When optimism is not a good idea

31 May 2016

When optimism is not a good idea

After the blog on the power of healthy scepticism, I’d like to say a few words about optimism.

Let’s talk about optimism in the context of running your own business.

The danger of too much optimism

If you’re an entrepreneur, you know you have to be a self-starter, stay focused, be flexible, develop ‘grit’, and so on.

There is another quality that is prized and spoken about a lot: optimism.

Now, optimism is vital. If you don’t think you can, you most probably won’t.

But too much optimism can be detrimental.

It can be similar to a jockey rider whipping his horse, urging him to go faster, when the horse is close to death.

Missing the fatal flaw

Let’s break this down in a business scenario.

Imagine this: you’ve started a business and you’re very motivated. You pour all your talent and grit into it. Setbacks don’t deter you. You keep finding solutions. You keep moving on.

Now imagine that after three years, you don’t get the kind of success you think you deserve.

What do you do?

If you were an incurable optimist, you would convince yourself that things are going to change. An incurable optimist always believes things will ultimately work and he or she should simply try harder.

What the incurable optimist sometimes misses is this: there could be a fatal flaw in the design that cannot be changed and that can and will undo the whole set-up.

The set-up is flawed. The only thing keeping it going is your work and your passion.

That’s not OK. That is a situation with a not-so-nice default future that is coming toward you, one day at a time.

You should have probably moved to Plan B three months ago.

How to avoid such a situation?

How do you know you’re riding a dead horse?

You have to work out what success will look like.

In the case of your business, you may decide success will manifest this way:

  1. We will increase our sales from 10 lakhs to 40 lakhs in 3 years
  2. We will expand the team from 5 to 15 people in 3 years
  3. We will get 4 press releases a year, generate 10 leads a month from targeted online campaigns, and cross 10,000 likes on FB – the latter in 12 months
  4. We will create one new innovation every 3 months and sell it to a client
  5. We will create a succession path for our second line staff so they can grow and we can move on to other tasks
  6. And so on…

Now you know what success looks like.

Now you also know, by default, what failure looks like.

Knowing this gives you a compass. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a manager in a company, the compass tells you whether you are succeeding on metrics that matter to you.

If you are moving in the right direction, it’s a question of strengthening processes to maximise success.

If you’re not, it’s time for Plan B.

Yes, a basic outline of your Plan B should be ready, so that you’re not scampering when Plan A fails.

So optimism is great. But while you’re optimistic, get those metrics in place!

About the Author:

Sandhya Reddy is an Executive coach, Leadership and Business coach based in Bangalore, India. She is the Founder and Principal Coach at Chapter Two Coaching, a coaching consultancy that enables everyone from CEOs to work-from-home parents and entrepreneurs to achieve their goals by replacing self-imposed limitations with enabling stories.

Many of us in our thirties experience a disquieting realization: what brought us to middle-management may not take us to senior-management. This is true. To chart a new career path, one needs to think and do things differently. This is where Sandhya can help. She is a coach. Life coaching, executive coaching, personality development, leadership coaching, business coaching… they are all part of her forte. Her Executive coaching programs helps tomorrow’s leaders set new goals, make new plans to achieve those goals.

Starting your own business can be exciting and daunting. It means coming face to face with hidden beliefs and behaviours that may be coming in the way of success. If you are an entrepreneur, Business Coaching helps you craft a vision, take responsibility, prioritize strategic thinking, and complement the best-laid plans with systematic action. Entrepreneurship involves a significant mind-set change but the right positive self-talk is the first start point.




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