My wife Jean and I were talking the other day about how some words have been distorted – have taken on entirely different meanings from their original definitions. When you watch older movies or read older books, you hear and see words that writers today wouldn’t consider using in the same context. It’s a shame this has happened. Rather than distorting original meanings, wouldn’t it be great if people could create new words to define what it is they want to express?
So it is with the word “attitude.” Today when we hear such a statement as, “He’s got an attitude,” we immediately think the person referred to is a negative, irritable individual who is looking to cause problems. Originally it meant “disposition; mindset; outlook; perspective; demeanor.” In the context of this definition, everyone has an attitude. It can be positive or negative, winning or losing, cooperative or contentious. So the question is not whether or not you have an attitude. The question is, “What kind of attitude do you have?”
My last three columns have dealt with (1) Core Values; (2) Herbert Taylor’s development of a Four-Way Test for his company (which became Rotary International’s motto); and (3) Integrity. These columns were inspired by my work with a corporation that is retooling its corporate core values and integrating these values with its employee review program. Most recently we worked on developing a series of questions to pinpoint employees’ communication skills. Now we are focusing on attitude.
Developing and consistently applying a positive, winning, cooperative attitude is a necessity for every employee of any organization if the organization is to accomplish its goals and its mission. If one employee does not possess the right attitude, then the organization will never accomplish what it could have accomplished. If you were going through an employee review program at this very moment, how would you be rated on your attitude? Would it be considered distinguished, excellent, competent, marginal or completely unsatisfactory? Unless everyone in the organization rated a distinguished mark, the organization would not reach its absolute potential. Makes you think, doesn’t it?
When we talk of having a positive attitude, we think primarily of whether or not an individual believes he or she can accomplish something. But developing and maintaining the right attitude goes beyond this. As referred to above, it also deals with how the individual thinks, acts and reacts toward corporate leaders, other employees and clients. It not only involves such attributes while at the office but also how the employee represents the organization away from the office. I think we can understand this in the context of sports. We all realize that when a team member “bad mouths” the team, gets into a fight or commits some illegal act, it reflects on the entire organization.
Often, people with bad attitudes will say, “Well, that’s just the way I am.” This is no excuse. Everyone can change. As a result of his experiences in Nazi death camps as prisoner 119,104, Viktor Frankl wrote in his book, Man’s Search For Meaning, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Short-story writer Katherine Mansfield said, “Could we change our attitude, we should not only see life differently, but life itself would come to be different. Life would undergo a change of appearance because we ourselves had undergone a change of attitude.” This thought followed on the heels of words from 19th century English writer James Allen’s book based on Proverbs 23:7, As A Man Thinketh. One of my favorite lines from the book is, “As the physically weak man can make himself strong by careful and patient training, so the man of weak thoughts can make them strong by exercising himself in right thinking.”
In regard to attitude, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale actually created a new word when he said, “Become a possibilitarian.”
Carl Mays, author of over a dozen books and speaker at over 2500 events, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 865-436-7478. His books, including “A Strategy For Winning,” “People of Passion,” “Anatomy Of A Leader” and “Are We Communicating Yet?” are available in stores, at www.carlmays.com, and on www.amazon.com.
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