Optimism at MetLife

Two talking heads are pictured with a glass of water between them. One head states the glass is half empty, while the other says it is half full.
Image courtesy of kibsri at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Can you imagine a profession where the onslaught of rejection is more a constant than an occasional occurrence? If you thought of sales, you are right. MetLife knows this well. They measured the results of agents—those possessing optimism and those of the more pessimistic variety—and discovered that the more optimistic agents sold a whopping 37% more insurance. The MOST optimistic agents of the optimistic group sold 88% more than their pessimistic counterparts. WOW!

This discovery prompted MetLife to revamp their hiring practices. They recruited the most optimistic candidates—no exceptions—electing to train new hires in subject matter that can be much more easily learned. In short, they hired for optimism and trained for technical skills. Smart company.

In a few short years, MetLife’s turnover rate went down and market share went up. They had struck gold.

The moral to this story? Optimism pays. Sometimes it pays big—very big.

So, if you have ever considered optimism a Pollyannaish, fluffy concept wholly unrelated to business results, then think again. Your business success could depend on it.

We often help our clients cultivate more optimistic outlooks. No, we don’t advocate ignoring harsh realities. That is a fool’s game. Instead, we support the idea that looking today’s reality squarely in the eye—especially when aided by what positive psychology expert Shawn Achor calls “rose-tinted glasses”—is empowered when optimism is part of the process. No negative Nellies need apply.

Here’s a couple parting questions to consider:

  • What’s the best way to talk to yourself about rejection, whether it be rejection of an idea, product or pitch?
  • How can you recover quickly from rejection and learn from the experience?
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