How to be more optimistic at work?

Being born and brought up in Poland, where pessimism, critical approach, and so called ‘common sense’ prevail, I didn’t have an easy start.  Add to it a strong cultural belief that by expecting positive outcome you might easily jinx it, and you see that I had to go a long way to appreciate optimistic mindset. Despite that now I realize that everybody can learn to be an optimist. Moreover, there is no better time than the present (literally) to make use of the powers of positivity.



Optimistic employees are generally happier, healthier, more productive, and (as Martin Seligman proved) they make more money. Additionally, their ability to see positive future and to deal with the weight of chronic stress at work overcomes any crisis. Having a joyful attitude to life puts people in a better position to achieve work-life balance. The most interesting part is that according to the father of positive psychology, “The basis of optimism does not lie in positive phrases or images of victory, but in the way you think about causes.”  Since thought are stories, we can retell them in a way that work for us.


Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee define hope as “an emotional magnet—it keeps people going even in the midst of challenges.” Talking about hope seems to be very far from a corporate world. Having said that, leaders need to have faith so they can quickly circulate it in a team to sustain any change and crisis. As a result, to cultivate a positive perspective hope is necessary.  I noticed that some of my executive clients, who suffer from burnout or experience a hard time, cannot just look on their circumstances with rose-tinted glasses. It is too far from their life and mindset. Yet, it seems doable for them to talk about hope and search for it. It energizes them and it creates small windows of opportunity. They understand that optimism itself won’t stop negative incidents from happening. Though with an optimistic mindset one makes sure that they react in the most useful way possible.


Become an anthropologist of your thoughts

There is no magical wand, I know of, that will prevent problems from arising in our lives. They will be present. The magic, however, hides in a way you think about them. If you want to have more optimistic approach start with hacking your pessimism. There were a few things I found helpful while working on my one thinking patterns. For example, I learned that when I feel low it is easier to concentrate on feeling curious than happy. Curiosity symbolizes for me neutral gear and from there it’s smoother transition to a positive mindset. “It’s interesting. I’m wondering what makes me think this way?” “How is this thought serving me?” “ What’s the truth?’, “How might I be sabotaging myself?’, ‘Is this what I want?’ ‘What could be different?’  “What is the worst that could happen?” – all of these questions change you thinking form pessimistic into curious.

Shift movement from inward to outward

Sadness seems passive since it incites no movement. A negative person usually transforms with a little bit of action. One way of igniting positive active emotions (curiosity, excitement, joy, inspiration, gratitude) is to redirect thoughts outward to others. Instead of concentrating on your negative situation, consider who you can help. Research shows that if people start volunteering two hours a week (100 hours a year), their happiness, satisfaction and self-esteem go up a year later.

You might start looking for volunteering opportunities at you work (being a mentor or a reverse mentor to a colleague), your kids’ school, community centers. Apart from psychological benefits, adding volunteer work to your CV demonstrates you have additional skills, you are passionate, and are motivated by things other than money.

Automate your optimism

Routines give us boundaries and help us create order in the expanse of time and space, and they just make life simpler.  How to utilize the power of daily rituals so we can feel more optimistic? The easiest way is to plan a regular time for break and gratitude. You might or choose a regular time during a day to express gratitude in your thoughts or, as one of my clients decided to do, express it as an email to a colleague. She took on writing such thank-you emails daily. Apart from increased optimism she noticed stronger relationships at work and as well she started to receive appreciation form others as well that made her see her own contribution in a positive way. People who like journaling to reflect on a day have a tendency to write gratitude lists at the end of a day. It is an awareness building activity that promotes optimism as well. However, what to do when you aren’t interested in writing emails or diaries? Find a symbol that will remind you of expressing appreciation for at least one minute.  It could be some object in the environment you are in. It could be an activity (for example brushing your teeth can give you at least 2 minutes of being thankful).

Another approach is to incorporate in your day certain rituals that increase your well-being. Some of my coachees began reading regularly (at least 30 minutes a day), others had a relaxing bath, went for a walk, or started practicing an old hobby. If it became a habit, it contributed to their positive mindset.  You might even look at great role models and their routines, such as Benjamin Franklin who used to wake up every morning at 5 a.m. and ask himself the same question: “What good shall I do this day?”

Reduce the number of choices

From an early morning to the late evening you drain you energy on decisions – what to wear, what direction to take, how to manage your time, what task is more important right now, what to eat for lunch etc. Each one reduces the charge of the battery, and you end up with less energy available to make other decisions later. The feeling of fatigue and exhaustion impact adversely on levels of your optimism. The act of planning your day significantly reduces the number of decisions. To avoid unnecessary choices some people prefer to have a few sets of work clothes that they will put on interchangeably. Other plan their lunch options weekly. However, the best way to defeat decision fatigue is to ensure you sleep 7 hours a day.

