"A" Is For Attitudes

First off, I want to offer my sincere apology to Sue Grafton for using (stealing??) her approach for the titles of her many outstanding mystery novels for this series of articles that I hope makes you a happier and more effective leader working with a truly empowered team that really enjoys what they do! Oh, and if you have not read any of Ms. Grafton novels I highly recommend that you give her a try.

Your Attitude

“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, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness of skill. It will make or break a company…a church…a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day 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% how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our ATTITUDES.”

 - Charles Swindoll

There’s not really much that I can add to Reverend Swindoll’s quote except that we all need to live with that kind of attitude about our attitudes. I discovered this quote while reading one of his books on faith years ago and it stuck with me.

I posted this quote on my office wall just above my computer so that I would see and read it each day to sort of “set the tone” for the rest of my day. I also frequently made copies of this quote and gave one to each of my Teamers hoping that they too would also appreciate it and put it on a wall in their work area to help start them thinking about the lessons presented. Some did and some didn’t.

You need to accept and understand that you are in control of your attitude but very little else in life. You can decide who you want to be by controlling your attitude every day, which will help you control what you say, do and think. Your attitude is a voluntary response to everything that happens to you during your day and how you react. Make it a core value to think about and control your attitude as you start each day. A simple prayer or meditation or just a moment of silence before you start your day will help. Trust me, this single simple step will make your life better and reduce stress and conflict for everyone.

“Our attitudes control our lives. Attitudes are a secret power working twenty-four hours a day, for good or bad. It is of paramount importance that we know how to harness and control this great force.”

- Irving Berlin

Your Senior’s Attitudes

 I put a dollar in one of those change machines. Nothing changed. - George Carlin

Basically, there is nothing that you can do about the attitudes of your Seniors and they will often be different from yours. Get used to it! It is one of those things that I suggest that you not spend time thinking or worrying about it. I’ve had good Seniors who had similar attitudes to mine and lots of less than good Seniors who had different attitudes and agendas than mine. You can influence them but you can’t change them. Don’t even try. Work and adapt your attitude to deal with theirs. Make logical suggestions where you can, but don’t be fooled into thinking that you can influence a change in your Senior’s attitudes and thinking. You simply need to learn to deal with it and factor it into your efforts with your Teamers and their overall success.

“If men would consider not so much wherein they differ; as wherein they agree, there would be far less uncharitableness and angry feeling in the world.”

- Joseph Addison

 Your Teamer’s Attitudes

“The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.” - Abraham Lincoln

 You can influence the attitudes of your Teamers in a positive way by adopting these five concepts and processes into your daily management role:

 #1 - Listen to Them – The first thing that you need to do is to listen to your Teamers to understand and know each of them. What are their goals, values, skills, wants, needs and potential contributions to the success of your team and the Organization?

I suggest that you start by having regular meetings with all of your Teamers. I choose to call them “One-on-One” sessions. The frequency is up to your working relationship with each Teamer. Once a week is best to start out with, but some folks will only need to get with you every other week or even once a month. The frequency will depend on the person, their assignments, your understanding of their needs and your overall working relationship with them. But make sure that these meetings are habitual that is “every Tuesday at 10:00.” Depending on the number of Teamers that you have you will need to reserve blocks of time during your work week. I suggest reserving an entire morning or afternoon for these sessions. You’ll get into the One-on-One “groove!”

Make sure that this is not viewed as an adversarial meeting or a gotcha session due to the name. It is to help the two of you get to know one another better. This should be a special time spent together. Spend your time wisely with your Teamers. Make it a positive time together. You should have only two goals for the One-on-One session:

  • Help your Teamer feel better about you, themselves and the Organization.

  • Help you understand them and their needs, wants, dreams and concerns so that you can help them work in the “flow” as much as possible

You both should prepare a written agenda for each One-on-One session. Keep each One-on-One to no longer than a half hour. If you need more time, set up another session.

Sometimes you “inherit” Teamers through reorganization and you don’t know these folks as well as those that you have hired. The One-on-One session is an excellent way to “get to know” new Teamers. I’ve “inherited” lots of new Teamers over my years as a Middle usually through budget and staff cuts and reorganization, and the One-on-One session helps these new folks feel more comfortable working with you now, rather than old “what’s his name” (you!) that they’ve heard all about though the “grapevine.” Your goals are to get to know them and to get rid of their concerns and problems with the “transition.” Empower them by knowing them to help them work in the “flow!”

Some suggested agenda items for One-on-One sessions would be at least these:

  • Accomplishments during past time period

  • Goals for next time period

  • ·Problems or Concerns

  • Training opportunities

  • Other general “stuff”

Your goal must also be for your Teamers to “walk away” with a positive feeling about your meeting including the following:

  • They are in a comfort zone and can freely express themselves. There is trust and honesty present in each meeting.

