We all get frustrated…me as much as anyone else. Good news is that I seldom – if ever – get frustrated with any one. Rather I get frustrated by situations in which I find myself, or by lack of progress or by failure to meet objectives. The list goes on…never people…always situations.
Frustration is a very common emotional response – a feeling we experience when we are unable to do what we want to do, or to achieve what we want to achieve. In many ways frustration is the opposite of satisfaction.
I found myself feeling frustrated last week. We have unique and very exciting opportunities in front of us. We are desperate to achieve and to deliver. But there I was – Tuesday evening – frustrated at our rate of progress. I stood up from my desk and went to make a coffee. I wasn’t thirsty…I just needed a change of scenery.
I watched my coffee brewing…and wondered. I sipped and remembered. Frustrated Optimists. A presentation – six or seven years ago. A business leader who had gone from start up to success in eighteen months. I recalled his key to success was culture! And that he only ever recruited ‘frustrated optimists’ into his team.
Of course he also mentioned the importance of customers, budgets, mission, strategy, leadership…but in his mind his success was based on culture and the people who make up that culture
But frustrated optimists? What did he mean?
I know frustrated. And I know an optimist inherently believes that people and events are good, and that therefore situations will always work out for the best. The opposite is a pessimist – someone who naturally emphasises negative aspects and often expects the worst possible outcome in any situation. So do we get when we combine ‘frustrated’ and ‘optimists’? And why are they so important?
A frustrated optimist has to understand and appreciate the current situation…and has to be convinced there is more that can be done to make progress. Most importantly though, a frustrated optimist always feels compelled to do something to make good things happen and to make things better.
A frustrated optimist is only ever a source of positive energy…can only ever be a positive change agent. Their desire to improve and succeed is both infectious and contagious. They attract and inspire colleagues. A frustrated optimist is hard to describe…but we all know when we see one!
Conversely there are also frustrated pessimists…and we are all good at recognising (and avoiding) frustrated pessimists…
The Leader’s philosophy then was simple: populate your team with as many Frustrated Optimists as possible, empower them and know that that they can only succeed. Have faith that these colleagues will rise up to introduce positive change. They will make good things happen.
Such a culture is hard to describe….but it is wonderful to be part of…smiles, collaborations, engagement, ideas, opportunities. And – almost by definition – a frustrated optimist can have no excuses for failure!
I sat back at my desk with a smile. I chose to define myself as a frustrated optimist and I accept that feeling frustrated can be a good thing. My question was no longer why…but what? What am I going to do to in order to make things happen and to make things better?
I smiled more as I considered our team and started to recognise more and more frustrated optimists in our own organisation. At which point I felt excited and I realised what I really needed to do is to empower our frustrated optimists even more, point them in the right direction and then have that same faith that they will only ever achieve…