Bet on learner mindset

Though, it is great to feel that we are good at something a learner mindset adds a lot of positive vibes to our day. First, when we learn we do not feel stupid and lesser than others. It builds our self-confidence and self-esteem. People, who have it, are more motivated to take on challenging work and to persist in the face of setbacks. Do not skip over “hard”! Optimism is not about avoiding difficult. Being a true optimist is feeling fear, reservations and doing new things anyway. Positive thinking is far from ignoring life’s stressors. Yet, being an optimist, you know how to approach adversity in a productive way.

All in all, positivity and enthusiasm are essential attributes, so let’s believe what Winston Churchill said, “a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”


Leadership Weekly Update 29.01.20

However, this week inspirations seem to be far away from each other, I think that the problem of “side conversations” (gossip) is very acute in remote or hybrid teams.

Hence, suggestion for leaders to set high standards of cooperation in both the article and the podcast. Read the text by Amy C. Edmondson and listen to Collaboration Superpowers podcast.

Get inspired and share some interesting podcasts and articles that have made you think this week!

Below my notes.


What suggestions would you add if there is gossip/side conversation present in a company culture?


This is 4th part of “Leadership Weakly Update”. I decided to focus only on one article and one episode of podcast a week in the area of leadership development and share my notes and take-aways on LinkedIn and here as anti-FOMO remedy.

weekly update 30.01.20 1

weekly update 30.01.20 2

weekly update 30.01.20 3

Leadership Weekly Update 22.01.20

This week I wanted to focus on diversity as an important aspect of modern leadership, so I was mainly listening to podcasts and reading articles in that area. I found particularly interesting the conversation between Dr. Diane Hamilton and Tayo Rockson about D&I and an article by LaTonya Wilkins on illusions that stop us from promoting diverse talents.

Below my notes.

Get inspired and share some interesting podcasts and articles that have made you think this week! leadershipweeklyupdate


This is 3rd part of “Leadership Weakly Update”. I decided to focus only on one article and one episode of podcast a week in the area of leadership development and share my notes and take-aways on LinkedIn as antiFOMO remedy.

1 weekly update 22.01.20

2 weekly update 22.01.20

3 weekly update 22.01.20

Leadership Weekly Update 22.12.19

I’ve been developing leaders for more than a decade now as a business trainer, consultant, coach and a lecturer. That’s why I was really interested how to tap into the power of professional coaching in leadership programs. This conversation between Tom Kolditz, an internationally recognized expert on crisis management and the founding director of The Doerr Institute for New Leaders at Rice University and Eddie Turner, The Leadership Excelerator® is full of inspiration how to do it right. The article I picked today (written by my colleague Makarand Kaprekar, a great business and team coach) explains how to improve teams with job fitment. Get inspired and share some interesting podcasts and articles that have made you think this week!



This is 2nd part of “Leadership Weakly Update”. I decided to focus only on one article and one episode of podcast a week in the area of leadership development and share my notes and take-aways on LinkedIn as antiFOMO remedy.


1 weekly update 20.12.19

2 weekly update 20.12.19

Leadership Weekly Update 12.12.19

FOMO seems very realistic to me today. And as well the fear that knowledge slips through my head when I read and listen to great content. That’s why I decided to focus only on one article and one episode of podcast a week in the area of leadership development and share my notes and take-aways here.

Let’s start leadershipweeklyupdate

This week I am learning from Marcia Reynolds, PsyD, MCC and Whitney Johnson.

PDF of weekly update 12.12.19



Why is it important to listen?

I was honored to be asked as a guest at a podcast.

Thank you Kyle Weckerly, a ghostwriter and a podcaster, for an invitation and these kind words:

“On the tenth episode of The Career Challenges Podcast, I get to talk with Inga Bielinska. She’s a training and leadership coach with clients from all over the world.

I’m not exaggerating, she mentions working with clients from Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America.

Hailing from Poland herself, Inga discovered leadership coaching thanks to a suggestion from a mentor. This has led to her becoming connected with a wide array of people, and ultimately landing in Mountain View, California.

She also mentioned she’s a runner and given I run as well, I got sidetracked asking her questions. She graciously answered and humored me as I delved into the sport. I’m sure she could beat me in a race, but she says she doesn’t run to compete.

Inga is also a published author, working on her third book! She has two others published that she co-authored with another leadership expert. If I could read Polish, I’d put these books on my reading list.

