If you want to be negative, you may get subtracted

I am no Pollyanna. I am generally a happy person, an optimist by nature. I see the glass as half full, and possibilities. Earlier this year a Harvard Business Review blog post noted that most people who achieve their goals are realistic optimists, people who believe in their ability to succeed while recognizing that success takes planning, hard work, and follow through.

A friend complained to me today that she may have taken the wrong job offer; that she might have too much initiative to be a good fit in the corporate position she recently accepted.  I’m sure there are many aspects of the job she feels positive about but those factors may not offset her disappointment that her every proposal isn’t met with wild enthusiasm.

Here’s what I wanted to tell her: That a job, like life, is what you make of it, and what you focus on will always seem more important. I wanted to point out that people tend to respond more positively to ideas they helped develop, versus ideas that suggest what they’ve been doing is not as smart as what you’d be doing. Or, that feeling superior is the fast track to acting superior, which is a bullet train to unemployment. 

I wanted to tell her to ignore the empty half of the glass and do something with what she had.

What I suggested is that instead of proposing better ways to do everything – playing the teacher – she might want to take a step back and become the student. That if I was in her shoes I’d ‘go to school’ on the company’s business goals, and how its current strategies and tactics have worked or fallen short. I would talk to business segment and program heads and ask what I could do to help them achieve their goals. She needs to determine what she needs to facilitate, deliver, and accomplish, to help others do the best possible job, and then focus her idea generation on those business needs.

A great idea isn’t great everywhere, any time. It has to be the best use of the resources required, at this place and this time – in the opinions of the people who make the decisions. Winning their support requires trust in you, and real trust takes time.

I think her company is lucky to have her, and her initiative.  With a little time and effort, her work and ideas should cue the kudos she craves.

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