In 1992, I was working as a customer service representative for an automated fueling company. I enjoyed my job but didn’t care for my boss, didn’t care for my cubicle, didn’t care for a lot of my coworkers…the list went on and on. Then one day, the vice president of the company called me into his office, motioning for me to take a seat. As my supervisor sat alongside me, the VP of the company leaned over his desk, looked at me and said, “Michelle…somebody is looking for someone just like you…it just isn’t us. We are letting you go.” The reason for termination, he said, was, “You have a terrible attitude and it’s affecting the morale of everyone else you work with, and we won’t tolerate that here.”
This is the first of a two-part article about attitude and how it relates to you and your business. Attitude affects every aspect of our lives. Our relationships, both professional and personal, are fueled by our attitudes. After reading my story, how many readers see a “negatron” in your presence? Or an even more challenging question is how many of you perhaps see a habitual “negatron” within yourself? Who are you being while you’re doing what you’re doing? Are you being mean, ornery and hard to get along with, or are you being open, friendly and approachable? Is your glass half-full or is it half-empty? It’s said that it’s not what we go through in life, but how we handle the hard times that really matters. When bad things happen to us, we typically feel angry, sad or depressed. We feel like we are powerless and that we cannot change our lives for the better. Or, like I did, we lay the blame on everybody else. But we do have a choice. We can choose the attitude with which we will face our challenges. Our attitude is the primary force that will determine whether we succeed or fail, not just in business but in our personal lives as well. For some, attitude presents an opportunity; for others it presents an opportunity in every difficulty. Some climb with a positive attitude, while others fall with a negative perspective.
Attitude is an inward feeling expressed by behavior. That’s why an attitude can be seen without a word being said. Perhaps this is why some will say, “I can read you like a book.” It’s because our attitudes are written all over our faces! Soon, what is happening within us will affect what is happening outside of us. A hardened attitude is a dreaded disease. It causes a closed mind and a dark future and fuels a small flame that becomes a raging fire burning uncontrollably through the workplace, through our homes and ultimately, through our relationships.
Twenty years later, I can clearly say being fired was a defining moment in my life. But it did not bring forth an immediate change in my attitude, by no means. It took time, years in fact, for me to finally stop pointing a finger at everyone else and admit that the problem didn’t lie with others-the problem was within me. Once, when I was sharing my story, as I have so many times, a young woman said her father always told her that when you point your finger at someone, there are three other fingers pointing back at you…try it once! It is only when this progress takes place that our attitude has a chance to go from negative to one that is positive and conducive to growth. The mind expands and the progress begins.
We are either masters or victims of our attitudes-it’s simply a matter of personal choice. John C. Maxwell has written some fantastic books, articles and blogs about the power of attitude. In one of his writings, he stated that who we are today is the result of the choices we made yesterday. Tomorrow we will become what we choose today. To change means to choose to change. What choice are you going to make?
Here are six axioms from Maxwell’s book, Attitude 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know:
• Our attitude determines our approach to life.
• Our attitude determines our relationships with people.
• Often, our attitude is the only difference between success and failure.
• Our attitude at the beginning of a task will affect its outcome more than anything else.
• Our attitude can turn our problems into blessings.
• Our attitude can give us an uncommonly positive perspective.
Rather than looking at the worst in people and situations, start looking for the best in people and make the best of whatever situation you are in. You will be amazed at how much talent, ingenuity, empathy and good you will find, not only in others but within yourself. It is solely up to us, and no one else, to live our lives to the fullest and make the most of every day we are given. Life can become a prison when we get stuck in our own box. We can begin to realize that there is much more to life when we open our eyes and see the paths in front of us and lend our ears to hear the beautiful music within the wind. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
A final note: Five years after I lost my job, while completing my last year of my undergrad studies, I sent a letter to the VP who terminated me and thanked him. It was a wise business decision…for both of us.
A former business owner herself and graduate of the Urban Hope Entrepreneur program out of Green Bay, Michelle Madl is currently the business development coordinator for Nicolet Area Technical College, where she assists and coaches new and existing entrepreneurs and small business owners with business plan development, provides professional development workshops throughout the area and coordinates and teaches Nicolet College’s eSeed Entrepreneur Program. She holds a baccalaureate degree from Mount Mary College in behavioral science and a master’s in management and organizational behavior from Silver Lake College. Madl is also the current president of the Northwoods Entrepreneurs Club and Northwoods Women in Business, and sits on the state advisory board for the Small Business Development Centers. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (715) 365-4492.