Throughout my career, I have asked managers what they look for in hiring new employees. The single most sought after characteristic is a positive attitude. Knowledge can be learned but a positive attitude cannot be taught and is recognized as being critical for success. Yet, if attitude is so important, why do we do so much to destroy it? (I use we, because as a manager, I was guilty of having done some of the very things I have outlined below.) The following are some things I have learned that will enhance or destroy a positive attitude.

Demeanor. Early on in my career in Sales Management, it became apparent to me that I could single-handedly affect the attitude of the entire office just by my demeanor when I was visible to the staff. If I smiled, they would smile and have a positive attitude. My smile indicated to them that things were going well with customers, with sales and in turn with revenues and the safety of their jobs. If, on the other hand, I scowled at them, they would hang their heads and generally be down at the mouth. My negative attitude indicated to them that things weren’t going well and they began to worry. The attitude of the entire office could be turned on or off depending upon whether I came to work with a smile or not.
I have also learned that demeanor is more than just smiling, it is an outward expression of your own attitude. Whether we realize it or not, we lead by example. If you are excited about a project, the people around you will be excited too. It’s contagious. If you have a strong work ethic, they will try to emulate you. If you are conscientious, they will be too.
Once upon a time in an open and friendly office, I watched a new supervisor who was very cynical. Sadly, it wasn’t long until the entire open and friendly office turned cynical as well and cooperation dropped to a very low level. It was all the result of the attitude of the supervisor.

Language. I think too many of us have confused our roles as managers with the function of problem solving. Much of what managers do is viewed as problem solving. The word “problem” by itself is a downer let alone what it represents. Seeking out causes of problems implies blame and raises defenses. No one was ever uplifted by the words, “We have a problem.” The negative language is compounded by a process that uses phrases like “cause analysis,” “estimate consequences,” “evaluate tradeoffs,” “recognize uncertainty” and “estimate risk tolerance.”
Most managers I have met spend more time and effort finding fault and criticizing employees than they do finding the things they are doing right and praising them.
Problem based language does not make any of us feel like celebrating. Just think about how they affect the people around you. How much better would it be if we could develop a positive language that changed the organization from one with problems to one with solutions. Using language that included words like: opportunity, options, praise, ideal and others would go a long way to maintaining or enhancing positive attitudes.

Involvement. In this era of downsized, everybody do more, how many of you have managed by declaration or edict? When everyone is wearing multiple hats and performing multiple functions, it just seems easier to make a decision and delegate the implementation wherever possible. When we manage by declaration or edict, we are generally reducing the speed of the implementation, reducing the likelihood of success and sapping the positive attitude of the people involved. People’s attitudes soar when they are involved in the decision-making process and understand fully the why of doing something. The success and the speed of success of any implementation are directly related to the involvement of the implementers in the decision process. Not only does involving the people in the decision enhance attitudes, but also they are enhanced again when the decision is successfully implemented and they were a part of it.

Recognition. All to frequently managers take the good things in stride as if they deserved success rather than appreciating each and every step along the way. These are the same people who are too busy to stop and say thank you for a job well done. Sadly, their actions send a message to all around them that what ever they did to help achieve this success was not as important as the “problem” they are addressing now. Lighten up. If you really want to foster a positive attitude, “Thank you” is the least you should do.
If you really want to foster a positive attitude and enhance productivity, then recognize people and their talents even before you involve them in an assignment. People tend to rise to your expectations. If you don’t have any expectations of they are low, the output you get will probably match your expectation.
Recognition at the conclusion of a successful project is equally important. People love success and they love recognition for their efforts. They want to savor it and the more success and recognition they get, the more they want. Why would any manager in his right mind not want to develop the same desire in his employees? Celebrate every success and foster the right attitude for the next success.
Most managers hire for positive attitude in an effort to develop an outstanding performer and enhance the success of their endeavor. Very few, however, are willing to devote the time and effort it takes to really follow through in a positive way to foster positive attitudes and create the right environment for success. If results are important and attitude is important, then we need to take the time to do it right.

ã Copyright Bob Cannon/The Cannon Advantage, 2003. All rights reserved.

Bob Cannon helps visionary leaders make decisions that gain a competitive advantaget. Check out other interesting articles available in the Taking Aim newsletter available at . Bob can be reached at (216) 408-9495 or mailto:

This article courtesy of You may freely reprint this article on your website or in your newsletter provided this courtesy notice and the author name and URL remain intact.

Author's Bio: 

Robert E. Cannon, successful business executive, left the corporate world in 2001 to start Cannon Advantage; a firm specializing in helping visionary leaders and business decision-makers who want to enhance the competitive advantage of their organizations.

Bob holds a Bachelor’s from Grove City College, a Masters in Business Administration from Gannon University and a Certificate in Appreciative Inquiry from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. Bob is also co-owner of AI Consulting, a member of the Institute of Management Consultants and a contributor to The World Business Academy.

He has over 20 years of experience at the Executive level managing both line and staff functions for manufacturers, publishers, service providers and E-commerce businesses. He has been a featured speaker at industry conferences and has had articles published in a variety of different trade magazines.

Bob’s track record of accomplishments includes increasing sales, increasing profitability, improving service, getting $1 million worth of advertising exposure for a $500 thousand investment, initiating and fostering positive change in organizations that resulted in improved sales, productivity and service.

He is also the author of “Taking Aim”, the free monthly ezine written for leaders that takes aim at current issues, mixes in real-world experience and provides the focus needed to gain a competitive advantage.