There have been several books written on ‘hope is not a strategy’, so many that I stopped counting at 12. I’ve run across them several times, and every time I see one, I do a double take. It just never made sense to me, as I believe in the opposite, ‘hope is a strategy’.

Perhaps the most important word in that sentence is also the smallest, ‘a’. Hope is A strategy; it’s not THE strategy or the whole strategy, but it is a very important piece.

With workplace engagement at an all-time low, we have to look past some of the traditional, and now outdated norms of what works in business.

Even Tom Peters agrees!

In his latest book, ‘Extreme Humanism’, Tom shares this from Tim Leberecht’s Business Romantic, “Embracing hope as a strategy, the Business Romantic presents cohesive narratives that make sense of ever more complex and fragmented workplace and market conversations. Instead of focusing on assets and return-on-investment, the Business Romantic exposes the hidden treasures of business and delivers return-on-community. Instead of focusing on assets and return-on-investment, the Business Romantic exposes the hidden treasures of business and delivers return-on-community.”

What a confirmation about the importance of hope in the workplace.

I recently gave a speech to a group of nonprofit managers and leaders entitled, Hope as an Engagement Strategy. In it I make the case for hope to engage and for its importance to workplace culture. The attentive audience seemed hungry for clues on how to improve engagement, as it has become one of the most daunting problems that today’s leaders are facing.

During the presentation, I asked participants to write on a card the answer to the question, “What brings me hope”. I collected them all and this weekend I’ll make a collage of them. I’ll send it to them as I think it will be fun to glance at the picture and be reminded of how much there is to feel hopeful for.

In Marcus Birmingham’s recent book “Love + Work: How to Find What You love, Love What You Do, and Do It for the Rest of Your Life”, he talks about the importance of loving at least something every day at work. Sometimes it requires a deeper understanding of what we love, which can sometimes feel elusive.

In Peters book, he quotes the philosopher William James who said, “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” Buckingham agrees and suggests that one of the most fruitful activities that leaders can prioritize is the weekly check-in. It’s a tool that meets the need that all of us have, which is to be seen and appreciated, as James suggests.

During the weekly check-in, ask all of your direct reports these 4 questions:

  1. What did you love about last week? [work-related]
  2. What did you detest about last week?
  3. What are your priorities for this week?
  4. How can I help?

How would you feel if your manager spent this quality time with you? How would you feel as a leader to be this connected to the people on your team?

What advice does Marcus give to those thinking you don’t have time for weekly check-ins with all of your team? Reduce the size of your team. In the Love + Work world, being connected to the passions and needs of the team is priority #1. So, if you can’t spend 5-10 minutes every week with each person, you need to downsize. Drastic perhaps but imagine the results of a team that is dramatically more engaged.

Hope sits at the intersection of appreciation, acknowledgement, and doing something you love. In this sense hope is a strategy for engagement because people who are confident and see good around them are naturally more engaged.

I challenge you to reach out to your team this week in a more meaningful way. Ideally with a weekly check-in.

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