What Your Attitude Can Do for You (Part 1)

This week we’re beginning a new series called “What Your Attitude Can Do for You!” But, just to keep things interesting, in part one, we’ve decided to let John tell you what your attitude CANNOT do for you. You see, many leaders think that attitude can make up for necessary traits like competence, or experience, or even personal growth. But, as John says, “Attitude isn’t everything, but it is one thing that can make a big difference in your life.”

So, John is going to help us navigate what attitude cannot do for us, then for the application portion of this episode, Mark Cole and Traci Morrow dive deeper into John’s lesson and share how they’re applying this teaching to their own lives and leadership. Next week we’ll be back to discuss what your attitude CAN do for you!

Our BONUS resource for this series is the “What Your Attitude Can Do for You Worksheet,” which includes fill-in-the-blank notes from John’s teaching. You can download the worksheet by clicking “Download the Bonus Resource” below.


Mark Cole:       Hello leaders, hey influencers, Mark Cole here, and I want to welcome you to another episode of the John Maxwell Leadership Podcast. Today I'm joined with my cohost, Traci Morrow, and we will be starting a new series called What Your Attitude Can Do for You. Now, John Maxwell says when hiring people are inviting team members to be on your team, all things being equal, competence, character, everything being equal, attitude wins every time. So just to keep today this podcast, this series interesting, because you know that's what we like to do at the Maxwell Podcast, we're going to start this week by talking about what your attitude cannot do for you. And we're going to leave you cliffhanging on what it cannot do and invite you back next week to see what it can do for you.

You see, in leadership, a lot of people think attitude can make up for important things like competence, experience, or even personal growth, so this week John is going to teach us and encourage us how to navigate what our attitude will not do for us in the area of leadership. Traci and I will come back after John is teaching. We'll dig deeper into the lesson. But until then, if you would like to download the bonus resource for this episode, which are the fill-in-the-blank notes that you can fill out, along with John's teaching, you can go get that at MaxwellPodcast.com/MyAttitude. Click the Bonus Resource button just below the show notes. All right, let's go. Here is John Maxwell.

John Maxwell:  Let me give you some things that your attitude cannot do for you. Remember, attitude isn't everything. It's the main thing that'll make a difference, but it's not everything. In fact, before I give you the things that your attitude cannot do for you, there's a statement in your notes I want to make sure you get, and that is you cannot disconnect attitude from reality and expect success. That's what happens. People many times never look at the reality of a situation. Remember, Max De Pree said the first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. What happens with people when they get messed up with their attitude is they somehow think that they can deny reality and somehow attitude will change what is. It won't. Never has, it won't.

So let me share some things with you today that your attitude cannot do for you or my attitude cannot do for me. Number one, your attitude cannot substitute for competence. Think about it for a moment. Just because you have a great attitude, can I tell you something? If you have a great attitude but you're incompetent, you're never going to get where you think you can get. Here's the statement. Some people confuse confidence, which is a function of attitude, with competence, which is a function of ability. Don't confuse them.

Let me explain it this way. I love to sing. That's the good news. You know what the bad news is? Can't sing. And can I tell you something? I could look at you and say, "I'm going to be an opera singer. I'm going to take lessons. I'm going to take music appreciation. I'm going to hire a special tutor. I'm going to spend thousands of dollars. I'm going to practice three hours a day. I can do all those things. I have an attitude. I'm going to be an opera singer. I'm going to be opera singer. I'm going to be opera singer." Can I tell you something? Three years, thousands of dollars later, thousands of hours wasted, can I tell you, I'm not going to be an opera singer.

There's a problem. It's not an attitude problem, it's a competence problem. You have to have a good voice. That is a minor stumbling block. I've shared with you before, you can increase your attitude from one to 10, but you can only increase your ability two numbers. So here's what I want you to understand. Your attitude has the ability many times to outstrip your ability. And because you have an attitude potential of a one to a 10, it will certainly help you to go for it, and I'm not wanting to discourage anybody as far as trying to reach their dream. That isn't my point. My point of it is, is the fact that you can go from a one to a 10 in your attitude, and you have a great attitude, but if I'm a one as a singer and I'm going to get to a two, maybe a three, and three just isn't going to cut it in the opera.

