Attitude is Everything.

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Attitude is Everything

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”       —Antoine de Saint Exupery

Our attitudes and beliefs drive our behaviors, our behaviors in turn determine results.  For example, some managers could have the belief that people over 50 are incapable of embracing technology; therefore deciding that anything having to do with innovative technology on a project should be the responsibility of younger IT team members. This could potentially cause problems on the team. There may be older members of the team who are quite tech savvy and some younger team members who aren’t.  We sometimes make assumptions that can be inaccurate and can cause trouble if not clarified. Remember, Steve Jobs was in his 50’s as is Bill Gates.

The See-Do-Get cycle from Dr. Steven Covey’s book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, illustrates how our attitudes drive behaviors that ultimately determine resultsAs an example of how the model works, let’s take a cue from history.

Imagine that we are all physicians in the 15th century. What was the belief system held regarding illness in the 15th century? Where did it reside in the body? Answer:  If you were sick, you were thought to have bad blood – a condition that meant that you were probably evil to some degree. If that’s our paradigm, the way we “see” things, what do we “do” to heal patients? We bleed them. What kinds of results do we probably get? Dead people.

As physicians, we’ve taken the Hippocratic Oath.  We sincerely have a desire to help people. It’s obvious we’re not getting very good results. We determine that we have to “do” something different. If our paradigm doesn’t change– the believe continues to be that illness comes from bad blood–and taking small quantities of blood aren’t working, what should we do? Take more blood out! Possibly get them more involved in their healing process by letting them put their own leaches on. What are the results? Exactly, even more dead people.

Let’s imagine one of us, we’ll call him Louis Pasteur, comes up with a very heretical idea that it’s possible illness doesn’t necessarily reside in the blood, but actually comes from tiny particles in the air that we can’t even see that we’re going to call “germs”. If that becomes our new paradigm, what might we do differently?  Answer: We could separate or quarantine patients so they don’t spread disease. We could begin to sterilize instruments between patient visits. We could wash our hands. If we were to begin to do some of these things, we would eventually get different, and possibly better, results.

Does that mean the paradigm of illness residing in the blood is completely incorrect? Of course not. There is Leukemia and many viruses that are blood-borne diseases. Does it mean the belief is completely correct either? No – as managers we need to be willing to be flexible and adapt our paradigms to a diverse set of facts.

“I have never learned anything from any man who agreed with me.” —Dudley Field Malone  

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