I find it persistently perplexing to observe people who wastefully scourge their own futures capitulating to out-of-control emotionally charged reactive positions.  There is no doubt

Good Attitude: a C.O.E.

regarding the power of an emotionally driven passion, and its ability to create a fixated and compelled response.  When passions run positive they heighten goals, purpose efforts, achieve the extraordinary and enrich lives.  But when these emotions are thwarted towards negative passions, the results of anger, guilt, resentment, despair, and fear can have a devastating effect on one’s performance.  Their corrosive capability to dislodge critical thinking and embed negativity, as a locked-in position within one’s psyche, supplants achievement and activates a self-destructive downward spiral which inevitably destroys the success of any mission.  These destructive passions are firmly beached in what someone “feels” is their personal justified response to a perceived “wrong”.  Whether anger, resentment or one of the other passion thugs they all typically manifest themselves beneath the shroud of a Bad Attitude.

Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.
Albert Einstein

In my early executive career, I gained responsibility for the US Operations of our company-owned dealerships.  Although operational proficiency was an established forte of mine, many of the organizational managers had only discerned the context of my Sales Management responsibilities.  The new Leadership transition was un-momentous with the exception of several hold-outs from the “old guard” Operations Managers who comprised my new team.  I rigorously embarked on numerous field trips to every location to constitute a common vision, firm up strategies, focus tactile plans and build relationships.  As our team solidified around our aggressive goals, results vaulted forward and our program began to take off, with one exception.  My Operations Manager in Pittsburgh just wasn’t coming around.  His organization was healthy enough to yield tolerable numbers, but he was sluggish to adopt new concepts and promote new directions.

I decided the time had come for what my esteemed mentor at the time, Terry McGushin, used to call a “come-to Jesus meeting”.  A “put it on the line” and let the chips fall where they will, type of meeting.  I flew into Pittsburgh with a four-hour window for my return flight.  I conveyed no purpose to review branch activity or performance.  There was no agenda except to have one honest conversation with one individual.

Upon arriving and exchanging pleasantries with our team there, I sat down for a tough one-on-one with our Operations Manager.  With nothing in front of me except the determination on my face, I definitively explained I was unhappy with his unresponsiveness, undermining, and impedance of our mission and direction. As our discussion progressed he expounded his pent-up frustration culminating from events over the last 15 years of his career.  I sat back and conceded the floor as he spoke of injustices, oversights and disagreements which had led to his amassed feeling of disenchantment.  As he decelerated from the weight of his swelling baggage, I moved unwaveringly into his soliloquy.  Granting his insurmountable past perceptions, I leaned forward to encroach upon his space and ensure he was “in the present” with me.

I asked him to listen carefully to what I had to say, and then made it clear that I was unable to rewrite his history, but if he desired a future on our team he must embrace a Positive Attitude.  He retorted how he was feeling better about the current direction of the company (an instantaneous new revelation) and he felt “in time” he could improve how he felt.  At this point, I briskly halted his explication, met eye to eye, and quietly mandated my fervent resolve; “I do not consider Attitude to be a Time-Sensitive issue.  You can change it anytime you want to!  If you wish to continue working here, you have until next Monday to change yours.”  After encouraging his positive and immediate deliberation our exchange ended and I promptly headed to the airport.  Unfortunately, rather than embrace the opportunity for a New Outlook, he sulked and piled our conversation on his heap of grievances and was terminated within 30 days.  I promptly hired an exceedingly bright new Operations Manager with no baggage and an inspiring uplifting can-do Attitude who quickly turned the location into our performance flagship and became a rising star in the organization.

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.

Thomas Jefferson

Leaders must eradicate Bad Attitudes from their team without sympathy or conciliation.  Bad Attitudes are a contamination which embitter and attempt to exterminate all life around them.  Sometimes it is convenient to forget that Leaders are people too.  They accumulate their setbacks, disappointments, struggles and resentments just like everyone else.  So your first step as a Leader in slaying Bad Attitudes is a self-awareness check.  Leaders must bring Passion to the arena in order to mobilize their team to extraordinary achievement.  But those Passions must be grounded in the positive inspiring experiences of your past and the unconquerable hope of your future.  Acknowledge your baggage and leave it at the door so you are able to arrive for work in the present.  Stop feeling sorry for yourself.  Be serious, be truthful, and be genuine.  If your own Attitude needs an adjustment, do it Right Now!