Andy Rooney has a humorous article on competence, since I'm telling you that attitude cannot substitute for competence. Andy Rooney said, "Incompetence is a God-given gift with which all humankind is endowed." If competency replaced the half-done work we get now, the television repair shops, the kitchen appliance service department, the automobile mechanics would go out of business. If we were all good drivers, insurance agents would be out of work and there would be no need for auto body shops. If we were competent in caring for our own bodies, we'd need half the doctors that we have now.

"Americans have been complaining about incompetence in government. They don't know what bad government is until they have a thoroughly efficient one that does everything it says it's going to do. Do we really want an Internal Revenue Service so good and efficient that they catch every nickel and dime we deduct that we shouldn't? Do we want police enforcing the letter of the law every time we drive 27 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour zone? I contend that we do not. I say that an efficient, thoroughly competent government is not only dangerous, it's un-American. Fortunately, I don't think there's much chance that the level of incompetence in all of us will decline in the foreseeable future."

I love it. And we all have our areas of incompetence. All I'm just saying to you is, attitude can't substitute for competence, because what I run into all the people, I run into people all the time, they say, "Well, he's not really doing a good job, but he's a good person." Well, hooray. Have him for a neighbor, but don't keep him on staff.

Number two, attitude, your attitude, my attitude cannot substitute for experience. There are certain things that experience in life shows us and teaches us that if you're young and you have a great attitude, it doesn't matter. It still can't make up for experience. When I pastored in San Diego at Skyline and had a church that was fairly large, one of the things I realized very quickly is I could no longer afford to hire young staff that didn't have experience in whatever I was going to hire them for, and especially lacked experience in large churches. I couldn't hire somebody that came out of something very small, because they'd get enamored with all the bigness around there and all the stuff that we could do around there, and they're wanting to write home to their mother every weekend and tell her what exciting thing they've learned this week. I didn't need somebody to come on the job, get excited about what they were learning. I needed somebody to come on the job and run something for me.

Then I realized very, very quickly that I had to require somebody to have experience. And they had to have a breadth of knowledge and had to have some experience in a larger congregation, so that when they came, they could really help me instead of me having to just constantly do the training process and bring them from the ground up. Of course, we all have heard and love the quote, "When a person with experience meets a person with money, the person with experience will get the money and the person with the money will get the experience." Isn't that true? Yeah, I mean, attitude can't substitute for experience.

Three, your attitude cannot change the facts. That's just a fact. No matter what kind of an attitude you have, the facts are the facts. If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Basically, don't complain. I mean, there are just some things, although I read a funny one the other day of somebody that wanted to put a twist on the facts like I hadn't seen for a while. It's about a small town weekly paper reporting the results of a horse race at a county fair. Only two horses were entered into the race. One was owned by a local friend of the editor named Darryl Brown. The other belonged to a man named Colburn who lived in the next county, and Colburn's horse won the race. The story in the next week's paper didn't mention that only two horses ran. Instead, here's what it said: "Brown's horse came in second, and Calhoun's horse came in next to last." You can twist it, I guess.

Number four, your attitude cannot substitute for personal growth. Bruce Springsteen said, "The time comes when you need to stop waiting for the man you want to become and start being the man you want to be." And your attitude, my attitude can't substitute for personal growth within our lives, the whole issue that we're going to develop. You just can't say, "Well, I'm going to just have an attitude. And because I have a great attitude, I'm going to become this." Obviously, you've got to grow to this. You've got to discipline yourself. The process.

Number five, your attitude will not stay good automatically. This just a fact. I've written, I think, three or four attitude books now, but my attitude just doesn't stay good automatically. And isn't that disgusting? I mean, don't you some days just look at your attitude and say, "What's happening to me. Why am I thinking this? Why am I doing this?" How many, raise your hand and say, "John, my attitude at times gets out of whack." Wouldn't it be nice if it just could stay good? It's like the farmer said, "The hardest thing about cows, they'd never stay milked. Got to get up every day and milk them again."

Well, attitude's kind of like that way. It just doesn't stay set, does it? It can get out of whack. In my book Today Matters, where I talk about my daily dozen, I talk about the exercise I do in the morning where I go through the daily dozen and I read them aloud, the 12 things that today I'm going to manage. In fact, the first thing I read to myself every day is, today I am going to display a good attitude.

