No, we’re not talking about a virus or a cold – we’re talking about your attitude. As a leader, your attitude is contagious. It will “infect” your team with every word you say and every action you take. Your very presence will transmit it to those around you. The question then becomes, what attitude are you spreading?
Is your attitude, “Yes, my team members can succeed; these are people who can achieve great things”? Or, is your attitude, “Well, I hope for the best from my people; sometimes, I expect the worst”? Your answer matters, because your attitude as a leader has a direct effect on the performance of your team members. If you believe that your people can perform at a high level, they will. If you don’t believe it, they most likely won’t.
Now, attitude is not a perky pep talk or saccharine sweetness. Here’s what we mean by “attitude”:
- Authenticity. Attitude involves what you truly think and feel about people. Your authentic attitude will always shine through. If you feel negative but try to “say the right things,” the fact is that people know the truth – and your negativity is the attitude they will “catch.” Therefore, the first step is to really believe your people can perform at a high level.
- Words. What you say is critical: your words can cut down or build up. Are you giving encouragement? How about regular feedback? Are you engaging your people in dialogue? Do you communicate goals and expectations clearly?
- Non-verbals. Every time you speak – and many times when you never even open your mouth – you are communicating a message that goes beyond words. Non-verbal communication is tremendously powerful. Your tone of voice and body language need to communicate that you are open, supportive, and positive.
- Actions. Attitude is empty unless it is backed up by actions. Leaders who expect the best from their people also take steps to ensure their team members succeed. They provide the support, feedback, mentoring, coaching, encouragement, vision, tools, and training necessary for success.
One of our clients demonstrated this beautifully. He put a new person at the head of logistics, making her responsible for the distribution of their products and the management of their warehouse. She had a lot of good experience, but had never worked in this particular role with all its international complexity and was therefore unsure of herself.
Our client made sure he himself understood what she needed to succeed in her role and then provided support in those ways. He reaffirmed – multiple times – how highly he regarded her skills and that he believed she could be a superstar in the job. He had regular meetings with her to discuss challenges and answer questions. The result is that she is succeeding in her new role faster than she herself ever thought she could.
A leader’s positive attitude ultimately is effective because it transfers confidence to their team members. That is what the authenticity, the words, the non-verbals, and the actions all amount to: an unspoken yet profound statement that “I believe in you, and I’m proving it with every interaction. Now, you believe in yourself, too.”