Destruction of Bad Attitudes

Good attitude is contagious bad attitude is infectious.  We are not talking about someone who is having a bad day or going through a difficult time.  A Bad Attitude is one which is engrained in someone’s daily behavior.  It appears as sarcasm, complaining, apathy, negativity, pessimism, undermining, defiance, insubordination, bad moods, and unscrupulous behavior.  A Bad Attitude affects your entire team and distracts them from their focus.

Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.

Lou Holtz

Additionally, a Bad Attitude perpetuates a decline in the quality of someone’s work.  It sabotages the ability to deliver one’s best effort.  Whether birthed from self-pity or the Blame Game, it becomes impossible for these negative passions to be set aside in the best interests of the company’s pursuits.  A Bad Attitude is costly to positive energy, momentum, achievement, and results in a loss of real dollars and cents.  Once someone abandons their Personal Commitment to Quality with the justification that it is not their fault they become a liability to you as a Leader.

You cannot tolerate a Bad Attitude regardless of your understanding of their position.  Doing so will only enable their behavior.  It is a Condition of Employment (C.O.E.) for someone to enter work with a Positive Attitude.  A-Teams are built on Positive Attitude and as a Leader you must set this expectation in stone.  Remember, it is not your job to fix people.  It is your job to find A-Players and build a successful team with them.

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

Charles R. Swindoll

Leaders must be capable of dealing with a full range of human passions and emotions to be effective at gaining maximum performance.  They must deeply care about the concerns and difficulties of their team in order to support them in a thriving atmosphere.  But when emotions turn negative and begin to burrow into someone’s psyche, your team becomes threatened by a Bad Attitude.  A Street Smart Leader doesn’t blink.  He looks Bad Attitude eye to eye and asks it to leave right now … one way or the other.

A few years back I was engaged in some Small Business consulting assignments coaching Entrepreneurs desiring to take their businesses to the Next Level.  I was introduced to a distressed Owner whose endeavors to grow his business had resulted in agonizing quality glitches and dreadful performance deficiencies.  More than counsel, he required “hands on” development and implementation of a reliable proficient Operational Structure and Process before he could advance with his exceptional Sales Strategy and apprehend the growth he envisioned.  We met several times to deliberate his anxieties.  Although the project was relatively un-daunting for me, as I provided “off the cuff” resolutions, he was apprehensive to “pull the trigger” and hire me for the assignment.  Just as I believed we were there, he requested another meeting.  As he set forth upon his familiar nervous

The Real Thing!

path asking about my methods, interactions, and approaches it became evident we were headed down the similar track as the preceding four meetings.  One thought reverberated inside my head, “What do I have to do to get this guy to let go of his fear and understand I am his solution.”

He initiated again, “John, if I engaged you for this project, how…?”  I did not even heed the remainder of his query.  Instead I shifted from my comfortable conversational position, released my smile, and pitched forward with both hands forcefully clinched together on his desk.  I stared right through him and with a deep concentrated adagio tone I began, “Paul, I know you are nervous about letting a stranger into your company to effect such an important change with your people.”  Capitulating, he dropped his shoulders but before his next word could escape his lips, the intensity and concentration of my face silenced him.  Resolutely, I leaned into his space, paused until he was craving my next words and then solemnly declared, “Paul, I am the ‘real f—ing thing’ here, and I know what I’m doing.”  Slightly startled, he gazed right back at me and scrutinized to see if I would break.  I stiffened, and finally heard those words I had been anticipating all month, “Can you start tomorrow?”  Permitting my smile to return and relaxing back, I let Paul know everything was going to be alright with a “You bet!” It wasn’t solutions but rather convictions that made the difference.

We have all endured those endless meetings where everything is adeptly laid out.  The dialogue is smart and on target.  Relevant questions are countered with thoughtful ripostes.  Some great concepts surface and everyone approves they move forward.  The brilliance, logic, and impenetrability of the proposal make it destined for success.  And yet, as the group exoduses the room the strategy begins its passage into the abyss of “lost ideas” where it will meet a sluggish obscure demise.  Regardless of the time, thought, and coordination that went into the plan, it is destined to Die.  Why?  Because an idea, a plan, a program, no matter how dazzling, has no life.  By themselves they are DOA!

