In life, more than any other factor, your attitude pretty much determines where you will go… and how far you will go.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines attitude as “the way you feel about something or someone, or a particular feeling or opinion.”
Attitude in Teaching
When I entered the classroom, I brought what I knew about attitude from my years of managing to education. I knew that one’s attitude is contagious.
More recently I read about the work of Margaret McFarland, a professor of child psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. Ms. McFarland put it this way, “attitudes aren’t taught, they’re caught.”
“If a teacher has an attitude of enthusiasm for the subject, the student catches that whether the student is in second grade or is in graduate school. If you show them what you love, they’ll get it and they’ll want to get it,” McFarland says.
I know that many of my students used to tell me how they loved my excitement and enthusiasm that I displayed in sharing the material I was teaching.
Attitude in Managing
When I departed for my first solo general manager position in Atlantic City, my co-GM back in Massachusetts gave me these words of wisdom, “Whatever your attitude is, when you enter the radio station each day, will become the attitude of your fellow employees. Keep your problems to yourself and always maintain a positive, upbeat, enthusiastic attitude.”
It may have been the most important management advice of my forty-year radio management career.
Attitude in Hiring
Whenever any of my radio stations made a hire, my department managers did all the preliminary screening of candidates. When they had narrowed the field down to two or three finalists, I would meet with those people before a final hiring decision was made.
What was I looking for in my meetings? The person’s attitude.
I knew that in virtually all positions, we could quickly train someone to do the job. However, what we could not change was the attitude of the person.
Hire the people with the best attitudes and train everything else.
“A brand is shorthand for the customer’s expectations.
What promise do they think you’re making?
If you have true fans, the only reason you do is because
the group has engaged with you in a way that signals
that they expect something worthwhile from you next time.
That expectation isn’t specific, it’s emotional.”
Attitude in Your Brand
Attitude is emotional.
People love your brand, or they don’t, based on how they feel about your brand emotionally.
The passing of one of my mentors, albeit one I never met, Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines, brought to mind how important employee attitude was in building America’s most successful airline.
Herb Kelleher didn’t believe the customer was his first priority, he believed his employees were.
“Your employees come first.
And if you treat your employees right, guess what?
Your customers come back, and that makes your shareholders happy.
Start with employees and the rest follows from that.”
Kelleher wrote in his book “NUTS!” that, “We will hire someone with less experience, less education and less expertise, than someone who has more of those things and has a rotten attitude. Because we can train people. We can teach people how to lead. We can teach people how to provide customer service. But we can’t change their DNA.”
According to U.S. government data and company records, Southwest has enjoyed 45 consecutive years of profitability, and in 2018 carried more domestic passengers than any other airline.
Attitude & Culture
Herb Kelleher said the secret to Southwest Airlines success, was one thing, “culture.” When you cultivate a good attitude in yourself, and when as a manager you hire people for their attitude, what you end up creating is a culture.
What kind of culture did Herb create at Southwest? The employees and retirees of Southwest Airlines placed a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal in tribute to Herb upon his passing this month. Here’s what they wrote: “Dear Herb, Thanks for always remembering our names. For keeping our airline flying high and our spirits higher. For always being there. For giving everyone (and we do mean everyone) a kiss on the lips. For arm wrestling for our slogan. For being both the hardest worker and the life of the party. And for turning a company into a Family. We will be forever in your debt, and we will aspire to keep your spirit alive. With love and gratitude, -The Employees and Retirees of Southwest Airlines”
Is it Time for a Checkup from the Neck Up?
What will the people who work with you, or for you, say about your attitude?
Is it time for you to change that?
What better time to begin cultivating a good attitude than with the start of a brand new year.
Step one is to be sure you’re doing what you love, because as Herb Kelleher said, “If you’re crazy enough to do what you love for a living, then you’re bound to create a life that matters.”