Successful and admired leaders pause a moment before judging the situation and consider different angles and approaches to help find the optimum solution, they deliberately adopt one or more of five power attitudes
Your aptitude (your “natural” ability to do something) is thought by many people to be the main driver of their success. But they would be wrong!
We raise people with those noticeable talents onto pedestals in a form of worship. Imagine yourself as a star soccer player, or the lead singer in your favourite band, an actor in an awesome movie. There are even some people who are simply famous at being famous.
But everyday life for the vast majority of people isn't a movie. Our giftedness is a little less flashy and a little more humdrum. And almost every day we come across challenges and difficulties and it is how we face those challenges that sets us apart.
You can enjoy greater success just from adopting a power attitude.
In Daniel Goleman's research for his landmark book, “Emotional Intelligence“, others have gone on to reinforce that the “how” you approach challenges is far more important than what you actually do to resolve them, about 80/20. How you approach something is determined by your chosen attitude to the situation.
And what matters here is that you can choose your attitude in spite of your initial feelings. And choosing a good attitude will improve your outcome and sets you above in the eyes of others.
As Zig Ziglar originally shared,
Your Altitude is determined more by your Attitude than your Aptitude.
My own research shows that those who are most successful over the long term share three questions they ask themselves and five power attitudes they adopt, as if they were real, to face daily challenges successfully.
In your brain, the process we are going to reframe whatever the problem, challenge or situation you observe.
Like me and everyone else, when you come across a problem or challenging situation, your brain notes two key things:
Both of which rely on your personal judgement and perception, which is influenced by your prior experience and memory and all of your personal, cognitive biases – which inform and shape your attitude to the situation.
Successful and admired leaders pause a moment before judging the situation and consider different angles and approaches to help find the optimum solution, they deliberately adopt one or more of five power attitudes:
The way you and I view the world is different.
Everyone looks at the world through a lens shaped by memory, experience, upbringing, values, beliefs, parents, exposure to media and etc.
In the USA, political party affiliations are known to shape how someone interprets the same news about a speech by a presidential candidate.
Religious beliefs often determine how one person views a situation compared with someone seeing exactly the same thing, but with a different belief.
I'm not suggesting that they are right and you are wrong, nor am I daring to suggest that you should change your beliefs or affiliations. I am simply asking you to respect that they have their views and you have yours. They are as entitled to their perspective as you are to yours.
I'm not even asking you to wear their shoes and imagine what the situation may look like if you shared their belief, their experiences. I am suggesting that you simply have due regard for their feelings, wishes, beliefs or rights.
When you look at the situation now, you may find a better way to approach the challenge that may have greater chance of success for all concerned.
“I just don't get it” she said to me. That was my fault. It wasn't that she was insufficiently able to make it happen, it wasn't that she hadn't listened to every word. It was my failure to communicate what I was explaining in a way that she understood and “got”. That was my problem.
When I was much younger, I would have blamed her. Maybe she was too dense, too inexperienced, not paying attention, unmotivated… anything of a myriad reasons why she didn't understand. Not once would I have questions my communication skills.
What's far worse for many leaders, is that the other party doesn't use words in response. Many leaders I have coached complain that, in spite of their (incredible, wonderful, timely, on-point, and brilliant) communication, their staff are not following through. No-one said anything of course. Their response was to not do what was expected, for whatever reason.
What is the response you are getting?
You are facing a challenge and you know that you have communicated, but did they get it? I mean really get it?
The response you are getting (non-compliance, lack of action, no promotion) is the meaning of your communication.
Own the problem and choose another, better way of communicating.
When someone behaves badly (in your view) this does not define them as a person.
We all love to label people based on their behaviour (as we see it!) Just this morning I walked passed people who were behaving, angry, frustrated, miserable, sad, tired, exhausted, rushed, harassed, concerned, troubled, rude, friendly, happy, smug and self-satisfied.
All of those labels are judgements. Sure, there is some evidence in their behaviour that makes those labels true for me, this morning. But these labels are NOT the person.
We are often too quick to notice one behaviour, label it, generalise it for that person and then pin that label on them. The angry man, the rude woman, the troubled youth, the tired old man. And the moment we do that we change our behaviour towards them.
And we do so knowing full well how we dislike being labelled by others. You know that is not “you” all the time. You may well be upset in certain circumstances and display anger, but you know that that does not make you an angry person.
I was once asked at a conference how we should deal with “difficult” people“. As I reminded the questioner, there are no “difficult” people, only people whom we find it difficult to interact. What we want to do is deal with or change the behaviour whilst loving the person.
“I can't do anything…” How many times have you heard others say that? How often have you said it yourself?
It's possibly the most disempowering thing that someone can say. It's when you are frustrated with a situation or a person and feel that you have tried so many ways to fix it and feel powerless. Heck, you may even be genuinely powerless to change the situation or the person… but you can change you.
When you feel as though you can't, remember Joe Strummer's (Lead vocalist of The Clash) quote: “People can change anything they want to, and that means everything in the world.”
Thomas Edison famously said:
“I haven't failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”
Often, we try to change something in life and discover that the world has got other ideas. If you think of it as failure, you focus on failing and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Instead view any lack of success as feedback that this way was not working and seek another way.
This is not to say that you persevere against all odds and keep on until the blood drips from your fingers, or your head splits from banging against the wall. Be wise and know that sometimes, the feedback means stopping and moving on to the next better thing.
Using the any of the five power attitudes creates a momentary cognitive dissonance (that's that uncomfortable mental feeling you get when you try to hold two or more contradictory ideas or beliefs simultaneously)
When you experience this discomfort, your brain needs a resolution to the dissonance and you seek a solution to the problem in question. You may struggle with this because your brain is trying to use or create a new neural pathway, reconciling old memories and even re-evaluating them in light of this new belief.
And because the five power attitudes that you wear as if true are positive beliefs, this will lead to happy thoughts, improves your ability to analyse and think, increases your attentiveness, stimulates the growth of new nerve connections and leads to more happy thoughts. You'll be more creative, solve problems faster and tend to be more alert.
In short, your ability to deliberately choose a specific positive attitude towards any problem will enhance your aptitude and make you more successful.
You want to take a fairly disciplined approach to this process, it will help you embed it and quickly establish this deliberate attitudinal change as a normal part of pausing a moment before finding solutions to problems.
I use post-it notes to help steer my thinking. Write on six post-it notes(or paper) the phrases:
Place them on a desk or a wall in front of you and focus on the problem.
Test the problem with each of the five power attitudes, always acting as if this attitude were true. One or more of these attitudes will offer a possible solution.
We have yet to come across a problem that does not change after genuinely reframing the problem using one or more of these five attitudes. Actually, there are exceptions: problems that do not involve people in any way, which isn't many.
Our normal world view tends to view problems as, well, problems. We have our view and often get caught up in the emotion of doing something about the problem (ignoring the problem is still doing something about it).
Take time with each and every problem you come across. Deliberately choose one of these power attitudes. I recommend deliberately shifting your body to take a different view. ACT as if the power attitude is true. Consider the problem in just the same manner as this exercise.
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