'Find perspective': A CEO's top tips for being optimistic in your career

‘Find perspective’: A CEO’s top tips for being optimistic in your career

Megan Motto

With so much change and uncertainty surrounding our work and careers, how can you practice optimism?

That was the topic of discussion when Megan Motto, the CEO of the Governance Institute of Australia, joined Women’s Agenda publisher Angela Priestley last week for a member’s webinar on how to have optimism in your career and leadership.

Motto shared her career to date, describing herself as naturally optimistic, as someone who always wanted to take the lead, and who has used her optimism in leadership.

Motto began teaching dance at a young age and then carried on to be a high school teacher.  After returning home from dancing professionally overseas, she decided to make her move into the corporate world. “I’ve always wanted to take that lead, so it’s always been a natural space for me to create order out of chaos, which I think is a trait for a lot of women.”

She was the CEO of Consult Australia, before joining the Governance Institute in 2019.

Below are some of Motto’s key tips for developing and maintaining a mind for optimistic thinking in leadership.

Understand yourself and identify what “fills your tank”

“I’m an optimist and I’m also an extrovert, so for me, I derive my energy from being with other people,” Motto said. She conceded she has struggled with social distancing during the pandemic and found that being around her family and friends truly helped her in maintaining a positive mindset.

“Deriving my energy from that interaction is something that’s been really important.”

Megan Motto with Angela Priestley during the Women’s Agenda Extra session.

Find perspective and balance

Nurturing your health and wellbeing is something that should be prioritised, and that includes finding a healthy work-life balance.

“It’s also perspective balance. Looking at problems and stepping back and saying, ‘Is this material to the bottom line? Am I going to remember this problem in 10 years?’ and just developing that sense of perspective because sometimes in the moment, everything can feel urgent and important. And when you take a step back, it’s actually not so urgent and not so important.”

Give yourself permission to feel proud of the little things

Allow yourself to feel proud of every small step forward, Motto said. She said cutting down problems into achievable pieces and taking one step forward, even though there may be thousands to go, is better than no step at all. She suggests looking at existing achievements through a more grateful lens.

“I’m a great believer in practicing the art of gratitude,” she said. “For me, it’s practicing the art of being very grateful with the things you do have, rather than lamenting the things you don’t.”

Develop a well-rounded and supportive team around you.

Ambition is important, and Motto has always held ambition for leadership positions.

But such ambition requires optimimsm in order to believe what you’re capable of — and then ultimately a team around you to help.

“It does take a little bit of that optimism to vision yourself into a new role in order to take a lot more risks,” said Motto.

“That’s obviously got to be tempered a little bit, with a bit of realism. Sometimes as a natural optimist, I actually look to seek to surround myself by at least one person that’s going to be my ‘handbrake to happiness’ and temper my natural optimism with a few key questions like ’have you thought about the consequences of this?’ so you do need to develop a well-rounded and balanced team around you to moderate that a little bit.”

You can also check out Angela Priestley’s recent article on optimism here, describing optimims as one of 2021’s most important skills.

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