Attitudes determine the way we treat people. They affect the way we perceive change. They influence our ability to set and reach goals. Attitudes affect our ability to realize and progress through Maslow's levels of need satisfaction (http://www.abraham-maslow.com/). The following sequence may help you see the significance of attitudes.
Results: Each of us as goal seekers want to achieve certain results from our lives.
Behavior: The results we get depend upon our behavior, how we react to situations.
Attitude: The results we get depend upon our behavior and attitudes toward the people or events involved, and toward ourselves.
If attitudes are basically negative, goals will be set low, and it will be difficult to progress. Growth and promotion will be all but impossible until a positive mindset is developed.
You can identify people with negative attitudes by their actions and by their reactions. When presented with a challenge their focus will be on problems: what can't be done, and why things won't work. Their discussions will often revolve around negative issues and blame. They do not respond well to compliments and will even discount them. However, they remember every one of their failures and mistakes, and this memory stifles much of their activity. They are usually part of the problem not part of the solution.
If attitudes are basically positive, individuals will focus on possibilities and ideas for improvement. This will be evident in the way they treat people. They will be very comfortable giving others credit, and their transactions will be directed at making others feel better about themselves. They accept both constructive criticism and compliments with open consideration and appreciation. They are regularly part of the solution and rarely part of the problem.
It is important to understand that attitudes are developed very early in life. Years and years of early conditioning helped to develop the attitudes that many people carry with them throughout life. Much of early conditioning was negative, what you can't do, where not to go, etc. For the most part, negative attitudes are far more prevalent than positive attitudes. Too many people think more often of what's wrong, how they might fail, and why it won't work rather than what's good, what's right, and how it can work.
On the positive side, since attitudes are developed, they can be changed. In fact, as a leader, you will frequently find yourself in a position to help people develop positive attitudes. The first step is understanding that what took years to develop will also require some time and effort to change. Daily encouragement is important. Positive input on a daily basis will help to replace some of the negative attitudes with positive ones. Audio books, articles, brainstorming sessions, affirmations, and seminars are some techniques you can employ to create positive input.
There are many ways and opportunities to create a learning organization with a focus on positive attitudes and possibility thinkers. Recognition programs, leadership opportunities, personal mentoring, and corporate coaching are but a few ways to help your team develop the appropriate attitudes focused on goal achievement. One of the vital contributions a leader can make is instilling the desire and creating the opportunity for continuous improvement.
Tammy A.S. Kohl is President of Resource Associates Corporation. For over 30 years, RAC has specialized in helping businesses achieve sustainable results through leadership development and executive coaching.