  • ·You work on what needs to be done – DIRECTION!!

  • Make needed decisions. Stop tangent thinking and paralysis by analysis.

  • Have them feel that you really care about them, their work and their overall success and that of the team and the Organization.

  • Address any problems or concerns they have.

It is your job as the Middle to do everything that you can do to create the best possible meeting environment. Ask them how their One-on-One sessions can be more effective and how you can be a better leader for them. Then listen and do what you can to address their ideas and suggestions.

#2 - Build Mutual Trust - Trust is a critical ingredient in being a good Middle. Trust is a “two-way” relationship; you must trust your Teamers in order for them to trust in you.

Almost all of the folks that I’ve worked with over my five decades as a Middle really wanted to do good work and feel good about their performance and contribution to the success of the team and the Organization, so I recommend that you trust your Teamers until they prove that they can’t be trusted. If you have a Teamer that doesn’t want to do good work and be a part of the team that does, then it is time for you to help them find another opportunity.

Once you give your Teamer the assignment let them make mistakes. You must trust them to do the project. That’s part of the motivation for the project! My suggestion is to meet with them as frequently as you think is needed to avoid a disaster. Focus on their concerns and problems as well as their accomplishments and plans. Can you help them? Then do it! Work with them often so that they don’t go too far from what you want them to accomplish and give them immediate feedback on their performance.

Mutual trust may be the most critical ingredient in empowering you and your Teamers.

#3 - Let Them Fail - This may the toughest idea for you to accept. Your traditional “parent tapes” will kick in and you will always try to save them. Don’t! Give them the task properly defined and let them do it. Meet with them and talk with them but don’t control how they do the task. Ask them for their plans. Listen to their problems and concerns but make them be responsible for completing the task or project.

Many Middles simply won’t let their Teamers fail since they are fearful of the impact it might have on their Senior’s view of their performance. Trust me, it is not a “good thing” to overhear Co-Workers talking negatively about the performance of one of your Teamers while doing your business in the rest room!

If your Teamer fails, help them to learn what went wrong and what they need to improve and not to make the same mistakes on the next project or task. You can think of them as your “children” and how to be their parent, but to help them live and learn to be the best of their ability, you must be willing to let them fail.

#4 - Make the Work the Motivator – I feel that one of the major myths of management is that a person can motivate another team member. The only two things that motivate people are the work itself and the “environment” or working conditions that they work with every day. You can have an impact on the work assignments and the overall work environment, but it isn’t you that motivates them to do more, to do better. That comes from within them when they have projects that they understand and love working on.  You can reward and enjoy working with them, but you can’t motivate them, only the work can do that.

But what makes the work a motivator? Doing work in the “zone” or the “flow” as often as possible! That’s the key to making work the motivator! Perhaps you are wondering what is the “zone” or the “flow.” If you have ever participated in any sports you know this experience – it was the best game, set, match or round of your life, everything went perfectly! Got it? Now you want to move that experience into the world of work .If you’ve ever worked in the “flow” you know that you have experienced the best possible working experience.

I suggest that you make sure that you provide at least the following information and processes to your Teamers for all of the projects that you assign them.

  • Clear directions and goals on what to do

  • Real responsibility and authority to do the project

  • A “panic button” to push if you or they get into trouble and immediate feedback on their efforts

  • They are empowered to use their creativity and judgment

  • The schedule for the project is aggressive but doable

  • A proper balance between the challenges of the project and the Teamer’s skills

  • Your Teamers should have no worry of failure

In other words, you must strive to provide everything needed to get your Teamers to work in the flow on their projects every day. Working in the flow creates a Teamer that loves doing what they are doing, actually often loses track of time while working on a project and typically wants to do more. If you can empower your Teamers to want to do the work because they want to, you can accomplish unlimited potential with your Teamers.

#5 - Thank Them - First off, you should look for every opportunity possible to thank a Teamer for something well done. A good job, a great job, or truly outstanding performances, whatever, take every opportunity to thank your Teamers.

If you thank them you encourage them to do it again and that’s good. You also encourage other Teamers to improve their performance to get a “thank you!” It can be contagious!

I’ve been asked whether to “thank” your Teamers in public or in private. I always tended to thank people in public. Most times I would call an impromptu staff meeting and then thank them or present them with their service award or specific recognition. Promotion announcements are fine in public.

It’s really your choice if you thank them publicly or privately just make sure that you thank them!

“If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.”

 – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 I wish you empowerment, happiness and every success!!