Think about how many times you've heard a frustrated manager or supervisor ask why employees "don't take more initiative," "don't seem to care about their work," or don't pay more attention to "using their time more wisely."
Do managers ask these kinds of questions because they think someone can answer them? If they do think someone has an answer, they're right! And the people with the answers happen to be the very employees they're talking about! You see, it has everything to do with ATTITUDE.
While managers can control who works for them and have the power to adjust the bar for work performance, they are never in control of changing an employee's attitude. That control lies with the individual. The most a manager can do is influence an employee's attitude. In today's workplace, that's no easy job.
What Kind Of Attitude?
Putting a name on the kind of attitude that works best in any workplace is a big challenge. Is it the long-cherished "positive attitude" which normally identifies someone enthusiastic, cheerful, and easy to get along with? Or, what about an individual's "can-do" attitude that describes their willingness to take on any challenge? Or is it just about anyone who comes across as not having a "negative attitude"?
Rather than selecting any of those adjectives as the type of attitude best suited for today's workplace, let's use a hybrid term, namely, an "achieving attitude," which has hints of those other attitude types and can easily be adopted by just about anyone.
Unlike any other attitude you can influence, an achieving attitude is best exemplified as one which views problems as challenges and not obstacles. It's kind of like a " can-do " attitude where a willingness to take things on is the central motivation. However, those with an achieving attitude don't take on challenges just to take them on. They make sure to take on challenges where the outcome results in adding real value. Those with an achieving attitude distinguish themselves by setting their own performance standards, with an emphasis on doing things just a little bit better than expected, and with the sole goal of adding value.
Promoting An Achieving Attitude Among Team Members: A Stepped Approach
So, as a leader, what's an effective approach for inspiring team members to buy into an achieving attitude?
Step 1: Engage in a discussion about attitude with your team and explore what kind of attitude would be most productive. Explain how individuals control their own attitudes and that it's their decision to change their attitude at any time. During the discussion, point out that those with an achieving attitude:
- Willingly face reality,
- View problems as challenges, and
- Set their own performance standards at a level that will ultimately add value.
Step 2: Follow-up, one-on-one, to discuss whether team members are receptive to adopting an achieving attitude.
Step 3: Focus on a specific project and give employees greater control once you get a trace of commitment to their adopting an achieving attitude.
- Instead of providing answers because that saves time, ask more questions, such as, "How could we improve the outcome even just a little?"
- When a project or task is completed, rather than just accepting it, ask employees if they think there is something else they could do a little bit better!
- Provided there's some flexibility with the deadline, give employees the latitude to set their respective performance standards and observe closely what value is being added.
Imagine what could be achieved if most of your team subscribed to operating with an achieving attitude! The results will be not unlike sports, where records keep getting broken in incremental steps.
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