You probably remember the photo of the young soccer team that was trapped inside the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Thailand. But you may not know that the head of the Thai Navy Seals who led that remarkable rescue later commented, “Hope is all we had to work with.” And a reporter who covered the story said, “This was an example of hope in action.”

We often hear, “Hope is not a plan” or “hope is not a strategy,” let alone a strategy for action. Yet when we understand the science of hopefulness, called Hope Theory, we begin to see that hope is far more than an abstract or ethereal concept. Hope is the fundamental belief that change is possible and the expectation that it is our actions, fueled by a positive vision of the future, that drive outcomes.

The concept of hope theory was pioneered by the late Dr. C.R. Snyder, a professor of psychology at the University of Kansas at Lawrence. Dr. Snyder defined hope as based on both “willpower” and “way-power,” where one is able not only to create multiple pathways to realizing a vision, but also to sustain the mental energy and perseverance to travel those pathways effectively. With the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, it is critical that leaders instill their workforce with a hope-driven view of the future as well as a concrete action plan to adapt and innovate for a changing world.

So how should leaders begin to think about infusing hope into their organizations? How can they help their workers feel positive about their new work world when there is so much uncertainty? Experts in the areas of performance, culture, leadership, psychology, sales, and law share their thoughts on the topic.

“Hope can be difficult to possess in a time like this when the truth is that none of us knows exactly when this current situation is going to end and what the “new normal” will even be.

Thus, “feeding” empty “feel-good” promises to those we lead such as, “Hey, everything’s going to work out for the best” and “we’ll come away from this stronger than ever” — although I happen to believe both statements are true — can be counterproductive. 

By the same token, it also does no good to wallow in fear and “feed” those fears.

Great Leaders begin by understanding and accepting truths. Then they LIVE in the solutions rather than the problems. 

Want to feed hope to those you lead? Express your genuine care and concern for them and those they love. Then…brainstorm solutions. Focus on what they can control; about the situation, and about themselves. And, encourage them to proactively feed their minds with information that will “keep” them in solution-orientation.” — Bob Burg, co-author of The Go-Giver Book Series

“It is easy to instill hope when things are good. When times get tough, the best way a leader will bring hope to their team is by remaining focused on the overall Vision and Mission of the organization. Having a Vision and Mission that is bigger than the challenge at hand will allow the group to rally around something they can hold on to mentally and emotionally. The deeper this purpose is engrained in the group’s culture the easier it will be to outlast the storm.” — Jason Cutter,  Sales Success Architect at Cutter Consulting Group 

“The best way to instill hope is to model it. That might seem unattainable because hope is a “feeling.” But our feelings are often manifested in our actions, our words, and our decisions. I often say “watch what people do, not what they say.” Therefore, as leaders, it’s not enough to just speak hopeful thoughts. We must physically embody them to ensure that our words are not betrayed by our actions. To do otherwise, will result in a loss of trust and confidence by those you lead.” — Kelly Charles Collins, Esq., MBA, Unconscious Bias Expert   

“I believe that hope and inspiration are the defining elements of leadership in a time of crisis. As leaders, we must demonstrate our own vulnerability, yet, at the same time, act as visionaries. As leaders, we must engage in shared stories of triumph and past successes. Powerful questions can serve as reminders of possibility and resilience. One question, particularly stands out for me, “When you think about the most difficult time that we’ve through in our company, what was it  that got us through it?” We have all been there before just by the fact that we are human.

We have all experienced loss of a loved one, loss of health, loss of freedom, loss of control, loss of a job, but by asking questions that  remind us  how  we triumphed in those times, we reframe our reality and inspire hope for the future.” —Dr. Zina Suissa, PCC, CTPC, Tedx Speaker, Psychologist, Executive Coach