“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” – Henry Ford
I’m a ‘glass-half-full’ type of person, optimistic about what’s possible and the opportunities to be had. That said, I expect to work hard to reach my goals, and that inevitably the road to achievement will be more difficult and take longer than planned. In my professional life I’m frequently able to choose where I direct my focus and invest my time and energy. Sometimes it’s in something I’m excited about, and other times it's not. The one constant though, is that my attitude about it will dictate my level of effort, dedication and the outcome.
In my experience, the way people approach their work and interactions will influence the success of their endeavors and relationships. I’ve been part of teams that had all the talent and capability in the world, and yet were unsuccessful because of team member attitudes. On the flip side, I’ve been on teams that didn’t have the ideal skillsets and experience, yet a can-do attitude enabled them to find accomplishment. There’s no guaranteed certainty of success or failure purely based on attitude, but it is a differentiator.
“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.” – Colin Powell
What is the Attitude Intersection?
Attitude is the intersection of control and maturity (see Intersection 21 image below). Control without maturity is unproductive influence. Maturity without control is experienced chaos.
“Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.” – Albert Einstein
Attitudes, positive or negative, exist within each person, team and organization. They influence the pace and direction of progress, and can change for better or worse, quickly or slowly. Most of the time attitudes are categorized as positive or negative, but they're more complex than just those two descriptors. Attitudes can create success, and they can kill it.
Webster’s defines attitude as “A: a mental position with regard to a fact or state, B: a feeling or emotion toward a fact or state”.
We control our own attitudes. Granted, we’re constantly influenced by countless external and internal factors, but it’s our ability to exert control that dictates what our attitude will be.
Attitudes can be contagious. On the detrimental side, a single bad attitude can infect all members of a team. One of the biggest impacts of negative attitudes can be seen in a team’s performance efficiency, or lack thereof, where forward progress is slowed and more complicated as a result. On the constructive side, one positive attitude in a group of bad attitudes can provide hope and a view of what’s possible. If that attitude is able to permeate the team, it can change the entire dynamic.
Control means attitude change is feasible, which is powerful. Attitude isn’t talked about enough as a success lever in business, likely because of its volatility.
Intersection 21: Attitude = Control + Maturity
When it comes to attitude, maturity seems to be more a factor of experience than age. And in terms of experience, it’s more about type than longevity. Whether you’re 19, 39 or 79, you’ve had experiences that, combined with your logic, feelings and emotions, provide the basis on which you determine your attitude in various settings.
A key insight about our attitudes is that our maturity guides the control we exercise over them. It drives the positive attitude we have in certain situations and the negative attitude we have in others.
Positivity doesn’t always equate to more maturity and negativity less maturity. Additionally, a positive attitude isn’t always right, and a negative attitude isn’t always wrong. Our ability as individuals, teams and organizations to manage attitudes is a sign of a maturity level.
What Can Leaders Do?
Whether they want to or not, leaders set the example on attitude. Attitudes are recognized via verbal and non-verbal cues. They can inspire confidence and they can drain the energy from a room in an instant. Good leaders know the impact of their own attitudes on their teams and organizations.
Leaders can’t control the attitudes of the individuals on their teams, but they can attempt to influence them. They need to understand and be able to articulate the value of attitude.
Wrap Up & Up Next Attitudes contribute to success, but they don’t guarantee it. Attitude feeds motivation.
Next time we’ll examine the 22nd intersection of performance, which is the Aptitude Intersection. In this series of articles, we explore The Intersections of Performance, of which there are 30. The Intersections of Performance framework is based on the experience and insights of Brett Simpson, Managing Director of Elevate Simply, over his 20+ years of leadership in large and small organizations, and as an entrepreneur, advisor and investor.