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Win With the Right Attitude

imagesbyferg / flickr

"If you want outstanding results, you need good people with great talent and awesome attitudes." — John C. Maxwell

The best example of overachieving in sports is the Tampa Bay Rays in baseball. No one expected them to do half as well as they have done thus far. We're not even at the All-Star break, so they have ample opportunity to sink in the standings and/or not achieve the playoffs; nevertheless, they have accomplished much more than was thought possible.

When asked about the reasons for the team's newfound success not long ago, Manager Joe Maddon cited a sign that he had posted in the locker room that says "Attitude is a Decision."

Since their founding in 1998 as an expansion team, the Rays have not performed well. Losing had become a "disease" of sorts, but instead of making a public spectacle of their internal efforts to change the team's mindset—like the Knights management did to Roy Hobbs's team in the movie The Natural—Maddon decided to post the slogan.

In certain instances, the use of publicly posted slogans can work. For example, safety issues in a manufacturing environment are serious business, more serious, some would say, than whether a sports team finishes first in its league. Thus, the mindset may be more open to paying attention to and not making fun of admonishments that are permanently posted on a wall: indeed, you could literally lose your job on the spot if you violate a rule.

And just in case you wondered whether it's just sports teams that care about attitude in the workplace, so to speak, the academic community has embraced the notion as well, and, not surprisingly, devoted academic journal space to describing how to quantify ways in which attitude can be measured in a typical work environment. So Maddon's idea was not really thinking outside the box, so much as making the decision to try to implement change.

There are downsides to slogans, some of them as well documented and memorable as the scene from The Natural.

They can reek of paternalism, or, in the case of Nancy Reagan and the "Just Say No" to drugs campaign, maternalism. [In this instance, programs that led with substance and eschewed slogans such as DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) seemed to have worked better than a campaign that led with slogan.

They can be trite and become the object of derision or satire. Sometimes, even though the person who comes up with the ideas behind the slogans means well, it doesn't sit well with others on the team and you can become easily classified as someone who practices "management by slogan," leaving yourself and your company open to caricature or worse.

In the case of the Rays, there seems to be more going on than just a slogan on a wall. Yes, winning changes everything, but Rays watchers have pointed out that the attitudinal changes preceded the uptick in the won-lost record, which just goes to show that patience goes a long way.

Tags: Goals, Attitude, Motivation, Baseball