What can entrepreneurs do to create and sustain a high level of hope in their organizations?
The positive impact of high-hope workers on organization performance is well documented. The companies employing them are profitable, achieve their goals, are solution oriented, excel at handling rapid change, experience open communications, and retain their employees (Adams et al., 2002). Since these outcomes are highly desirable but difficult to achieve, it is especially critical for entrepreneurs to understand how they can create and sustain high-hope firms. This study therefore sought to answer three questions: What is the relationship between the behaviors of leaders of entrepreneurial ventures and the level of hope that exists in their workers? What leadership behaviors lead to high-hope organizations? What leadership behaviors lead to low-hope organizations?
This research project used the definition of hope developed by Snyder et al. (1991). They described hope as "a cognitive set that is based on a reciprocally derived sense of successful (a) agency (goal-directed determination) and (b) pathways (planning of ways to meet goals)" (p. 570). This study measured the relative presence of these two variables and sought to determine how leaders can engender greater hope in their people.
Data were collected from 225 people in 14 firms located in Arizona, Utah, and Texas. All participants completed the Snyder Hope Scale and responded to a 12-question interview protocol. Companies scoring one or more standard deviations below or above the total mean score on the scale were categorized into either the low-hope or high-hope group. By employing this criterion, three companies were placed in the low-hope group and two were placed in the high-hope group. Only data obtained from the 75 people in these two groups underwent further analysis.
Among the findings generated by this research project were that the level of hope in an organization is high when the entrepreneur and workers co-create goals and share responsibility for their achievement. The entrepreneurs' commitment to workers' success is demonstrated by their physical presence and frequent interaction with them. Wide variation was seen between the levels of recognition and acknowledgement provided by the entrepreneurs in the high-hope and low-hope organizations. The manner in which an entrepreneur responds when workers fail to reach work goals has a significant impact on the workers' level of hope.
Four conclusions were drawn. First, the creation of a high-hope organization is a daunting challenge because of the pressures of widely accepted, current business practices. Second, the probability of consistently achieving company goals is enhanced by the existence of personalized, proactive, supportive, and consistent interaction between a leader and workers. Third, entrepreneurial leaders can help create a learning organization by the manner in which they respond to a worker's failure to reach work goals. Fourth and finally, high-hope organizations potentially possess significant competitive advantages.
0703: Organizational behavior