Doug Dickerson is an award winning columnist and director of Management Moment Leadership Services. He is the author of the new book, Leaders Without Borders: 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders. Visit www.dougsmanagementmoment.blogspot.com to learn more.
Your attitude, not your aptitude, determine your altitude - Zig Ziglar
An observation was made of how both the hummingbird and the vulture fly over our nation’s deserts. All vultures see is rotting meat because that is what they are looking for. They thrive on that diet. But hummingbirds ignore the smelly flesh of dead animals. Instead, they look for the colorful blossoms of desert plants. The vultures live on what was. They live on the past. They fill themselves with what is dead and gone. But the hummingbirds live on what is. They seek new life. They fill themselves with freshness and life. Each bird finds what it is looking for. We all do.
As a leader your attitude will make you or break you. The right attitude can guide you through times of adversity with poise and grace and be a source of inspiration for others to emulate. And at the end of the day it is all about the daily decisions you make. Here are four choices for a good attitude your consideration.
What you choose to see. The vulture sees rotting dead meat. The hummingbird sees colorful blossoms. Why? It’s their choice. As you look over the landscape of your business or organization do you see recession, fear and uncertainty or do you see opportunity, growth, and new markets?
What you choose to see speaks of your perceptions. Your perceptions are shaped by your attitude. That is not to say you are not mindful of the negatives that exist but you are making a choice not to be defined by them. If you are going to have an attitude of excellence it begins with what you choose to see and ignoring the rest.
What you choose to believe. By its choice the hummingbird chooses new life and growth over what is dead and gone. Your belief systems form the foundation of your personal growth and that of your leadership potential. What you choose to see formulates your perceptions but your beliefs formulate how you live. This attitude is the deal breaker both personally and professionally and it truly matters.
What you choose to believe speaks of your passion. Your passions are a reflection of your attitude and that is a reflection of your heart. What you choose to believe may not always make sense at the time. Yet when you choose faith over fear, hope over despair, trust over doubt, forgiveness over resentment, and love over hate, you are living out an attitude of belief that will set you apart as a leader.
How you will spend your time. The vulture thrives on things dead and gone. The hummingbird spends its time seeking life and beauty. When your attitude is aligned with what you believe and what you see it makes how you spend your time an easier proposition.
How you spend your time is all about priorities. Whether in business or in your personal life your priorities are a good indicator of a healthy attitude. Your time is your most valuable possession and a smart leader learns how to master it.
How you will live your life. The vulture and the hummingbird, for better or worse, have made their choices and live their lives accordingly. Your attitude as a leader has consequences that will determine your altitude. The choice to have a good attitude is not always easy. Someone cuts you off in traffic, the deal you thought you were going to close doesn’t happen, your earnings report falls short of expectations; a friend betrays you; these scenarios and more constantly challenge your resolve to have a good attitude.
How you will live your life speaks of your purpose. Your attitude should be one of your strongest attributes that sustains you in the good times and what gives you the courage needed when times are tough. Make it your priority to live your life as a leader with purpose in your heart.
With your attitude you can see the beauty of life like the hummingbird or you can sink to new lows like that of the vulture. Attitude-- it’s your choice.
Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it – Charles R. Swindoll
A story is told of two men who lived in a small village who got into a terrible dispute that they could not resolve. So they went to the town sage. The first man went to the sage’s home and told his version of what happened. When he finished, the sage said, “You’re absolutely right.”
The next night, the second man called on the sage and told his side of the story. The sage responded, “You’re absolutely right.”
Afterward, the sage’s wife scolded her husband. “Those men told you two different stories and you told them they were absolutely right. That’s impossible—they can’t both be absolutely right.” The sage turned to his wife and said, “You’re absolutely right.” The sage controlled how each man approached their dispute by the simple power of agreement. How nice it would be if things really were so simple.
The humor from that story is not lost on CEO’s who look at their prospects for 2013 and how the global economy will affect their bottom line. A recent study released by The Conference Board highlights their thinking and how they plan to approach this New Year with a different strategy. The point being, external global economic factors may be out of their control but not everything internally.
In data collected between September and November 2012, over 700 senior executives were asked to identify and rank the most pressing challenges they face, and their strategies for addressing each one. Worldwide, human capital – how to best develop, engage, manage, and retain talent- was named the leading challenge. Operational excellence stood in second place, followed by innovation and customer relationships. This new shift among CEO’s worldwide quite possibly fits the running narrative for your company in 2013.
American theologian Reinhold Niebur penned the words to what is commonly known as the Prayer of Serenity. It reads, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Like many CEO’s worldwide who participated in the survey your plans may have shifted from the uncontrollable to the controllable. The uncontrollable can be difficult to accept, but as you focus on what you can your perspective begins to change. Here are a few tips to help you chart the course and three questions you must answer going forward.
