Provision #700: Attitude Matters

Laser Provision

Has anyone ever told you that you had an attitude? If so, and if you were a leader at the time, then that was probably not meant as a compliment. Most of the time, having an attitude refers to having a bad attitude • a negative, judgmental, and demanding attitude. Those attitudes are not only unseemly in a leader; they work at cross purposes to getting things done. The attitude we show up with makes a world of difference. If you’ve been finding it hard to muster a good attitude lately, then today’s Provision may right the ship. Enjoy!

LifeTrek Provision

Whenever my Provision number ends with two zeroes, I rock back for a moment and ponder this journey I have been travelling since January 28, 1999. With few exceptions, I have written and sent out this email newsletter every Sunday morning. At first, I sent it out to a small group of family and friends from my AOL account. At the time, there were no RSS feeds, tweets, or SMS text messaging and there were hardly any blogs or social networking sites. Email was the communication vehicle of choice.

As the list grew, AOL closed down my email account because I was sending too many emails at once. The popularity of Provisions was getting me in trouble. That’s when I learned about bulk email services such as Mailman and Constant Contact. They offered many advantages, not the least of which is automatic bounce processing and the ability to schedule delivery times.

Now Provisions goes out to more than 16,000 people at 4:30 in the morning, Eastern US Time, on Sundays. I picked that time for two reasons: Sunday is traditionally viewed as the start of the week and 4:30 AM Eastern US Time is still Sunday in most places around the globe. Apparently it works. There’s one group of readers who make Provisions part of their Sunday morning routine. There’s another group who read it at work on Monday morning and throughout the week.

Whenever you choose to read Provisions, please know that it means a lot to me. Although I certainly write Provisions each week as part of my own personal habits of mind, I also write them for you. When I hear back from one of you • and not a week goes by in which I don’t hear from someone • it meets my needs for connection, contribution, and understanding. And that feels great.

We call these newsletters Provisions because we view them as sustenance for the trek of life. People do not live on bread alone, to borrow a phrase; unless our hearts, minds, and spirits are stimulated with nourishing, life-giving words there is little chance that we will evolve and mature into the kind of people we want to be.

I seek to make LifeTrek Provisions a weekly source of nourishing, life-giving words. They combine information with inspiration to lift our hearts, intrigue our minds, and encourage our spirits. And they are definitely longer than a 140-character tweet, a status update, or even a typical blog entry! But there’s no other way, at least in my experience, to go deep.

If you think that’s my attitude showing, you would be right. “Attitude,” according to the World English Dictionary, is “the way a person views something or tends to behave towards it, often in an evaluative way.” Although I appreciate and participate in the steady stream of short messages that come across my devices on a 24/7 basis, I also recognize their limitations. They just can’t do what we do here.

Like unpack the notion of attitude when it comes to leadership. What could we say in 140 characters? “Great leaders have great attitudes. Make sure you check any negative energy at the door. Cultivate positivity with life-giving daily habits.” That would be your Provision for the day.

But that Twitter-style headline begs as many questions as it answers. What exactly is a great attitude? Can we really check negative energy at the door? What do I mean by “positivity”? And what are some of those life-giving habits? There’s no way to answer questions like that in a Tweet, and I like to wrestle with the questions.

It is tempting to think that a great attitude is a positive attitude. But positive evaluations can be as problematic as negative ones. When leaders walk around with the idea that it is our job to dole out compliments and corrections, praises and propositions, then we position ourselves as people’s evaluators. And that’s a good way to constrict the realm of possibility.

When as leaders we position ourselves as evaluators, either positive or negative, people play for our approval and divide into camps. Such leadership generates cliques that are aligned on the basis of how much praise they receive. The greater the praise, the more they like the leader.

But getting people to like us is not the point of leadership. The point of leadership, as we learned last week, is to increase awareness and responsibility on the part of all the people we influence.

That’s why attitude matters. Instead of compliments and corrections, how about curiosity? Instead of praises and propositions, try purposefulness. The more we communicate confidence in the ability of people to find a way forward, however great the challenge, the more of a contribution our attitude makes.

But curiosity, purposefulness, and confidence cannot be faked. That’s why we can’t afford to wait for the door to check any negative energy. By the time we reach the door, it’s usually way too late. Instead, leaders are called to engage in continuous, positive self-monitoring.

Continuous means that we are aware of our attitude not only after the fact • “reflection on action” • but also during the fact • “reflection in action.” Positive means that we notice when our energy is life-giving and up-lifting. Self-monitoring means that we do this as a matter of habit, on our own, without external pressure or duress.

In this way, we increase our “Positivity Quotient.” Barbara Fredrickson defines “positivity” as feeling good. “Positivity” means we are filled with positive emotions such as gratitude, appreciation, happiness, joy, optimism, and energy. You know those feelings. We all have them from time to time, regardless of our circumstances in life.

Great leaders have positive emotions more of the time. And this has nothing to do with whether or not things are going our way. That’s nice, and we all like that, but that’s not a prerequisite of positivity. The prerequisite is continuous, positive self-monitoring.

We can cultivate positive emotions by design. We can notice and inquire into those things that fuel positivity, rather than negativity. We can do that in relationship to ourselves as well as in relationship of others. With few words, or even no words at all, our attitude can speak volumes.

Are we looking for allies and enemies, winners and losers? Or are we looking for those telltale signs of wonder in the midst of everyday life. Dewitt Jones defines creativity in just those terms: seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary.

That’s the attitude people are looking for in leaders. We don’t want people to praise us or to put us on a pedestal. We certainly don’t want people to criticize us and throw us under the bus. We want people to notice us and to see our extraordinary possibility.

So work on that attitude in the positions of leadership you hold. Walk in the door with that energy. Be as positive as you can be about everyone’s and everything’s potential. Focus on what can be done, rather than on what can’t be done.

To walk in the door that way takes a goodly amount of self-care. Both on the job and off the job, great leaders regularly engage in activities that foster positive energy and emotion. That’s because it’s good to feel good. It creates the conditions for greatness which are, after all, what everyone wants in the end.

Coaching Inquiries: How is your energy when you walk in the door? What would boost your energy and help you focus on the positive? How can you become more engaged in continuous, positive self-monitoring? What would make you feel happy right now?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation. 

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.

Your last Provision, Awareness Matters, put into words many things that I have been wrestling with and exploring for a long time. You found just the right words and I can hardly thank you enough. What a treasure your reflections are on a week-to-week basis. Thanks so much for putting them together and sharing them so generously. You have become my new, Sunday-morning companion! I look forward to reading many, many more.

Love this Provision! Love this line: “What we illuminate, rejuvenates”!! Love the sensual awareness inventory!!! Love it when I hear a man talking about sensuality and pleasure. My two new favorite words! Thanks

Awareness Matters connected with today’s message from I thought you would enjoy it: “Be at peace. Rest easy, relax, coast and luxuriate to any degree that you can allow yourself, for the day will inevitably arrive when you’ll understand all the ‘reasons’ that now elude you, bless the darkness that now seems to separate you, and celebrate the ancient choices that once made you. Just as we do.”

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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