…than I was two years ago!”
These were the words of a world-class competitor just before competing in the most recent World Cross-Fit Games. Two years ago at the same games, he tore his quad halfway through the competition and had to withdraw. This year he stood on the podium winning the Bronze Medal in the 50-54 year age bracket! He would be the first to acknowledge that what changed in those two years was less about his physical abilities and more about his mental approach. A different attitude took him to the status of third best in the world!
What does this tell us about being successful lifelong leaders? Plenty, and more than most of us realize! I would argue most people acknowledge the value of a positive mental attitude and mindset as a key element of success. This is especially true for those who have ever participated in activities (athletics, music, hobbies, etc.) where repetitive practice is involved to do the activity well. However, actually changing our attitude still eludes most of us. As we define Attitude as Habits of Thought, let’s explore how to change our attitudes as leaders.
- Admit the old habit of thinking is counterproductive and list the reasons why. Like any change, the first step is always effectively determining why the change must occur in the first place. The challenge with this step is there is usually a level of comfort in the habit already so listing why the habit is counterproductive is crucial. An example from my own career is the attitude I needed to change when I transitioned from the US Army to the corporate workforce and how people respond to directions and authority.
- Analyze the habit of thinking as objectively and honestly as possible to determine what internal satisfaction you derive from it. All habits exist because they provide a level of comfort and stability to our lives. Unfortunately, habits also generate statements like “We’ve always done it this way” or “It’s not my job to question the process”. If these are words coming from someone in a leadership position, then it is time to re-assess the leadership expectations in the business. Again, in my own example, there was a level of satisfaction in the military because we all knew who was who in the chain of command based on uniforms. In the corporate setting, no such environment exists so the attitude had to change.
- Replace the old habit of thinking with a new and more effective habit of thinking that offers greater satisfaction. There is no delete button on the brain so the only way to change an old habit is to introduce a new habit. This new habit must provide a greater level of satisfaction than the old habit or it becomes a waste of time. If the new habit does not generate a more positive behavioral change for you, keep looking for a new habit that will. In my case, I deliberately became a much better listener once I joined the corporate workforce as it enabled me to better understand how others felt in the more collaborative business environment.
By the way, the athlete in the opening paragraph is my younger brother Joe. I could not be more proud of his accomplishments, especially how he mentally grounded his attitude to reach new levels of success!
How will you be a better leader in the next two years?