What is it about some people? Anything seems possible, they are energising to be around and are real assets in a team. Others, unfortunately, see the obstacles and are a real drain on energy. It all comes down to attitude, writes Hilary Jeanes of PurpleLine Consulting.
I believe that a person’s attitude is the key differentiator. Having been involved in recruitment at all levels, I think it is essential to explore candidates’ attitudes – and time and again the right attitude is critical to success. It is, in many ways, more important than any of the other criteria. You can have a candidate who is extremely well qualified, but if his/her attitude to customers is that are a necessary evil, think twice about recruiting them. Customers are the lifeblood of your business.
Someone who also takes this view is Louise Makin. Louise delivered one of the recent Cambridge Business Lectures, entitled ‘Leading teams in challenging times.’
Louise has an impressive track record of success. In her talk she focused particularly on her recent challenges as the Chief Executive of biotech firm BTG and as team leader in the Three Peaks Yacht Race.
Since her appointment in 2004 BTG has become profitable again. Louise’s key strategies for turning around her company’s fortunes and opening themselves up to the possibility of success involve people:
- Building process and people capability
- Changing the people to achieve the vision by selecting people on attitude. She looks for ‘givers’, as she can’t afford ‘takers’. “If you have the right people in place with the right attitude you make the right decisions”
- Pacing the organisational change by deciding how you create the edge and providing support where necessary, aiming to stay on the ‘crest of the wave’.
Givers are people who demonstrate commitment, shared values and a desire to do what it takes to achieve the vision. She did not actually describe ‘takers’, but for me they would include people who are passive, who expect the organisation to look after them or who have a ‘jobsworth’ mentality.
Louise watches, listens to and learns from her team – in both contexts. She considers leadership is different to expertise. Sometimes you need people to contribute one, not both. Her approach is to observe individuals’ attitudes and how they work together. In summary in her leadership role she creates and sets expectations, identifies the what and the why, gives support, guidance and encouragement. “Some”, she says, “step up...”
So why are attitudes so important? Attitudes affect a person’s outlook and therefore affect how that individual behaves and the influence they may have on others positively or negatively. These quotes help to explain.
“The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same.” Carlos Castenada, Peruvian born author
“The greatest part of our happiness depends on our dispositions, not our circumstances.” Martha (Mrs George) Washington
“Everything can be taken from a man but ... the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.” Victor Frankl, survivor of Auschwitz.
There are many benefits of working with people who have the right attitudes for your business:
- A shared sense of what is important
- Commitment to the vision and goals of the organisation
- A willingness to go the ‘extra mile’
- Reliability, even when the going is tough
- An ability to take the rough with the smooth
- They exert a positive influence in the organisation.
And how can you spot good attitudes? By listening to the language people use and by asking questions which draw them out e.g. for examples of situations that have motivated them in previous roles, the challenges they have faced, and then probing about how they dealt with them and what they learned from them.
Think about your own attitudes – are they serving you well? If not, only you can change them.
How are you recruiting employees with the right attitudes or harnessing the talent of those who are already working for you? Take a look at our website to see how we can support you to do this even more effectively. Then send me an email or call me on +44 (0) 1763 245 323 for an initial, no obligation discussion.
Hilary Jeanes is Director of PurpleLine Consulting. A coach, facilitator and HR consultant, she helps organisations get the best from their people.