People will follow Leaders only because of the Passion they bring to their ideas.  They may reason an idea to be successful, but if you want people inspired to action, they must “believe” in your idea.  And they must believe you believe in it.  Passion when applied to an idea or plan creates an intrinsic feeling among people which confirms they are working for something of value.  With Passion comes truth.  And contained within the fulfillment of the Human Endeavor is an essential yearning to see truth become a reality in our lives.  Passion is Life!

Passion is a combination of a penetratingly deeply felt Emotion, relentlessly driven by an unwavering Commitment, which is forge-burned into one’s psyche through Intensity.  Passion is the sine qua non with which we invest our intimate personal human capital in a truthfully remarkable idea.  Passion dives deeper than identifying the activities we enjoy.  Passion defines us, who we are and what we stand for.  When Passion is connected with an extraordinary Thought people are compelled into Action.

Leading Compelling Action

There is a story telling of three bricklayers working side-by-side who are each asked what they are doing.  The first replies, “I’m making $10.00 an hour”.  The second acknowledges his work with. “I’m building a wall”.  And the third looks up to an empty sky and smiles, “I am building a Cathedral”.  While each man is performing the same task, we can certainly conjecture which one is performing at his finest.  Only one worker has a Passion for his effort.  This is the Key for Leaders:  Passion creates a reality where people are willing to invest in an entity greater than themselves and more meaningful than any company.  People working for Passionate Causes, are determined to create extraordinary results because their motive is grand.  Passionate pursuits undermine the limitations of personal inabilities and the smallness of selfishness crafting an atmosphere where anything is possible.  The best of people will want to reside and thrive in a Passionate environment.

Having a Passion for your ideas does not mean for each newfangled idea you cultivate a new Passion.  Leaders who attempt to “sell” new Passions are rapidly indicted with a

Get Naked, Get Real, Get Happy by Kevin Rafferty

“flavor of the month” manipulation which quickly disenfranchises everyone but the most gullible of “suck ups”.  A new mentor of mine, Kevin Rafferty, coaches executives in finding their Passions.  In his book,Get Naked, Get Real, Get Happy: Becoming Your Authentic Self”,Kevin helps Leaders recognize and understand their “Core Passion” through his Passion Exercise.  Kevin relates our Core Passion as the one whose common theme or thread runs through our other Passions.

Passion connects our thinking and feeling parts of being human. It makes us feel bigger, better, bolder, more alive.

Kevin Rafferty

As a Leader you must exhibit Passion for what you unreservedly believe in.  The Passion for the primary singular objective which is at the Core of why you are doing what you are doing must be evident to all.  Your passion must come through as an outstanding quality which you exemplify every day in which people feel they know who you are down to the Core and why they want to be associated with you.

Are we not, those of us who observe others whose passions are worn on their sleeves, in awe of them, maybe even a bit envious because they somehow seem to be more of something, be it successful, creative, happy, or joyful?

Kevin Rafferty

I can think of little else which would compete with Passion in its ability for contagiousness.  People gravitate towards it, they rise to it, and they suck at it for life.  Passion is a universal.  It generates an urge which exceeds logic and creates a sense of action.  A team driven with a common passion becomes a mighty force to compete with. A Leader who can find Motivated People, Build an A–Team with them and create a Passionate reason for them to accomplish goals will continually reach new heights of Success.

Whether your Core Passion is Quality, People, Relationships, Excellent Design, Profitability, etc., guarantee you understand your internal driver completely.  Then focus on entwining it throughout your agenda and everyday expectations.  Be the walking, talking, living, breathing epitome of your Passion.  My Core Passion is “Winning”.  I hate to lose and truly detest second place.  I want anyone with me to feel my beating driving desire to Win!  Winning means we have bravely competed against formidable odds by wielding the “best of ourselves” and attained a “perfect moment” christened Victory.  Be a Street Smart Leader and next time you have to lean across the table to show someone who you really are and what you’re made of, just unleash some of your personal brand of Passion. Show them that you are the Real Thing!