And the reason I do that early in the morning is because if you live in Atlanta here, the traffic is horrendous. So you're going to get out in the traffic pretty soon, and I promise, you get out in the traffic, people are honking horns and it's just amazing. And you're starting to honk horns back. And I'm very impatient. I miss that. When people are coming by and honking their horn and shaking their fist, a lot of times they come by and they raise their hand and they show me that I'm number one. That always amazes me, because I thought, boy, they don't even know me. I wonder if they've read a book or something.

And sometimes they just tick me off and I want to just go back at him and tell them, I think they're number one too. You know what I mean? What am I saying? I'm saying that your attitude doesn't stay the same. It's better to maintain an attitude than it is to regain an attitude. And so therefore, all these things that the attitude is not, they're not going to change the facts about life. If you're five foot two, and you want to be a basketball center, the fact of life, you're not going to be. No matter what kind of an attitude you have, the fact of life isn't going to let you do it.

Mark Cole:       Hey, welcome back to Traci and I in-studio today, listening to John talk about these things that attitude cannot do. And Traci, I've got to go ahead and tell you, I'm so excited about the segment with you, but I can't wait till next week to find out what it can do for me. But I really love what John is saying here, because it really is important for us as leaders to remember our WOO and who we are and what we're about will not compensate for a bad attitude. You can be the most competent person, you can do all of that, and without the good attitude, you're going to be less effective. Let me just start, Traci, because I'm glad you're here, but just yesterday, right before the recording of this podcast, I was on a plane with John. We were coming back from Michigan, and I was working through a particular leadership challenge that I'm having here at the John Maxwell Enterprise.

I'd cast a vision on Monday in our leadership team meeting, and by Wednesday morning we had an operations meeting, and some of the stuff that I said on Monday had been forgotten in the context of trying to get it done, trying to execute. You know how that is, leaders out there. You cast the vision and you wash your hands and you go, "Yes, they got it." And then two days later you go, "Were they even in that meeting that we just had?"

And so I was talking to John, and John said, "Mark, let me tell you something." He said, "I discovered a long time ago that my WOO would truly carry me a long way. I've communicated things, had people not get it, and then come back in with my WOO, because my attitude, my ability to influence people through challenging times sometimes served me more than a clear vision and a competent expertise. And I love what John said there, Traci. And Traci, I've known you now for several years. I've seen you operate in that WOO and in that ability to influence people, even in challenging times. So it's going to be fun talking about this today with you.

Traci Morrow:  I know. As you were just saying that, I was cringing. You guys can't see me, but Mark can see my face, and I'm cringing because ouch, that hurts. For those of you who don't know WOO, you need to take the StrengthsFinder test straightaway, because WOO is one of those strengths that stands for Winning Others Over, W-O-O. And so if you have a personality or a strength where you are winning others over just by being in their presence and loving on them in that moment and just being very present with them, then you know what WOO is. Some of you might be like, "What the heck is WOO?" For those of us who do lean into WOO, and I'm looking at Mark, and we both have that, I know sometimes you can use that when you feel like you're not competent. Just show up and love on them and be very present and hope that they don't notice that you didn't bring competence.

But this is an interesting one for both you and me, because we both have a positive attitude, but that doesn't... I think we tend to be more optimistic than pessimistic by nature, but then, because we've followed John for decades, we have really leaned into developing our good attitude. So it's interesting to start for us, and I'm sure for many of you, with what an attitude can't do for you.

As you look through some of these, Mark, what are some of the points, competence and ability and experience and the facts and personal growth, where can we dive off today where you would say, "Oh, you know what, this one really hit me, because this one is one I had to work on"? Because I think so many people in our audience hear you, they know you, they know how positive you are, and if you do tend more pessimistic, you might tend to look at that and think, well, it's easy for them. They're positive. But Mark Cole has those times, John Maxwell, Traci Morrow, we have those times where it really is a challenge. So why don't you kick it off and share what jumps out at you?

Mark Cole:       Yeah, probably the third point John made, which is, your attitude cannot change the facts. That jumps out to me. I'm going to give you a personal story first, but I'm going to come back and talk about as a leader, how the facts of COVID-19, the coronavirus, has truly impacted our ability to lead. I've led for 35 years, started leading at 15, 16 years of age, and in the last 35 years, I cannot pull from the experience of the last 35 years and lead over the last two years. It's required a whole new set of skills, a whole new set of determination and consistency. And so I'm going to come back and talk a little bit about that, Traci, in leading in the facts of COVID.

