Attitude Is Everything in Summer of 2011

The Summer of ’11: Some days you hardly know where to begin… the economy’s a rough roller coaster ride and the heat’s unbearable. You’ve gotta have a good sense of humor and plenty of optimism if you want to survive. Attitude is everything.

How do you keep cool in spite of it all? I mean mentally and — dare I say — spiritually? Your attitude shows and in tough times, it counts for more than you might think. Nobody can predict how your company and your career will play out right now. But you can control and create the right attitude no matter what.

Your demeanor sends signals that shape other people’s confidence in your team and your business.

I recently read this story in the book Confidence: How Winning Streaks and Losing Streak Begin and End, by Rosabeth Moss Kanter. It happened in 1999 when a vice-chairman of Estée Lauder, Jeanette Sarkisian Wagner, visited the corporate headquarters of two retail chains, Target and Kmart.

Ms. Wagner felt she could have predicted Target‘s rise and Kmart‘s fall years before they materialized, just by walking in the doors:

The Target building was bright, clean, and colorful. Senior executives were on hand to greet the Lauder delegation. People were welcoming, enthusiastic and well-prepared. Though Lauder was the supplier and Target the buyer, Target was “selling us on a relationship,” Wagner said. They spoke with pride and confidence.

The Kmart headquarters was an austere building, dirty and disheveled inside. Escorted to a dark conference room, there were two people with no water, no coffee. The Lauder delegation felt dragged down by the absence of pride and enthusiasm.

The contrast was clear, as each company sent signals about where it was heading. Target was on a winning streak and their team helped establish a relationship with Lauder that reinforced it’s strategy for winning with consumers. For the lethargic Kmart staff, their attitudes predicted a losing streak. They declared bankruptcy in 2002.

The message of Sarkisian is that “Everything you do sends a message.” Messages about confidence are sent at many levels: the building, meeting rooms, manners, dress… everything. Nothing is more important than a good attitude. Think about that when the next person engages you in complaining.

It’s easy to complain, and there’s plenty to bark about right now. The smart thing is to turn it into positive energy. That can be tough, but it’s the right thing to do to survive and win. What’s your opinion on this?

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