After the host finally got past his distractions, Inga got to explain how she managed to work with such a varied group of clients- by listening. Whereas I listen for the story, Inga list ens to understand mindsets”

Podcast: The Importance of Listening


Let us not mince words: deep listening is a 21st century hack for productivity. We dedicate so much time on learning how to communicate, how to negotiate, what words to use to influence others, then we do not spend the equal amount of time on our inner skills. We simply do not know how to be an effective listener that goes beyond just nodding and establishing an eye contact. What does it mean to listen to people that it might trigger sustainable change in your management style?

Do you know that executives spend about 83% of their time o listening? * HBR claimed in 2017 that “On average, about one-quarter of CEOs’ days are spent alone, including sending emails. Another 10% is spent on personal matters, and 8% is spent traveling. The remainder (56%) is spent with at least one other person, which mostly involves meetings, most of which are planned ahead of time.”** so something between 56 to 83% leaders listen. Unfortunately, I have not heard yet about the research on the quality of this listening. There are so many articles on external distractions connected with technology. What about such inner distractions as biases, prejudices, inner clutter, fears and habitual interactions with people?

If you want to be an effective leader and get serious about your listening skills, start with evaluating what non-listening type you might incorporate from time to time.

Types of non-listeners

An aggressive non-listener.

This type just has so much experience and knowledge (usually gained at highly responsibilite and highly exposed positions) that they do not want to waste their precious time on listening to things they have already heard. Moreover, the ones that did not work in the past. An Aggressive Non-Listener has very limited trust in learning something new from the others, so he/she might pay attention to few people in the team who are stronger negotiators than they are or who gained the advantage and proved themselves in the past. But generally, this non-listener doesn’t value much other people’s opinions.  Remember, if you judge others as less smart than you, it can get in your way and you will stop listening to them.

Common belief: I know what you are going to say after a few first words.

Typical behavior: interrupting, snap and cynical comments, questions that lead to exposing somebody’s ignorance, excessive using lack-of-time excuses, body language that shows disrespect or indifference (no eye contact, extended looks away, turning into different direction than your conversationalist), might give short speeches instead of talking, sometimes could listen only to parts of a message that interest them and reject or ignore everything else.

Remedy: If you happen to suffer from this condition, try these:

  • Notice who you treat this way
  • Observe what topics make you feel superior to others
  • Switch on curiosity. Whenever you feel the urge to stop you conversationalist in the middle of the sentence, think “I am going to listen for all the things that make me curious in what he says” or “I wonder how she can surprise me here?”
  • Remember 5 minutes spent on curious listening can be more productive than 30 minutes of convincing somebody else that they are not right.

A distracted non-listener

This non-listener has a lot of going on right now. Deadline is pushing deadline and priorities resemble more the unpredictable wheel of fortune than something they can manage. What do they do instead of listening and being present? They are in their heads planning and forecasting.

Common belief: I am so busy that I cannot stop thinking about what I have to do.

Typical behavior: multitasking (e.g. talking to somebody and reading an email), their mind is wandering even if they are in a meeting; it is hard for them to keep track of what’s happening around;  they have difficulty keeping track of the flow of any conversation, they might hop from one topic to the next, they comments tend to be chaotic and not connected with the main subject;

Remedy: Once I heard “Wherever you are, be all there.” If you are this non-listener you are probably never fully present, not with the family, not in the meeting and not even at one-on-one. How to be all focused on one moment and time?

  • Write down all the task you need to fulfill.
  • Establish your own priorities, however, do not get attached to them too much. These are priorities for right now.
  • Switch on trust. Whenever you are at the meeting, remember that you have already noted down you tasks for today, so they are safe. You will not miss anything.
  • To be sure that you are here and know use paraphrasing: repeat what you have just heard with you own words. Start: “I want to be sure that I fully understand you. You just said… Have I missed anything?”

A creative non-listener

If you happen to be a Creative Non-Listener, it might be virtually impossible for you to carefully listen to others and appear creative at the same time. Because for this type, the creativity is being in their head and experiencing a non-stoppable performance of ideas, concepts and possibilities. It might happen that when they connect the dots in their heads, they instantly go from A to Z and this way discover completely new territory but at the same time they lose touch with the reality. The result? Your team will get lost in your ideas and stop using their own resourcefulness.

Common belief: I have so many great ideas.

Typical behavior: interrupting, chaotic speech, changing topics, connecting ideas that are difficult to follow, enthusiasm, energy and optimism, might spent too much time in the future, superficial discussion over important topics, hyperactivity that might make the rest of the team quiet and withdrawn.

