Listen to the audio version of this week’s Tuesday Tidbit. You can subscribe on iTunes here.
My mentor Alan Weiss often tells the story of working with–and subsequently being fired by–W. Clement Stone who argued that a Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) was the key to all success. Alan was fired for telling Mr. Stone that he had a positive mental attitude because he had $400M bucks in the bank!
I just returned from a client event where one of the speakers talked about the importance of every employee having a “positive mental attitude” as they went through their day-to-day duties. I could see a few people’s eyes rolling around the room, and it’s easy to understand why–a comment like this is almost as “hippy-dippy, frou-frou” of saying a PMA can bring you riches of more than hundreds of millions of dollars. W. Clement Stone would have fired me too!
As I thought about this, It reminded me of many client discussions I’ve had with CEOs and senior executives. The co-author of my next book, Shawn Veltman, has had many similar client discussions. The best ones would often say something like this, “You know what bugs me? When someone shows up and tries to impress me by telling me everything that’s wrong here.” These CEOs often talk about consultants and others who try to open doors by telling them everything that’s wrong with them or using blogs and social media shaming as a way to create consulting opportunities. But then they say something like, “But what’s valuable–and impressive–is when someone can look for opportunities instead of just looking for problems. Any dimwit can find a problem!”
So perhaps those frou-frou statements mean something?
Attitude is a valuable, corporate asset that needs to be developed, harnessed. And in many cases, any sign of dissent needs to be dealt with swiftly.
In my line of work, I often find that the people who complain the most or are most hesitant to adopt new strategies are usually the ones performing the worst. On the flipside, it’s almost always the top performers who look at something new or fresh and ask themselves how they can apply it to their work. They’re top performers for a reason, I guess.
Let me give you a more accurate example. I often rant and rail about the importance of process in sales, marketing, and just about every customer-facing aspect of the business. When we’re working with an organization to help implement a sales process, we usually get buy in from everyone at face value, but behind closed doors we hear of people who say things like, “That might be really good for the new guys, but I’ve been here for 30 years and I know what works. Nothing is going to help me improve. I’ve seen it all before.”
It’s often the worst performers who bring the most negativity to the scene. But what’s even worse is when the smart, intelligent, people who represent our greatest opportunity for growth spend their time and energy looking for problems or looking for why this or that won’t work. It’s like a corporate cancer that eats away at everyone’s attitude. Even the good guys, can be tainted by a lousy attitude.
There are a few ways to combat this and develop an attitude as a valuable corporate asset. Look, there is nothing is going to turn around a lousy corporate culture instantly, but there are a few ways to start going on the offensive. Here are a few ideas.
Your Challenge For This Week:
Identify an area of your business (or life) where you’ve dismissed something or haven’t given it the attention it deserves and revisit that–see if you can talk, convince, or move out of a gut reaction belief that it won’t work, and find a reason that it would. You don’t need to actually make a change–but see if you can convince yourself that the positive side will work.
As a leader: The next time you run into this with one of your people you can say something like, “Okay, John. You’ve made it clear this isn’t going to help us. But let’s suppose your job is to convince me it will work. Give that a try. Do it now. How could it work?”
As an employee: The next time you find yourself immediately dismissing something, change the narrative. Instead of allowing your mind to say, “This won’t work,” ask yourself “how can this work?” or “what if this works?”
As a human being: Do something you’ve dismissed without trying, or next time you resort to being negative about something, just change the story in your head and ask yourself, “How can I be less of a “Debbie Downer” here and more positive?”
As trite as it may sound, there is a lot of truth to the old observation that to get a better answer, we need a better question. If you habitually ask “Why will this fail?”, You will find some great answers! If you ask “Why will this succeed?” you will find some great answers on the other side. Neither is necessarily wrong, but one sure is a lot more useful than the other!