Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Encouragement Sweetens Labour

This week a young friend of mine lost her battle with cancer.  She was a wonderful person, a great motivator; wise beyond her years.  In moments like these we reflect on our own lives and we are reminded of our humanity and indeed our frailty.  As I focus on her life I cannot help but recall her great attitude to life - a key attribute that many of us could model. 

The attitude we portray determines our altitude in life. Zig Ziglar puts it like this:  “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude”.  Many of us are so caught up in our own sense of what is important that we lose sight of what really matters.  In this materialistic world in which we live we often sacrifice good manners in our endeavour to achieve.  What we fail to realise is that good manners is key to our achievements.  We go round in circles trying to find that elusive ideal, only to  return to the basics. The French novelist Alphonse Karr said: "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" (the more things change, the more they remain the same). 

The famous Jamaican saying:  “manners tek yuh thru de worl” (manners take you through the world) could never be more true.  As a child I didn’t appreciate its true meaning and often scoffed at it.  It took me some time to comprehend that my parents were referring simply to the importance of maintaining a great attitude.  When you have a good attitude people go out of their way to help you; they go beyond the call of duty and they show you respect.  A great attitude will enable you to make inroads into places which are otherwise inaccessible.

I recall about 20 years ago I was going through Miami airport and was being accompanied by a friend who was not travelling but was simply assisting me with my luggage.  He followed me all the way to the door of the plane, passing all the checkpoints without a ticket or boarding pass – unbelievable!  I accept that that could not happen today, given the changes in air travel but looking back I realise that my friend got through partly because of his great attitude. 

It is important that business people understand the importance of maintaining a good attitude.  Too often we are insensitive to the needs of our employees, partners and other stakeholders, not realising that a positive attitude will help us get what we want.  People remain in your business not because of the salaries they earn but because of how you make them feel.  Basic manners like “Thank you” and “Please” go a far way.  Show gratitude and let people feel valued and respected.  Good business practice is about achieving win-win solutions but it is not a bad idea to let the other person win sometimes; in the game of life no one wins every time.  Earl Nightingale said:  “Our attitude towards others determines their attitude towards us”.

As an employer myself I have come to the conclusion that the greatest characteristic I value in an employee is a great attitude.  I do not need people who are ill-mannered, arrogant or unwilling to learn, irrespective of any skills or qualifications they may possess.  A great attitude does not mean that one has to be subservient, passive or docile.  A great attitude showcases enthusiasm, passion, leadership, teamwork, zeal. Our attitude is also wrapped up in our body language; if your mouth is saying ‘thank you’, your eyes cannot be stone cold, don’t send mixed messages.  Speak with your body, you can’t fool all the people all the time (Bob Marley). 

Start by loving yourself, it’s then easier to show love to others and your attitude will shine through.  We know that life can be stressful, particularly when we are faced with challenges that threaten our comfort.  It may not be easy to smile all the time but we can learn to love ourselves even in the tough times.  Once we are able to do that, we are more likely to maintain a good attitude, despite the odds.  Maya Angelou gives us great advice when she says: “If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude”.  Our attitude is for us to change; we can decide how we handle a situation - we can choose misery or we can choose love. “Being miserable is a habit. Being happy is a habit. The choice is yours.” (Tom Hopkins).

A good attitude is also the ability to know when to keep your mouth shut.  Thumper’s law states: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”.  That doesn’t mean we have to be hypocritical, it just means that we should endeavour to exercise good judgment and use wisdom.  People with bad attitudes are ugly; their presence is annoying, people are uncomfortable around them and their utterances, though may be factually correct, are undermined by their tone and general sour outlook.  They often feel they are superior to others when in fact they are using their arrogance to hide their weaknesses. 

Dr. Robert Schuller says “You are what you think about all day long”. Our attitude impacts heavily on the quality of our lives; according to Marcus Aurelius, “Our life is what our thoughts make it”.  Give more and you’ll get more; encouragement sweetens labour. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  Develop a great attitude and help make the world a better place; you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.