Remedy: Because there are so many benefits to being creative, people does not learn how to be a receiving part of a discussion. However, it seems that this skill makes leaders particularly good at developing next generations of managers. If you want to move your leadership to the next level, learn how to encourage others’ creativity.   

  • Embrace the silence.
  • Focus on forming insightful questions that naturally continue the conversation
  • Switch on note taking. Write down the things you find interesting in what others bring up at the meeting. If you cannot take notes at the time, listen with the intention to highlight what you liked about others’ input at the end of the discussion.
  • Leave your ideas to be expressed at the end or at all if they have already been said.

A defensive non-listener

A Defensive Non-Listener feels attacked or endangered because they hear a general statement and personalize it. This underlying impression takes its toll while listening to others. For example, they might take innocent comments about the project as personal attacks on their managing skills. Such listening creates impressions of insecurity and a lack of confidence. Sometimes, however, they might behave like a cross-examining attorney, namely they will be listening very carefully just to collect information that can be used against the other person.

Common belief: They are going to hurt me/attack me/expose me.

Typical behavior: defensiveness, excuses, ‘yes, but’ game, taking jokes or sarcastic comments personally, personalizing impersonal statements, avoiding certain topics, blaming game.

Remedy: Because being a Defensive Non-Listener is pretty common in a stressful period or in the company where it is important to find the culprit, it might be a good idea to implement a few ways of dealing with it.

  • Whenever you spot you have started to behave as a Defensive Non-Listener, slow down and take deep breaths to self-soothe.
  • Do not interrupt.
  • Gather feedback about the topic that seems to trigger you.
  • Switch on comparing to standards. Do not assign personal meaning to what others say. Instead focus on standards that need to be met.
  • Ask for specifics around the standards.
  • Find something to agree with.
  • Think what actions need to be done to have a positive outcome next time.

An intrusive non-listener

An Intrusive Non-listener gives an unsolicited advice whenever they can and, however, they have good intentions with these comments in private life, as in professional one, they just do more harm than good. You might believe that with limited time you have at work, it is natural to provide your people with quick answers. Besides, you probably have the feeling that it strengthens your authority. Quite the opposite. Too much advice makes your people more dependent on you, reduces their initiative and, let’s face it, annoys those who want to develop.

Common belief: I can help you. Only I know how.

Typical behavior: too much monitoring, so called saving-time strategies, too much instruction giving and control comparing to too little delegating, treating experienced employees as beginners, reducing independence, leaving too little space for people to take ownership.

Remedy: If this listening type sounds familiar:

  • Refresh the concept of situational leadership, which is an adaptive leadership style that was described by Ken Blanchard. Firstly, evaluate your team members in terms of their maturity and choose the leadership style that best fits their goals and circumstances. Some of them might be absolute beginners, adepts, independent workers or experts. Depending on it use instructions, delegation, or coaching as your tools.
  • Switch on humility. Humble leaders give their people chance to share their views, spark creativity in others, encourage more ownership by giving the team a voice in decision making process.
  • Use storytelling instead of advice giving, for example, say: “Your situation reminds me of the moment when I/person X…. What I did then was…. What’s in it for you?”***

After evaluation

It might happen that you will recognize more than one style in listening. Or that one of them is used by you more often that you would like to. Don’t worry.

Susan A. David said “At work, especially when things get intense, we too often fall back on our old stories about who we believe ourselves to be.” I couldn’t agree more. That’s why whenever I work with leaders, I show them my concept of personal development.

It reminds an atom diagram.

There is our center, the core basic self. Whenever we learn new things, whenever we try and adopt new behaviors, we move further from the core. Too much of stress, chaos, or intense experiences the gravitation pulls us back to our basic patterns.

In that view development is about how fast we recognize that we got back to the core and how fast we dust ourselves up and try again to do our best.

* According to Oscar Trimboli during the podcast “The Modern Manager” episode 42.




Photo by Antenna on Unsplash


Growing a culture requires a good storyteller. Changing a culture requires a persuasive editor. Ryan Lilly, Entrepreneurship and economic development consultant

The question of the day is: What team culture other than your own speaks to you?

That particular question is very interesting for two different reasons. It will make you think what culture you are creating right now with your own team. Second, what other ways of creating team culture are appealing to you.

Somehow, on this discovery, you may find out that you like what you created. Or that you like the majority of what you created. You may start noticing interesting aspects of other teams. For example, one you used to be a part of, has something you want to emulate in your own team. This way it can trigger some kind of change. Think. What team culture other than your own speaks to you?