A positive attitude is one of the most important characteristics a leader can have because of how contagious it can be. The late Paul J. Meyer, the founder of the personal development industry used to say that “Attitude is Everything.”
It really is everything when looking at an organizations culture. Attitude is one thing we can choose every single day. Many people make the choice to have a negative attitude. This creates a toxic culture because just as a positive attitude is contagious, a negative one can spread quickly. A negative attitude is a team killer. One negative attitude on a team or in an organization can be like cancer. How much cancer does it take to kill someone? Just a little bit because before you know it, it has spread everywhere.
A lot of organizations like to talk about how they hire for attitude and train for skill. This is something that I 100 percent believe in, but most leaders that say this don’t really believe it. I know they don’t believe it because of their actions. They still hire people with negative attitudes and they justify it because of the persons talent. They even promote these people, again choosing only to focus on talent. Then they wonder why they are still not getting great results.
Attitude is more important than talent. Culture is more important than talent. But if leaders in organizations really believe this than why do resumes and cover letters only show experience and skills? In interviews why do these leaders focus more on the job that needs to be done than on the person? We need to ask more questions about attitude. When we check references we need to focus on attitude and culture fit.
There are only two types of people within your organization. Those who are WILLING and those who are UNWILLING. With those two there are sub-types. People who are either ABLE and UNABLE. Look at your organization right now.
How many of your people are both WILLING and ABLE? Those are the people who have a positive attitude and will do what is necessary for success, and they actually have the ability to do it. Get out of these peoples way! How many of your people are WILLING but UNABLE? Those people need to be trained! They have the type of attitude you need. They fit in your culture. You just need to help them improve. How many of your people are UNWILLING but ABLE? Those people need to be coached. This will take more time than training. It always takes longer to change habits than skill. But maybe their talent is worth the investment in coaching. Lastly, you may have some people who are both UNWILLING and UNABLE. These people are toxic to your culture. They have bad attitudes and they don’t produce. Why are they still on your team? You will be better off without them.
Attitude is a choice you must make everyday. What choice will you make? If your people make the wrong choice, how will you respond? What matters most to you? Talent? Or culture? Talent looks good right now, but it won’t age well. Making the wrong choice on this can set your organization back years.
Think of all the companies that have failed. Some of them have failed in a very public way. Most likely those companies chose talent. They never really paid attention to culture. I am willing to bet that at some point a leader of those companies that are now chapters in almost every business book said something like, “We hire for attitude and train for skill.” People probably applauded them for that paper thin commitment to their culture. In reality, they only cared about talent and money and winning. That is why those companies are out of business. They forgot or perhaps they were too arrogant to accept that “ATTITUDE is EVERYTHING.”