But just this morning, I left a little early. I needed to get to the office and get a few things done before we came into studio. And so I went up. A lot of mornings, I will take my daughter Macy to school. She's in 10th grade. I went up to her today and I just had this sense of real appreciation for Macy. She's in the middle of what they call benchmarks in our school system, testing how much they're really learning, and she gets extremely stressed. She has a cheer competition this weekend. We've got a big football game tonight. She's got a load on her, and this girl cares about every one of those, every one of those.

I went up to her this morning and I just knocked on her door. She was ready, and so I went in and talked to her a minute, prayed with her. And I said, "Macy, let me tell you something. My heart is full of appreciation for you today." And she said, "What?" Because I don't start every day like that. I probably should start more, because she was so surprised, to be honest with you. But I said, "My heart is full." And I said, "Here's why my heart is full. My heart is not full because you're beautiful, because by the way, you look beautiful today." I said, "But you didn't choose beauty. God chose that for you." And I said, "I'm not really proud of you because you make exceptional grades. God really compensated you with a brain that really works well." And I said, "By the way, you have smart parents." No, I really didn't say that, y'all. I didn't say that.

But I said, "Macy, I'm not proud of you because of your beauty and your intelligence, I'm proud of you because you choose every single day to care about how you use your skills and your talents." And I said, "I admire you so much." Here's what I was really saying to Macy. Don't deal with the things that are facts. Some of us cannot. I can't control that I have red hair. I can't control that I'm just hoping my hair stays with me. I can't control some of those things in life. Here's what I can control. I can control my attitude. I can't always control the facts.

So when John says you can't control the facts, Traci, I go back for just a moment, and I think about having to cancel major events in our business. I think about the millions of dollars lost or left on the table or wrapped up in contractual negotiations in our business right now. I think about all those things. I really couldn't control those. I didn't choose COVID, COVID chose us. I didn't choose to really want to cancel a bunch of events or change our business model. That happened to us.

What I've been able to choose over the last 18 months is how I respond to that, how I work toward making that a part of a growing, learning, hopeful experience for the people that I lead. And leaders, if I could challenge you on anything in this one point, quit spending so much time explaining away the facts or the excuses around the facts and spend more time demonstrating a powerful attitude in how to get through adversity. That will be a difference maker when you can't control the facts.

Traci Morrow:  Yeah, and that makes me think of when John said it's easier to maintain a good attitude than regain a good attitude. If you could maybe walk us through that process for you. It might even be something that you might not have broken down yet. I'm hoping it has, because sometimes if you do things intuitively or you've been practicing something for so long, it becomes an intuitive thing that you might not even be able to explain the steps. I'm hoping you can. If you start to notice yourself, if you've become self-aware enough to notice yourself going down a mental rabbit trail of negativity in a situation of facts or a situation of your reality, what do you do, Mark, to recognize it, stop it, and head it in a different direction?

Mark Cole:       Well, let me talk about, I'm going to go the self-aware route in just a minute, Traci, but for most of us, understand, the beginning of a negative attitude is a blind spot. It's not a self-aware spot. It's not something that we're aware of. Most of the time, by the time we recognize we have a bad attitude, everybody around us already has known it. They see it coming.

Traci Morrow:  It's true. It's true.

Mark Cole:       They know, oh my, Dad's got it going on. There's something going on. He can't really articulate it yet, but everybody just kind of chill out, because there's a storm a-brewing. Or at work, this is not a great day. I heard a report the other day that an assistant for an executive was being interviewed about why she had two different coffee cups. She had a red coffee cup and a green coffee cup. And she said, "Oh, it's very simple. When I have the green coffee cup out, all of my boss's direct reports knows that it's a good day to meet with the boss. But if it's a red coffee cup, everybody just comes in and turns right around and goes back to their office." In other words, the assistant was warning everybody, whoa, whoa, whoa, there's a storm brewing, and he doesn't even know it.

