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Your attitude is everything

Why attitude carries more weight than aptitude in today’s workforce
Blog 91

It’s safe to say that the way we now work has changed forever. Even before COVID-19 hit, many of us were opting for the home office over lengthy commutes, with evolutions in technology and telecommunications allowing us to be ‘on’ wherever we are. Eighteen months into the pandemic, the ways we travel (if at all) and learn are still evolving. Who knows where we’ll be this time next year!

This increasing flexibility has some organisations and business owners biting their nails over an impending talent shortage in the coming years. In fact, nearly 7 in 10 companies around the world are reporting hiring difficulties already. Among the reasons why this is occurring is that people who are great at what they do are considering launching their own business or entering the freelance economy. The pandemic has accelerated our ability to truly work globally in all kinds of new and exciting markets.

Understandably, it puts employers in a bit of a pickle – and chief among their concerns these days is finding people who they can trust to self-manage and drive their own productivity. Right now, if you're considering a career move of any kind, know that your attitude will be looked at closely.

As someone who sits on interview panels and coaches leaders, I've always said 'hire for attitude, rather than aptitude'. There's nothing new there and I’m not alone in this view. A person’s attitude will determine how they make decisions, face adversity and create relationships. Attitude is also closely linked with how likeable someone is. We sometimes don’t give enough credit to how important the 'likeability factor' is. We like people who are enthusiastic, energetic and have a positive mindset. On the flip side, negative people tend to drain the positivity and energy from those around them. The reality is that it’s really hard to change someone’s attitude, but it’s quite easy to build someone’s aptitude.

Aptitude is more about skills, knowledge and talents. Organisations often have a number of programs and initiatives that build aptitude – which are, of course, perfectly suited to people with good attitudes, who are motivated and willing to learn. Yet when a negative or the ‘wrong’ attitude is at play, the impact can be significant. According to studies of new employees published in Mark Murphy’s book Hiring for attitude, 46 per cent of new hires failed within the first 18 months. Almost 90 per cent of these ‘failures’ (where people either left their jobs or received poor performance reviews) could be attributed to 'attitude issues' – such as lack of coachability, low levels of emotional intelligence, motivation and temperament.

Of course, both attitude and aptitude are important. In an ideal world, we’d work with people who have a positive attitude and are competent in their role. But if it ever came down to making a choice between one or the other, I’d go for attitude every time (with the possible exclusion of those situations where there’s zero aptitude to begin with).

With that in mind, it’s worth taking a good hard look at your attitude to see how you measure up.

  • How do you respond to challenging situations?
  • How do you manage conflict?
  • Are you an optimist or a pessimist?
  • Can you reframe your own thinking?
  • How quickly does your energy bounce back after a tough day?
  • Are people naturally attracted to you?
  • Do you respect other people’s opinions and beliefs?
  • Do you easily adapt to new situations?
  • Do you react negatively when things don’t go your way?

If the answer to any of these questions raises a red flag, think about what it says about you and, as a result, the image it’s projecting onto those around you. And whether it might be time to tweak some of the behaviours that make you less than pleasant to be around.

For some inspiration on the importance of attitude, there’s no better place to start than with psychologist Carol Dweck, who has undertaken extensive research on growth mindsets. Check out her TED Talk (10:11) about the power of believing you can improve. And for an interesting spin on attitude, this TED Talk (10:22) by human resources executive Regina Hartley shines a spotlight on employees whose ‘secret weapons’ are passion and purpose.

– Lisa Stephenson, Founder, The Coach Place Global

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