Bloom where you are planted with an eye to the future. What is out of your control now can be a bright spot in your future. Prepare today in order to prosper tomorrow. As you ride out external cycles you can train your talent, develop their skills, and raise up your leaders. When you bloom where you are planted you are putting down roots that will position you for the long term. The future can be promising but only if you are prepared.
Perfect your craft. Well within your control is the quality of your product and how it is delivered. Take the time while you have it to improve quality, delivery, and shore up customer relationships. Now is not the time to stress over things out of your control. Take the initiative and evaluate your systems, streamline for efficiency, and build your brand. It is only as you prefect that which you can control you will be prepared for what is now out of your control.
Create a culture of innovation. The survey highlights how important innovation is to your success. Rebecca Ray, Senior Vice President, Human Capital with The Conference Board said, “As CEO Challenge 2013 shows, human capital is not only a critical function in itself, but is also intimately connected with innovation, operational excellence and other challenges.”
Encourage and promote a culture of innovation with your team. Welcome ideas, reward innovation, and reap the benefits. Remove any and all barriers that stifle create thinking and improvement. Being prepared for what’s next can’t be achieved with narrow minds and lack of vision.
As a leader, you have to answer these three questions: What is out of my control? And then release it. What do I control? And then embrace it. What is the plan? And do it.
The more I get to know people, the more I love my dog – Frederick the Great
Writing in The Book of Business Anecdotes, Peter Hay shares a story that back in the 1950’s, marketing whiz Stanley Arnold was working at Young & Rubicam, where he was asked to come up with a marketing campaign for Remington Rand. The company was among the most conservative in America. Its chairman at the time was a retired General Douglas MacArthur.
Intimidated at first by a company that was so much a part of America, Arnold also found in that phrase the first inspiration for a campaign. After thinking about it, he went to the New York offices of Merrill Lynch, Fenner and Beane, where he told the broker, “I want to purchase one share of every single stock listed on the New York Stock Exchange.”
After a vice president tried to talk him out of it, the order was finally placed. It came to more than $42,000 for one share of the 1098 companies listed at the time. Arnold now took his diversified portfolio into a meeting of Remington Rand’s board of directors, where he argued passionately for a sweepstakes campaign with the top prize called A Share in America.
The old gentlemen shifted around in their seats and discussed the idea for a while. “But Mr. Arnold,” said one, “we are not in the securities business.” Another said, “We are in the shaver business.”
“I agree that you are not in the securities business,” said Arnold, “but I think you also ought to realize that you are not in the shaver business either. You are in the people business.” The company bought the idea.
As a leader when you grasp and understand this simple but sometimes elusive reality of business it will be a difference maker for you. It’s easy to get so caught up in the day-to-day procedures and maintenance of business (the what) that we forget the why (vision and values) and fail to nurture the who of business – people. Here are three essential reminders to help you stay focused as you enter 2013.
People are the purpose of your business; serve them. At times this is a concept lost on many leaders. Crystalizing a key point on this topic is the former president of Starbucks International, Howard Behar. In his book, It’s Not About The Coffee, he writes, “At Starbucks we’re in the human service business, not the customer service business.” That’s the distinction. Behar adds, “I’ve always said, we’re not in the coffee business serving people, we’re in the people business serving coffee.”
When your focus is serving people and in every way treating them the way you would like to be treated you will be fulfilling the tenants of customer service. But it’s a point so simple we often overlook it. When your focus is on people and not your product the people will take care of your product.
People are the fuel of your business; invest in them. In his book, Up, Down, or Sideways, my friend Mark Sanborn explains, “Selling creates a transaction. Service--how we treat and care for that person-creates a customer. Without the customer, all is lost. Remember: no customers, no profit. Know customers, know profit. So making a connection with the customer becomes vital to the initial transaction and, more important, to the continued loyalty to your organization or brand.”
Smart leaders are all about building relationships. A person’s association to your product will take a backseat to their relationship with you as a person. When you nurture relationships above all else you are placing value where it belongs. Invest in people and they will invest in you.
People are the future of your business; be faithful to them. If not careful, leaders can have a narrow view of loyalty and only see it flowing one way – towards them. But may I remind you that loyalty is a two-way street and the best way to receive it is to give it. Be loyal to your people and they will be loyal to you. It’s that simple.
Og Mandino said, “Always render more and better service than is expected of you, no matter what your task may be.” Leaders who deliver their service with a servant’s heart will never go wrong. Faithfully deliver your best and the people you serve will reward you.