Let's talk about self-awareness first, because when you are self-aware, I'm going to give you a couple of points, like you said. But if you are not as self-aware as you should be in the area of emotion, and many of us are not, because we just feel the emotion and we don't think about the consequences of unchecked emotion, it's a blind spot for us. Have people around you that have been empowered enough in your life to be able to let you know that you're beginning down a trajectory of challenge and difficulty in the area of your attitude. Again, most of us can avert a bad attitude by putting accountability in our life of people that can see what it's like being on the other side of us.

Now, let me talk to your question, which I think is a great one. When I begin to sense that I have a challenge that there's not a whole lot I'm going to appreciate about a situation that's going, I have two choices, fight or flight. Most of the time, my personality only gives me two choices, fight or flight. Every time I start feeling that and I'm ready to bow up or I'm ready to retreat and just not finish the conversation with my wife or approach the conversation with a coworker, I pause and say, "Mark, there's a third option. There's a third option. You don't have to fight or run. You can actually, with care and candor, you can address this."

And so the first thing that I would tell you is get you a statement to put in your mind before you start sensing that bad attitude or that choice of looking at everything through a negative lens. There's a third option. There's another option out there than the, let's put up our fist, let's go at this, let's verbally engage in demeaning activity. Or, you know what, I'm just not going to speak to you until I calm down. I don't think either one of them are the best option. I think the best option is to calm down and begin to engage.

Once I realize that there's a third option, I very quickly remove the emotion. Now, by the way, this is when I do it well, Traci, because I don't always do this very well. In fact, many times I don't do this well. Then before I deal with it, I remove emotion. The problem with attitude most of the time is emotional, and emotional is disruptive, because we all have different ways to handle our emotion, number one, and we all react with someone else's emotion differently, number two. Get emotion out of it. Stay at the factual level, and keep that attitude in a place to where it is looking for solutions, not identifying problems. I never want to identify a problem with someone else or in my life or in my business without quickly also identifying a solution out of the problem.

Traci Morrow:  So good. Now I want to address our podcast listeners who might be listening to that. And you might be thinking, I have not done a good job at this, and there have been very varying times in my life where I would have heard a message like this and thought, oh my goodness, that he's speaking to me. One thing that I noticed, that when I'm feeling that stress, I hold energy in my body. As I'm feeling something, or as I'm trying to wrap my brain, my brain and my emotions, trying to come to the same place where my emotions aren't ruling, but I feel them to check in with myself. When I hold energy in my body, sometimes you guys can't see me, but sometimes I just shake my arms a little bit, or my fist, just to get the energy out.

And so honestly, if you're like me, and I know a lot of people are wired like this, if you hold that energy, it can affect your attitude. So even if you just drop down and you do a few pushups, or you run in place a little bit to release that energy from your body. You know me, I always got to bring it back to your body, but a physical response of regular exercise really helps your attitude. I feel like it helps me incredibly when I have a lot of things like Macy has on her schedule. That's what my day looks like today too. What is this day? It's a crazy day. We all have a crazy busy schedule. But for me, that means I really need to get my body moving, to release that so that I can clear my head and my emotions settle down.

I love this saying, "Don't listen to yourself, talk to yourself, speak life to yourself." Because naturally when you get into a stressful situation, your attitude starts to go downhill. You start like, this is the worst. I knew this was going to happen. If only he or she had done this. And then you can go down that really easily. And John says this: "When you are in a position where you're trying to find your bearings and help your attitude and your mindset, ask these three questions. What do you think? What do you feel? What do you know?" Because my attitude can really be colored by me looking at how I feel and counting it in my brain as what I know. When I say this is how I'm feeling, but that's not what I know. And what do I think? And then that gets me down to that pattern of speaking life to myself in that moment, and it helps us to bring it back around and take back control of that.

In closing, Mark, he talked about your attitude will not stay good automatically. You might do all this work that we've just been talking about, what Mark advised Macy to do, what Mark himself does, the ways that I work it through, but you can bring yourself up and then drop down. So what do you do, Mark, when you get frustrated and disappointed, when you've already determined in your mind you're going to have a good attitude about this, you're going to bring your A game no matter what, this is your reality, these are your facts, you're still going to choose a good attitude, what do you do when those little things start to creep back in to sweep them away? And does it get easier with time? Because you're such a positive person, is it because you've been practicing these things for a lifetime, for 10 years, for three decades?

