I love this quote from Batman Begins:
“Bruce, deep down you may still be that same great kid you used to be. But it’s not who you are underneath… it’s what you do that defines you.”
As a leader, parent, and trainer, I confess that I cringe when I hear someone try to pump people up with an “attitude is everything” approach. While it sure is helpful to our own motivation to have a great attitude, it is unwise to focus on the “attitudes” of others, especially as a “cure-all”. Why? Here are some thoughts:
- Sometimes, a person can have a great attitude, but be a negative influence on others. If I enter a group with an excited, take charge, can-do attitude, I might be totally ignoring the personalities of the other members. What if the other members of my team like to take a slow, considered approach? And what if that’s the best way? My attitude might just mess things up, or at least show disrespect. This can harm relationships and get in the way of achieving things. Then, what I learn is this: having a great attitude is a bad idea. Not totally true; using inconsiderate behavior is a bad idea. A subtle and critical difference.
- Some days, a person can have a terrible attitude. If that person has learned that “attitude is everything”, then on that day, that person might not try. If a team member thinks “My attitude is terrible today, so I am useless,” then their contribution will surely suffer, andtheir day will probably be lousy. That person is wrong about attitude: if their behaviorcontributes, then that is what matters, and can move the team forward, even on a bad day.
- If you are the boss/manager/coach/teacher/leader, and you see a “bad attitude” on your team, it is generally useless to address the attitude, because it is nebulous and internal. However, if you focus on the behavior, you can experience success. Consider these two approaches:
- “Hey Julie, shape up that attitude! You’re bringing everybody down. Fire up!”
- “Say Julie, when you act grumpy by frowning and sticking to one word answers to open-ended questions, that keeps us from being as productive as possible. Sorry you’re having a rough day, really. We need your contributions, though, so can you soldier on and give us your thoughtful insights, please?”
Focus on behavior instead of attitude and see what happens.
What do you think?