Oswald Letter

It’s all about attitude

by Dan Oswald

I happen to live in the country music capital of the world, Nashville. So at least a couple of country stations have been programmed into my radio. This morning on my drive to the office, I was listening to one of the stations when a Travis Tritt song titled “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive” came on. The song made me think about the importance of attitude.

The chorus of the song, which Tritt recorded more than a decade ago, goes like this:

And it’s a great day to be alive
I know the sun’s still shinin’ when I close my eyes
There’s some hard times in the neighborhood
But why can’t every day be just this good?

The chorus struck me. There certainly are some hard times for many right now. The Northeast was hit by a devastating storm. Too many people can’t find work. Gas prices are frighteningly high. But we still live in the greatest country on earth. Sure, things get difficult at times, but it’s all about how you approach them. Someone once said, “Every day may not be good, but there’s something good in every day.” It’s your job to find it!

That’s the wonderful thing — you can choose your attitude. You’re in complete control of it. Charles Swindoll said, “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.”

And attitude at work is critical. Are you a “glass half full” or a “glass half empty” type of person? Are you the one who sees a problem in every difficult situation or an opportunity? Are you an Eeyore or a Tigger?

That last reference is to a couple of characters from the classic children’s series Winnie the Pooh. Eeyore is the gloomy donkey who is always quite pessimistic and can find the negative in any situation. Tigger is the exact opposite. He’s described this way: “He is cheerful, outgoing, competitive in a friendly way, and has complete confidence in himself.” I must admit that I have described more than one colleague, at one time or another, as an Eeyore. And let me tell you I’d much rather be around a Tigger than an Eeyore. Tigger’s passion and energy are contagious. Playwright Tom Stoppard said, “A healthy attitude is contagious, but don’t wait to catch it from others. Be a carrier.”

Maybe you’re skeptical about the importance of attitude in success. How about some data to help make the case? Research by LeadershipIQ tracked 20,000 new hires. Of those hires, 46% of them failed within 18 months. Why? Eighty-nine percent of the time it was because of attitude, while lack of skill accounted for only 11%. What were the “attitude” issues cited in the failed hires? Reasons included lack of coachability, low emotional intelligence, lack of motivation, and temperament.

Attitude will make a big difference in the outcomes you achieve. Great leaders recognize the importance of attitude in success. Thomas Jefferson did. He said, “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.” Look for people with the right attitude to add to your team.

Finally, if you’re going to be a successful leader, you need to take an honest assessment of your own attitude. Then think about Eeyore for a minute. Who wants to follow Eeyore anywhere? What kind of compelling case could he make for getting people to buy into his vision? I can hear Eeyore trying to rally the troops, saying, “I’m sure it’s not really going to work out, but I don’t know what else to try, so we’re going to do this. I hope it’s not a complete disaster, but I certainly can’t make you any promises because I’m sure it won’t work out.”

Be more like Tigger ― cheerful, outgoing, competitive, and completely confident. Make sure your attitude allows you to succeed!