My earlier challenges pale in comparison to what I’m doing now. The talented and diverse people I work with each day (military, civilians, Iraqis and contractors from all over the world) are making a difference in the lives of the Iraqi people. Together, we manage the construction of a $2.3 billion program in essential infrastructure projects, including those that support water, sewer, electricity, medical care, education and transportation.

Several Iraqis have asked me, “Why does the media hate us so much?” I’ve experienced doubters before as a member of West Point’s first class with women. In tough situations, I remind myself:

Optimism Is An Energy Multiplier. Negativism is toxic to our health and can derail even the best plan, diverting precious energy and focus away from overcoming our challenges. Set high interpersonal standards and stop negative thinking and behaviors. Skillfully frame things to be productive as you enhance trust and teamwork. Surround yourself with positive reminders such as quotes, mementos and photos of smiling faces and people who inspire you to greater achievements.

Only One Person Can Derail Your Team, If You Let Them. We need each other. In Iraq, over 15 percent of our team rotates monthly. Before a team member runs the ball in the wrong direction, ensure everyone knows what success looks like and are working together to get there.

Discover The Context. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Initial reports are often wrong, so ask good questions. Not obtaining available information can result in unsuccessful strategies.

When Being Flexible Is Not Enough, Be Fluid. Be aware of the situation and anticipate all outcomes. Otherwise, an unexpected riptide may pull you away from your intended goal. Your timing for presenting good ideas is also important. Use the current to your advantage, rather than ignore it at your peril or miss important opportunities.

Real Communication Is Harder Than Ever. Work environments are stressful and tasks more complex. Time spent including others early and often, being respectful and fair, and finding out who else needs to know pays big dividends. The bottom line is that people are the ones who make a difference. Let each one know that they are valued because, “Together we can accomplish anything!”