My first shot at being a sales manager was quite an adventure. I took over a team that were "victims" of a corporate merger. They loved the old company. They had a strong culture. They had a good reputation. But my employer, a global Fortune 50 firm, had money. We bought them.
It was a tough situation for them. Many of their colleagues didn't make the cut with the new organization, and they had been through an emotional ringer in the past few months leading up to the new organizational structure. And they also got me - a manager from the legacy company. And I was new. And I had no idea what I has doing. Stuff of dreams.
Fortunately, for me at least, they were a good bunch. They generally tolerated my vim and vigor. I was ignorance on fire. I'm still friends with many of them, amazingly. I made a bunch of mistakes. I managed them everyday like we were getting ready for the World Series. I wasn't too far removed from coaching baseball, and I was determined we were going to win every game.
We did well. I had some superstars that made me look good. I had some less-tenured team members that were hungry and wanted to do well. I had some good veterans. I got lucky. But I had one person that I just couldn't reach. The more I worked with them, the worse it got. Every suggestion or request was met with a "Yeah but…" They were getting worse month after month. Poor sales, poor attitude. I lost sleep trying to figure out how to reach them.
Finally, it came to a head. I was in the field with them, visiting customers, and every sales interaction was bad. Very bad. I directed them into the parking lot, asked them to put the car in park - we needed to talk. I'm sure I gave my best "it's-the-bottom-of-the-ninth-and-we-are-down-by-5-runs" talk. My rousing "coaching" was met with indifference and excuses. Finally, I said, "You really need to work on your attitude. It's terrible. You are never going to make it in this business if you don't get that fixed." And I got a question in return that it took me years to answer, "Ok, I need to work on my attitude? How do you suggest I do that? What does that look like?" Dripping with sarcasm.
"Well", I said, "you need to….I dunno, just have a better attitude. I mean, just have a different outlook. Stop making excuses. Just work on it! Fix your attitude!"
I thought about that a lot over the days and weeks. I tried to find the answers in my library of coaching and leadership books that were absolutely no help. I had nothing.
How DO you fix your attitude? How do you work on it?
It wasn't until I was exposed to Sandler Training that I was able to answer the question. Many years later.
Here's what I now know. There is a formula for working on your attitude. It starts with understanding the elements of your attitude. In the business sense, your attitude is a combination of how you feel about yourself and the world around you; think of it as your outlook and beliefs. The second element is how you feel about your company or organization. Are you proud to work for your company? Does your mission and vision align with those of the organization? And finally, it's how you feel about the marketplace. Do you feel like you can be successful and there is plenty of opportunity or do you see it through the eyes of scarcity? Those are the elements of your attitude.
But there is more.
How you feel about yourself is disproportionately weighted. 80% of your attitude is how you feel about yourself and the other 20% is distributed to your feelings about your company and your market.
So if you want to work on your attitude, start with YOU! We can break it down further. You are comprised of three important elements - spirit, body, and mind. If you want to work on your attitude, start here. Let's look at each. You'll be hard-pressed to find a successful person who doesn't feel a connection to something larger, something bigger than themselves. It could be the mission of their company (think Zappo's - buy a pair of shoes and we'll give a pair away to someone in need). It could be faith-based. Maybe it's nature or the sense of mission and purpose that allows to believe that you are in this place at this time for a reason. It's the realization that you are NOT the center of your universe. It's an area that we must cultivate. How much time do you spend with a devotional or prayer or volunteering or "getting away" to nature? Whatever it is for you, it must be developed with intention. Cultivating the spiritual side of you is a driver of having a good attitude. Having a spiritual practice allows us to experience gratitude. It's hard to have a bad attitude when you have a daily habit of simply being thankful.
A second piece of what makes up you is your body. Overweight or underweight? Both of these can have an impact on our self-confidence and how we interact with others. Do you get enough sleep? Sleep is the least expensive performance enhancer at our disposal. Sleep deprived people struggle to maintain their energy and the clarity of thought needed to achieve big goals. Do you exercise and move throughout the day or are you sedentary? Research tells us that exercising and moving throughout the day increases happiness, productivity, and well-being. What kind of food do you eat? It's hard to slay dragons after downing a Big Mac, fries, and soda.
Finally, working on you involves paying attention to your mind. What kind of media do you consume? Garbage in, garbage out. Do you listen to content that is positive, uplifting, and helps you learn? Talk radio won't help you hit your goals. Turn your car into a university on wheels. How well do you control your thoughts? Are you living in the past (depression and guild) or ruminate about the future (anxiety)? Are you present and in the moment? Many successful people practice mindfulness or meditation. They journal. They are intentional about their thoughts and have a daily practice of removing the head trash that weighs them down with self-limiting beliefs.
Now, if someone asks how to improve their attitude, I wouldn't stumble over my words. I'd point them to the idea of working on YOU. Heart, head, and flesh. Spirit, mind, and body.
Having a positive outlook about ourselves and our chance to impact the world around us can be cultivated. Being intentional in these areas allow you to begin to design our lives, rather than living lives of default.