This morning, my world was a world of poo. That isn’t a metaphorical way to say anything had gone wrong – quite the opposite in fact. I simply mean that we have five new girl puppies in the house (they are 5 weeks old), and last night was my turn to be the puppy-sitter. It was all going rather well, with no cries for food until gone 06:30 am which is when I let the puppy-mummy Grace into the puppy-pen to feed them.
Great, thought I, the pups are being looked after by their mum so I can stumble into the kitchen and make myself a delicious Earl Grey tea to get my day off to a perfect start. By the time the tea was made I returned to the living room to find Grace had finished feeding the pups and wanted to get out of the puppy pen- those little pups are cute but they have got very tiny but very sharp teeth so the days of having a ‘comfort suckle’ on mum are over! I let Grace out of the pen and put some chew toys in for the pups to play with and decided to tackle the dishwasher back in the kitchen as the pups scampered about the pen and played – content and full of milk (the pups not me…).
This morning I learned something about synchronisation. Before the SAS or Navy Seals go into battle, they synchronise their watches. When lovers walk, they synchronise their steps. My little pups – they synchronise their poos!
I returned to the living room to a scene of carnage so stomach churning and disgusting that even HBO would not be brazen enough show it in Game of Thrones – it made the Red Wedding look like a family picnic. The pups were still scampering and rolling around the pen – but they had all been for a poo. And as any of my pups will tell you – there is no point in doing a poo unless you have a dance in it (which some did) – although some don’t dance, but they do paint – so they had painted little puppy paw prints on the wall, and made trails across the paper on the floor of the pen. And they are jolly and inquisitive little girls, these pups, so when I get over my shock and awe and get in the pen to try to start cleaning up- they scamper over to me to so they can see what I am doing, and try to help. One started to drag some ‘decorated’ paper over to show me what she had made for me – another stuck her face into the open packet of baby wipes I was using to clean another pup’s feet – one started to nibble my toes, another tried to climb up me and the fifth lay dozing with a smug grin on her face – I’m sure she was the one who painted the wall.
In his book, The Ideal Team Player, Patrick Lencioni talks about a type of person he calls: The Accidental Mess-Maker. These are individuals who don’t have great people skills but they do have a realistic view of themselves and others and they are driven. As a result: they want to help – they do get involved and volunteer for things but their colleagues and leaders have to spend time following them around apologising to all the people they offend, upset or misunderstood. That’s my pups right there – accident mess-makers the lot of them!
As I was cleaning up the puppy poop, I thought that it was a great metaphor for leadership. John Maxwell calls it the Law of Addition: Leaders add value by serving others. Being a leader is not about being served- it is serving others. I once worked for a business in the city of London where all the directors took their turn to clean the kitchen and collect the cups off everyone’s desk at the end of the day. I once worshipped in a church where the senior pastors were the ones who cleaned the offices and the toilets each week. Eleanor Roosevelt said: “It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself.” Leaders lead the way- they show how it should be done. Show, not tell. Tell can come after show but tell on its own does not work.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed some danger signs in my attitudes – warnings that I need to look out for. They tell me that I’m not living the Law of Addition in the way that I should if I want to be an effective leader. Things like:
- Getting impatient or resentful with other people
- Thinking certain tasks are beneath my position – and usually this is hidden inside the thought – why am I having to do this – Bob should, not me.
- And finally – not knowing what those around me really value.
Let me explain what I mean in that last one: If I don’t know what you value, how can I help you achieve it? If I don’t know what you value – how can I give it to you? If I don’t know what you value – I don’t really know you. And IF I don’t really know you, then my attitude towards you as your leader is wrong. I can’t add value to you if I don’t know what you value or what you need!
Attitude is everything. When I am interviewing people to join me team – I care much more about their attitude than I do about their aptitude. It’s much easier to teach people new skills than it is to change or correct their attitude. It’s attitude that governs how we respond to stress, it’s attitude that determines how we respond to failure – and success. I believe it’s attitude, above all things, that determines our success levels. Having a teachable attitude, a willingness to learn from mistakes and so on…
Some people have good attitudes, and as a result they fly high in their careers – they succeed and lead well. Attitude determines our confidence levels and charisma.
The attitudes that successful people chose the take – and it is a choice – is the subject of my course HIGH FLYERS. I have found, and perhaps you will too, that working on my attitude not only improves how I feel but also how others respond to me and as a result this affects how successful I am.
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If you agree that attitude is everything, HIGH FLYERS will help you develop winning attitudes.