While Woody Allen offered, “80 percent of success is just showing up,” I might politely suggest the phrase is missing a key ingredient: attitude.
There’s a profound difference between showing up and showing up with the right attitude.
Our attitude is visible on our faces, discernible in our words and palpable in our body language. If you’re having a bad attitude day, month or lifetime, you can be certain that everybody you come in contact with knows it and feels it. When you walk into a room with a lousy attitude, it’s like a storm front approaching. Everyone sees it and wonders how bad it’s going to get.
The impact of a lousy attitude extends quietly outward, systematically poisoning the working environment.
Think of managers you’ve worked for that projected a “pissed-off, mad at being born, and madder at having to deal with you and your colleagues” demeanor. What did that feel like? How did people react to this person? How effective was this leader? (And while you would like to believe that these characters don’t end up in leadership roles, inexplicably, they do.)
Alternatively, think of managers and leaders you’ve encountered that projected a pragmatically positive perspective, even in the darkest of times and most troubled of situations. Their impact creates a ripple effect that promotes progress, problem solving and innovation. Positive leaders beget a positive environment.
Of course, even genuinely positive people have bad moments. I found myself recently in a setting where I couldn’t find a single positive reason why I was there, and it took every ounce of energy to attempt to remain engaged and interested. I suspect I failed. For others, the speeding ticket on the way to work, troubles on the homefront, the shadow of a family member’s illness or any one of a number of life’s issues can put pressure on the best of attitudes.
Regardless of circumstances, when you hit the office, it’s best to mentally shift gears and focus on your bigger purpose.
I love the daily ritual for preparing her attitude, shared by one manager in a workshop: “Every morning, after arriving at work, I sit in my car for a few minutes and think about how I will measure success today. I focus on the impact that I want to have on people around me, and I remind myself that I’m in my role as a leader at the discretion of those I serve. This act of focusing helps me push out all of life’s and the morning’s stress points.”
Priceless advice for success. I’ve suggested this to a great number of coaching clients and they’ve applied it to success. So, if you walk past a colleague sitting in her car in the parking lot, lost in thought, know that she’s simply adjusting her attitude for success in the upcoming workday. Perhaps you should give it a try, you and your colleagues might be pleased with the results.
In case you are in need of a little attitude adjustment, consider the following ideas:
1. Vow to measure success by progress made, not distance left to travel. Instead of focusing on the magnitude of workplace problems, consider how important it is for you and your team members to take positive steps toward resolving them. Turn your attention to identifying obstacles that you can clear away, and plan on valuing your daily success by how far you’ve helped team members travel.
2. Shift your view on the workplace as battleground. Nothing poisons an attitude more than viewing the workplace as a battleground filled with adversaries or enemies. Every meeting isn’t a fight, it’s an opportunity to exchange ideas and develop approaches. The person arguing with you likely has an underlying interest that he/she has not disclosed and yet you seem to be fighting over positions. Strive to understand by asking questions and then strive for agreement on positions. If you’ve burned bridges across the workplace, resolve to invest time every day in repairing at least one relationship. If necessary, be the bigger person and apologize. And then move forward.
3. Rethink and reset your daily priorities. What are the most important items you must make progress on today? Chances are they don’t involve clearing your e-mail inbox, rearranging your office or sitting in seven status update meetings. Too many managers navigate their days without making serious headway on the issues that will move the performance indicator for the firm and the team. Mentally reorder your priority list and put the people and problem issues you’ve been avoiding at the top of the list.
4. Plan to quality-check yourself in real time. Ask yourself after every encounter: “Did I live up to my commitment to help?” If the answer is, no, retrace your steps and fix the problem immediately.
5. Remind yourself: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” Whether it’s the speeding ticket, family challenges, self-esteem issues or career frustration, every person you encounter is waging some internal battle. Respect the person and impact them positively and you will be easing that burden just a bit. Empathy is a virtue in leaders.
You choose your attitude every day and for every encounter. Spend a few minutes today reminding yourself of the responsibility you have to serve and help others, and prepare your positive attitude before you walk in the door. And when you end your day, remember to measure your successes instead of dwelling on your failures.
Art Petty is a coach and consultant working with top executives and management teams to unlock business and human potential. He writes the Management Excellence blog.