#162 from R&D Innovator Volume 4, Number 6          June 1995

Managing for High Hope
by C. R. Snyder, Ph.D.

Dr. Snyder is director of the Graduate Training Program in Clinical Psychology at the University of Kansas.  He’s author of The Psychology of Hope:  You Can Get There From Here (Free Press, New York, 1994). crsnyder@ukans.edu  www.psych.ukans.edu/hope

I usually find myself having to explain why I study the subject of "hope," a subject many people to consider somewhat "flaky."  While it's a popular subject in the literature, theater, and song, it hasn’t received much attention from a scientific viewpoint.  I'd like to discuss how I measure hope, the importance of hope, and how to increase it.

But first, we have to define it:  Hope is the sum of mental willpower and waypower that you have for your goals.  Willpower is the driving force in hopeful thinking.  Waypower reflects the mental plans or road maps that guide hopeful thought.  It’s not enough just to have the wish for something; you need the means, too.  On the other hand, all the skills to solve a problem won’t help if you don’t have the willpower to do it.  Therefore, a simple yet powerful definition is the following:

                        Hope = mental willpower + waypower for goals

To further clarify my definition of hope, let me also tell you what it isn't.  While hope and optimism seem to be similar, they’re different in that optimism involves expectations that you’ll get to your desired goals, but it doesn’t necessarily involve the thoughts about how to get there.  Indeed, so called pollyanna optimism has come to have negative connotations because it isn’t based on solid thinking about how to attain one’s goals.  Hope also isn't "type-A behavior," hard-charging, time-urgent goal pursuits.  Further, hope isn’t simply emotion or self-esteem, and it cannot be reduced to intelligence or previous achievement.

Hope Scale

Based on the definition above, I've developed the Hope Scale that's been used on thousands of people, and has shown many interesting correlations.


Hope Scale

Read each item carefully.  For each item, what number best describes you?

1=definitely false  2=mostly false  3=mostly true  4=definitely true

___1.  I energetically pursue my goals.

___2.  I can think of many ways to get out of a jam.

___3.  My past experiences have prepared me well for my future.

___4.  There are lots of ways around any problem.

___5.  I've been pretty successful in life.

___6.  I can think of many ways to get the things in life that are most important to me.

___7.  I meet the goals that I set for myself.

___8.  Even when others get discouraged, I know I can find a way to solve the problem.


  Total the eight numbers.  What’s your score?  The score reveals your thoughts about getting the things you want in life.  The average score is 24, which is equivalent to "3" for each question.  If your score is higher than 24, you’re generally a very hopeful person.  On the other hand, if your score is less than 24, you probably aren't particularly hopeful. 

You can also change the wording on the items to be specific to work goals, rather than goals in general.  For instance:  1.  I energetically pursue my work goals.  By comparing results from the two tests, you’ll be alerted to the influence of the work environment.

Items 1,3,5, and 7 relate to willpower, and items 2,4,6, and 8 relate to waypower.  From analyses of scores, it’s interesting that, despite the folk wisdom, “where there’s a will, there’s a way,” the two aren’t always perfectly connected.  Many people, who score high on willpower, have low scores on waypower, and vice versa.

The value of the Hope Scale score is that it correlates with a variety of characteristics that are important for R&D management, a role usually filled with major uncertainties.  There's a strong correlation of a high-hope score with measures of optimism.  The score also correlates positively with an overall measure of control--decisiveness, readiness for stress, leadership, and avoiding dependence.

One of the factors of hope is waypower thinking; thus, it's not surprising that the score predicts an individual's perceived problem-solving ability.  High-hope people, we’ve shown statistically, are more likely to operate with several simultaneous goals, and set difficult goals for themselves.  They embrace challenges.  They expect excellent returns on their mental investments. 

How do high-hope people get the advantages in dealing with stressful situations?  They don't routinely perceive problems as being disruptive; rather, problems are welcome challenges.  Instead of worrying about themselves, high-hope people concentrate on the problem to see what needs to be done—a clear advantage in setting a pathway to the solution.

Low-hope people, on the other hand, appear to be used by other's goals.  They’re more concerned with protecting themselves from losses.  They look at goals as threats.

Can You Change Hope?

We find that Hope Scale scores are relatively stable—perhaps over decades.  Does that mean you cannot change?  No.  Most of us may change somewhat and a few of us may change a lot.

For most jobs in R&D, you'd like to have high-hope people.  While they needn't take my test, you can assess their level of hope during an interview.  In fact, you may want to ask one or more of the test questions.

But what if you already have low-hope people on your team, and want them to be more comfortable and able in solving problems?  What can you do to increase their hope and, therefore, their effectiveness?  You have to first realize that one's level of hope is mainly derived from childhood experiences, and a manager wouldn't be expected to reverse ways of thinking that have a long history in an employee.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to increase hope at work.  You need to cultivate a relationship with your employees where the long- and short-term goals are shared.  By "shared," I mean understood and appreciated.  Just because both manager and employee have read (or even memorized) goals written by the CEO, doesn't mean the goals are shared.

You need to spend time with employees, open lines of communication, and increase your familiarity with their hopes and fears.  Routinely mingle with them in the actual work setting.  Listen to your staff and value their input.  What you really have to do is get your supervisees to feel that their input actually will help achieve their (and your) goals, that their ideas will be appreciated and listened to.

Of course, this won't work unless goals are clearly defined by you.  They should be measurable, realistic, and challenging.  If these goals are agreed on, you and your staff have guidelines that both will be monitoring. 

You also have to be sure to establish an environment that provides a fair opportunity to reach goals.  Don't implement goals that probably won't be met; rather, negotiate goals that the employee perceives as attainable.  There's been a lot of research showing that when people are treated as if they're going to succeed, they're prone to do so.

Be careful not to overplan for your employees, for it will take them out of the participation process, and their level of hope will decrease.  An example of a way to increase involvement and, therefore, hope is Texas Instruments’ policy that those who implement plans are also the ones to make them.  

What should you do if you find yourself in a low-hope environment?  Try improving communication between yourself and your supervisor.  Try to understand the pressures and personality of the supervisor.  Communication typically starts with listening and often ends with compromise.  These two ingredients help a difficult situation, whether it's in the context of one manager and one employee, or teams of managers and employees.

Do what you can to stimulate communication and cooperation directed towards common goals.  These are precisely the conditions where hopeful thinking should thrive. 

In closing, I would leave you with perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned from high-hope people.  Namely, hope is a we, and not just a me concept.  Hopeful people want to live and work in settings where shared goals can be met by the many and not just the few.  As such, a hopeful work environment is one where common goals, and willpower and waypower thoughts to attain those goals, occupy the minds of employer and employee alike.

(The items of the Hope Scale are taken from an article entitled “The Will and the Ways:  Development and Validation of an Individual Differences Measure of Hope,” by C. R. Snyder, Cheri Harris, John R. Anderson, Sharon A. Holleran, Lori M. Irving, Sandra T. Sigmon, Lauren Yoshinobu, June Gibb, Charyle Langelle, and Pat Harney, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1991, Vol. 60 (4), 570-585.  © 1991 by the American Psychological Association, and adapted by permission of the publisher.)  

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