You can’t teach attitude

Myers Barnes new home sales teach attitudeI’ve coached hundreds of sales professionals in my career. I believe I’ve taught them essential skills. Attitude isn’t one of them. You can’t teach attitude.

Attitude is the sum of experience. A person who feels privileged has been given so much that they’ve come to assume the bounty will keep coming. On the other hand, an individual who grew up with responsibilities will likely reflect the commitment to working hard in the pursuit of achieving something positive.

Legendary college football coach Lou Holtz explained, “Ability is what you’re capable of doing, Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”

When you’re recruiting talent, you look for a skill set that matches your needs. A person can be a shining star on paper. Then you conduct an interview and there’s something not quite right. Maybe it’s obvious or maybe you can’t quite pinpoint that thing that nags you.

It’s probably the attitude. 

“People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude,” said John C. Maxwell.

The right attitude fosters collaboration. A person who is open to learning, sharing, and growing brings a positive attitude that can be infectious. But one bad attitude allows a toxic employee to infect an otherwise healthy workplace. 

Characteristics of a bad attitude

What is a bad attitude? Do any of these traits look familiar?

  • Negativity. A negative mindset quickly spreads. Whether talking bad about others or frequently voicing a critical opinion, the sour attitude is like acid wearing away at your workplace’s health.
  • Lack of accountability. It’s never a good practice to point a finger; it’s just a delay toward solving a problem. A person who cannot accept responsibility for their mistakes and then learn from it is not worth keeping.
  • Resentment. Unmet expectations lead to resentment, and resentment rears its ugly head in many ways, from sarcasm to unfair treatment of others. 
  • Disrespect. Collaboration requires respect. Being inconsiderate of others can be seen in various ways, including gossiping, stealing credit, and disrespecting their time, achievements, and feelings.
  • Laziness. A person with a great attitude will never accept “good enough”. A co-worker who does the minimum to get by isn’t committed to results. Often, their lack of effort requires co-workers to pick up the slack, cutting into their own productivity.
  • Entitlement. Any individual who believes they are overly deserving has a bad attitude. A strong team is made up of people who are willing to contribute their expertise and time—not for any personal reward, but for the satisfaction of results. Fostering their exaggerated self-worth creates resentment among others and increases the lack of productivity.

I can’t teach you to have a good attitude. I can encourage and model it for you, but if you don’t have the power within yourself to present the right attitude, I can show you the door.


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