Mark Cole:       Yeah. And I do, and I practice it. I always in areas of my struggle, where I personally think that I need to work on, and I've been attributed to good attitude and passion and excitement all of my life. Yet if there was one area that I wish that I could snap a finger and become better at, it would be a consistency in my attitude, because isn't it true, the thing that people notice the most about you is the thing that many times you're the most critical about in yourself? We have somebody on our team. His name is Chris Robinson. Many of you that are in the John Maxwell Team will know Chris. He's a product of the product. He's walked up the ranks, if you will. We don't look at our organization through ranks, but he's walked into our organization by being successful as a coach, speaker, trainer, and now he's the Executive Vice President of all of our entrepreneur solutions.

Chris Robinson has one of the best attitudes of anybody I've met. In fact, those of you in podcast land, consider this a surprise that I can't keep in a bag, but we're getting ready to put a lot of focus on R-E-A-L, which is John's content framework for years. The person that's going to be spending a lot of time on attitude is Chris Robinson. And Chris has not always, he tells me, had a great attitude, but one of the things that you will never find out about Chris is you will not find a way to wipe the smile off of his face, because the way he deals with difficulty is smiling. The way he deals with adversity is to smile. The way that he, Chris Robinson, works through something that feels out of his control is to put a smile on his face.

Did that come natural? Evidently not. I've never known him when it wasn't natural, but it was a work in progress. And I think for all of us, to really understand our attitude will not stay good automatically. We've got to ask the question, podcast listener, this is to you, this is your application point today, how do I continually improve my attitude? Now, the great news is, all of next podcast episode is John Maxwell challenging us on how we can use our attitude to impact our life and our leadership. We're even going to give you some resources next week, shameless plug to get you back next week. But really, you got to understand, before you will really receive everything next week in this podcast, you've got to come to this conclusion: I cannot allow my attitude to go on autopilot.

It will not serve you well if you are not being intentional with keeping and maintaining a great attitude. That's true for John Maxwell, who is king of WOO. That's true for Traci Morrow, who has such a contagious, infectious attitude and personality every time you're around her. It's true for me. And podcast listener, it's true for you. You've got to continually improve, maintain, focus on your attitude.

I hope that today, Traci, we've been able to bring a good attitude to our podcast listeners. That's been our goal, that's been our heart, because that is what it's all about, is helping you to become better so that you will multiply better to the people that look to you in your influence. That's what we do here at the John Maxwell Leadership Podcast. In fact, just this last week, I was with an organization called Monat. They are a direct marketing organization, powerful, powerful leadership culture. It's good to be back on the road, and as I talked to these people over and over again, they came to me, Traci, and they said, "We love the podcast. Every week we take the podcast, we download the show notes, and we teach our team after they've listened to the podcast."

Monat leaders that told me that, which was over a half a dozen of you in one little setting, I've got to, number one, thank you, and then I got to tell you, thanks for being a model, because if you're listening to this podcast today and you're consuming it and doing nothing with it, you've missed the point. We are delivering this to you for it to do something for you. Take it, apply it, listen to it over and over again, and then pass it along to someone else so that they can listen to it too. In other words, share a good attitude today. Share the link to the podcast. Go to MaxwellPodcast.com. Leave us a comment. Let us know what we're doing well. Challenge us to do some things better. We appreciate your feedback. We appreciate your comments.

Hey, we just crossed over 15 million downloads. That's a lot of impact. That's a lot of impact, but podcast listeners, you've seen nothing yet, because we've got exciting things ahead of us, and we want to take you along with us on our journey to excellence and leadership effectiveness. So until next week, number one, choose a good attitude. Number two, figure out how to continually improve your attitude. And then number three, learn to influence someone else with your attitude and pass this podcast along. Thank you for listening today. We'll be back with you next week.

1 thought on “What Your Attitude Can Do for You (Part 1)”

  1. As usual John and Mark where with my on one of my drives, what a treat it was to have Traci join in.
    This one hit home as my attitude is inconsistent, I had just dropped my adult daughter off after having a wonderful dinner where we talked about her desire to start a new career and where we talked about her attitude and how to improve it. Clearly someone was listening in on our conversation and God poked me to take some of my own advice.
    Thanks for the reminder.

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