08/15/2013 07:03 pm ET Updated Oct 15, 2013

Attitude Drives Success

The West Blue Jays won the baseball championship! What, you never heard of them? Doesn't surprise me, it is my 10-year-old son Cole's Cubs baseball team in Bloomington, MN. Like any great organization, these kids had excellent attitudes starting with the first practice, and I knew immediately they were going to be successful because of it (now talent and coaching also come into play).

A few years ago, we conducted a survey with senior sales leaders and asked them why the top 20 percent of their sales team were the top performers (regarding revenue performance); the number one criteria they highlighted was attitude. For the record, attitude was followed by motivation, accountability, integrity and skill as a distant five. Now, I don't think they were saying skill was unimportant, but the question was why were the individuals top performers. I guess these executives felt if they had the right attitude, they would always get the skills needed to succeed.

Now back to my son, Cole's baseball team: you are never going to have 100 percent attitude perfection. Like any organization, you will have some bad attitudes with certain players just like employees that need to be overcome. As a manager or coach, your job is to create awareness that there is a problem and address it. On our team, we had two brothers that I would characterize as attitude challenged.

Like any coach in professional sports, the first thing they would do when taking over a losing team is try to change the attitudes from loser to winner. They may do that through various different strategies but as a last resort, get rid of the player(s) with bad or losing attitudes. Obviously, you just can't fire everyone with a bad attitude just like we couldn't rid ourselves of these boys with bad attitudes. But you must act to either cut out the cancer or cure it because it can spread to other members of the organization.

It is important for managers and coaches to have some strategies to keep everyone's attitude in check because it is so critical to success. As sales consultants, we spend a lot of time helping teams and individuals with attitude improvement strategies. One strategy might be as simple as suggesting a salesperson stop listening to talk radio between sales meetings (have you ever felt good about the world after listening to Rush Limbaugh's diatribes), or as complex as putting a plan in place to help the individual physically get back in shape (it does wonders for the attitude and energy).

The biggest culprit many times of a bad attitude has to do with the people the individual is associating with. It is funny how many times the individuals with bad attitudes (energy vampires) flock together. In the case of my son's team, they came from the same family.

On a personal level, surrounding yourself with individuals with positive attitudes helps you control your own. Here are some other ideas that will help you maintain the right attitude:

  • Schedule toxic encounters to minimize the impact on you. Let's say you have an old work colleague who loves to call you up and complain about everything. Whenever he calls, you groan inside because his negativity makes it harder for you to do difficult tasks such as making cold calls, digging into a new project or overall interacting with your clients. One solution is to ignore your friend's call and choose a time that is appropriate for you to return the call, maybe on a Friday afternoon when most of your work is done. This does two things: it helps you manage your attitude, and it helps you control when you are going to encounter a toxic attitude.
  • Take the conversation in a positive direction. Try to turn the conversation to a positive place. Ask more questions when the discussion is positive to reinforce the conversation direction and stay quiet when the discussion takes on a negative tone. Reward your negative friend with interest when the discussion is positive.
  • Eliminate the toxic influence. This is difficult to do, but sometimes, for your own health, you need to let go of the negative people in your life. If you know that your experience with someone will always be confrontational, argumentative and unpleasant, minimize or eliminate your exposure to that person. Keep your peace of mind. As painful as it can be to limit or even end a friendship, you will be happier for the decision.
  • Surrounding yourself with positive people makes a difference. Seek out people like Leon Monroe of Atlanta. He is 60-something and has more energy than most people half his age. It is not unusual to receive emails from Leon at 5 a.m. He gets up that early to read and study the Bible every day. Leon says the Good Book gives him positive energy, and Leon transfers that energy to everyone he meets. No wonder he is an incredible success in the insurance field. People love to work with him and for him. People say working with Leon brings your performance up a notch. You tend to have more energy when you're around him, accomplish more work, and want to over deliver service. Even when it's raining, Leon doesn't have a rainy day.

Positive attitudes are contagious. Spread yours around like Leon does and watch the multiplier effect.

Question: What can you do to maintain a positive attitude at work and in life?