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Business Observer Friday, Nov. 14, 2003 18 years ago

Stephen Garber:Your Attitude is Showing

Garberprovides executive coaching for people and organizations.An attitude is a feeling or an emotional response to one's environment. Attitudes are affected by things such as work activity, people, facts, data, events,

Stephen Garber:Your Attitude is Showing

Have you ever wondered why an idea or course of action that is perfectly obvious and clear to you can run into a brick wall when presented to others? According to author Dr. Stephen Covey, "We see the world not as it is, but as we are." That being the case, it should be no surprise that others often don't see the world as you do.

An attitude is a feeling or an emotional response to one's environment. Attitudes are affected by things such as work activity, people, facts, data, events, trends, change and challenges. A set of beliefs is incorporated into an attitude, but the beliefs may be different for different people. People will, however, still place the same value on life if they have the same attitude or set of beliefs, yet the method of attaining satisfaction and pleasure in life may be different. We judge (negative) or value (positive) life based on our world view.

An attitude is a way of valuing life, a world-view, a paradigm of thought, passion and action. Because we each view the world through the window of our attitudes (values), the hierarchy of our attitudes, passions and needs satisfaction will guide most of our choices throughout our lives.

Understanding a person's attitudes (values) produces several benefits. It helps you understand their view of the world, how to communicate successfully with them, how to persuade them, or not persuade them, to your point of view, why they make the decisions they make, what motivates them and what ingredients need to be present, or you need to make present, for them to be happy at their job.

Before learning to recognize other's attitudes, it is necessary to first learn to recognize your own. The most accurate method of identifying your attitudes is through the use of a personal interests, attitudes and values instrument. Such an instrument measures the following six workplace core values: Utilitarian, Theoretical, Aesthetic, Social, Individualistic and Traditional.

Of the six core values, the top two will become the most prominent filter for evaluating each situation that occurs. When appealed to through a person's number one and two attitudes/values, it's likely that the person will respond positively - provided that person views the appeal as a win/win rather than a win/lose or lose/lose.

The middle two values, third and fourth highest, are situational and the person will only respond positively to an appeal after their number one and two values have been satisfied. The remaining two, the fifth and sixth, will be met with either indifference or negativity. That negativity is usually expressed behaviorally. It's no fun to be around someone with a "bad attitude." What you're seeing the person with the "bad attitude" express is an emotional response to their fifth and sixth (lowest scoring) values for that situation.

To understand the six core values and how they affect your organizations' productivity, picture six team members listening to a management presentation on achieving a new initiative. As the presenter relates the details of the initiative, each team member will filter the information presented to them according to their own highest two core values - their attitude. If you could read their minds, they might be reacting to the presentation as follows. A person with a high:

× Theoretical (the desire for knowledge just for the sake of knowledge) may wonder: "I need to get more information about this initiative in order to feel comfortable about knowing what to do. I wonder where I can find out more about this."

× Utilitarian (motivated by a return on investment of their time, talent and resources) may think: "Boy, is this going to require a lot of work. I wonder if they'll offer me a bonus or other incentive to work hard on this."

× Aesthetic (desire for harmony and balance in all things): "This initiative is going to be a nightmare. We'll all be running around, falling behind and never get caught up."

× Social (The compelling need to help others less fortunate than themselves): "I wonder how this will affect the people in the office."

× Individualistic (The desire for public praise and recognition): "This will give me a great opportunity to stand out as a leader. Others will more easily recognize me as a leader."

× Traditional (Strong need for a system to follow that explains the totality of life) may consider: "This is great. At last an initiative that I can rally behind."

As you can see, all six people view the same experience quite differently - through the filter of their values. I have worked with many organizational clients who routinely maintain behavioral and attitude/value profiles on all their colleagues, and routinely share this information with each other. Organizations that do this find that they create a team synergy and eliminate many personal conflicts in their workplace.

Stephen Garber lives and works in the Sarasota area. Steve provides executive coaching for people and organizations that want to become better executives, improve productivity and build consistently effective relationships. Questions and comments are always welcome at [email protected].

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