimists.
If you’re working with a disgruntled optimist, here are few techniques the Ducks use that might help.
Lead with solutions. People in management roles know you’re going to tell them about problems; that’s par for the course. But being told a problem without an idea or two for a good solution can make a manager feel they have to do it all. When something goes wrong, think through the options and propose a solution they can understand and support. Odds are, your good solutions will help set you up for faster professional growth too, as your manager comes to rely on you for your problem-solving super powers.
Remove the work they’re bad at. Most founders and entrepreneurs are big picture “visionary” types who are best kept out of the weeds. Observe where your disgruntled optimist adds the most value for your organization and minimize their distractions.
Give them time alone to do deep work. In his book, “Deep Work”, author Cal Newport advocates for the importance of time to focus deeply in today’s (often shallow) task-oriented world. Innovators and leaders of all kinds need time to think through complex problems, which often takes deep focus. Constant meetings, email, and interuptions might help the day-to-day keep moving, but you’ll find your disgruntled optimist adds more value (and might even be nicer to work with) if they get a few hours of solitude each week to do the thinking, writing, or planning that’s most critical.
Dot your I’s and cross your T’s. Farrell Evans, CEO of the Bridge Golf Foundation, notes that a good journalist is always looking for where a story might fall down. Doing your own due diligence and presenting solid work that doesn’t have obvious holes in it already will help build your disgruntled optimist’s trust.