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NEWS | May 25, 2010

Attitude is a force multiplier … or divider

By Col. Monty R. Perry 89th Operations Group commander

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven."

Whether serving in a formal or informal leadership position, or working in a subordinate role, there are numerous attributes contributing to your level of success in that position. Job knowledge, energy, selflessness and discipline are just a few. Without a little of each of these and many other fundamental traits, you will undoubtedly struggle.

However, as I continue to gain experience, I've become a firm believer that the single most important attribute people need to possess is a strong positive attitude.

Do you know someone who never seems happy unless they're complaining about something? You know the type. They're the first person to find the faults in everything, but don't have the will to remedy anything. This person will be the one who's always talking about how great their last assignment was and can't wait for their next one. But, as for the one they're currently in ... you only hear the complaints.

Do these questions conjure up thoughts of a specific person? Maybe a co-worker, friend or acquaintance?

Switching gears just a bit, have you ever met someone who can always find the 'good' in a given situation? They turn lemons to lemonade with just their outlook. These people can be found at the opposite end of the attitude spectrum from the first group I described.
This is the kind of person who, rather than griping about their daily commuting experience on the "I-95/I-495 Super Speedway," instead, takes advantage of the time to learn a foreign language listening to books on tape. Instead of letting the lines at the base gates sour their mood, they use the time to formulate their plan of attack for the day's activities.

I've known several people who are members in one category or the other. It doesn't take a genius to figure out how much more pleasant it is to surround yourself with people in the second group. Have you started asking yourself the question yet about which end of the attitude spectrum you're closer to?

As a supervisor, leader and now a commander, I've learned the importance of maintaining a positive attitude and the effect it has on the unit. I've also learned another important lesson regarding attitudes. I used to believe everyone had a right to their own attitude ... good or bad. Wouldn't you tend to agree with this at first glance? Well, it may be true that only you can ultimately control your attitude.

However, that attitude, either positive or negative, is as contagious as the common cold and will quickly and thoroughly permeate an organization. It will have a significant effect on the overall health of a unit and everyone in it.

Since realizing this important lesson, I've begun to consider a person's attitude in just the same way I rate their productivity. It may not seem fair, but I don't believe people have a right to choose to maintain an attitude that will destroy the morale and well-being of an organization.

If you're in a position of having to supervise someone at the 'wrong' end of the attitude spectrum, I recommend against blind tolerance. You can't afford to deal lightly with someone wielding this kind of negative energy. Let them clearly know your expectation at the same time you inform them they're not yet meeting it. It's much easier and more desirable to work with a so-so performer who is excited about the challenge of improving than to deal with a bad attitude from even the most productive individual.

If you feel as though you need help with your attitude from time to time, the sky's the limit on the number of techniques at your disposal. One such technique is to simply take a step back from your daily grind and examine the magnitude of the value of your service ... not only to your unit, but the base, the military and ultimately our nation.

Become involved! When you recognize areas for improvement, become part of the solution. Be a stakeholder and never look at yourself as just an employee working for the military. Remember that we "are" the military.

An anonymous, but acutely perceptive author once wrote, "Our lives are not determined by what happens to us but by how we react to what happens, not by what life brings to us, but by the attitude we bring to life. A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive events and outcomes. It's a catalyst that creates extraordinary results."