“A” for Attitude

by Shana Montesol Johnson

Last week, this blog gave you permission to ignore the conventional management advice and NOT coach the people who report to you — if any of five situations apply.  However, there are times when coaching is a terrific way to develop people and get great work out of them – which is your job as a manager, right?

If you have determined that someone who reports to you has the skills and resources to get the job done, but seems to have an issue with his or her attitude, motivation, commitment, focus, and/or frustration level, a coaching approach can be a great way to help him/her.

Brian Emerson and Anne Loehr, authors of the excellent book, A Manager’s Guide to Coaching: Simple and Effective Ways to Get the Best From Your Employees (aff link), point out that Attitude is the critical component of what they call the Success Equation:

Aptitude + Attitude + Available Resources = Level of Success

In other words, an employee’s Level of Success is determined by their Aptitude (skills, abilities, capacity, knowledge), their Available Resources (tools, equipment, budget, time), and their Attitude.  They define Attitude broadly:

“Attitude refers to things like the drive, confidence, focus, chutzpah, enthusiasm, grit, determination, need, desire, fortitude, and inspiration to accomplish the task at hand.”

To this list I can’t resist adding ganas, a Spanish slang term I picked up as a kid in Mexico.  It means guts, the will to do something, passion, drive.

Examples of situations in which Attitude may be the issue – and in which a coaching approach can be effective – include times when your staff member:

  • Has the skills and resources to do the job, but procrastinates and delivers late.
  • Easily becomes frustrated with colleagues and has trouble getting along with others.
  • Has recently taken on some new responsibilities and lacks confidence.
  • Delivers inconsistent performance – you know he/she is capable of stellar work, but you don’t always see it.
  • Is overwhelmed by workload, stressed, and becoming short with colleagues.
  • Is intimidated by more senior team members and freezes up during interactions with them.
  • Avoids conflict with others to the point that it is affecting his/her work product.

In these situations, your staff member does not need to attend training, or to be given additional resources to get the job done.  Instead, they could benefit from someone to help them reach higher effectiveness by creating a dialogue that leads to awareness and action – which is, incidentally, how Brian and Anne define a coach.

After all, they point out, it is relatively easy to enhance a team member’s Aptitude, or throw Additional Resources at them.  What is more difficult – and ultimately more valuable – is to help them shift their Attitude (as defined above).

Think about your own challenges at work, and those of your team members or colleagues. It’s likely that those challenges are not related to a lack of skills or resources.  Most of us have a pretty good sense of how to do a good job at work, and we generally have the organizational resources we need to do it.  When we become stymied by a work challenge, it’s probably related to Attitudinal factors. It’s kind of like health and fitness – we all know that we should eat well, exercise, and get enough sleep, but something keeps us from doing this.

“The difference between an average manager of people and a star manager lies in the one’s ability to move people to higher levels of success when something is affecting their Attitude (drive, confidence, focus, determination, and/or energy).  This is where the skill of coaching comes in.”  – A Manager’s Guide to Coaching: Simple and Effective Ways to Get the Best From Your Employees

So you’ve determined that what your staff member needs is a coaching conversation.  “But how do I do that?!” you may wonder.  Stay tuned for next week’s blog post.








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