Right attitude should be starting point

Whether in life or in a work/customer service situation, a positive attitude is a difference maker.

I recently did a six-day, multi-city trip for work. The last evening of my trip required flying from Kansas City, Mo., to St. Louis, Mo., (and then home the next day following my meeting). After being on the road five days, I was weary of traveling and more than ready to be home.

I arrived in St. Louis and made the trek to the rental car facility. Preferred customer get to avoid waiting in line. However, no such luck, the rental car company was apparently oversold and short of cars. So instead of having a car assigned when I arrived, I needed to go to the counter to get a car assignment (defeating the purpose of being a preferred customer in the first place - but that's another topic for another day).

The facility was very busy with only two people working the counter. It was all somewhat disorganized; the line was long and neither employee seemed the least bit concerned. But then again, neither of them seemed interested in any aspect of customer service. Their demeanor was indifferent -– just there to do a job, nothing more.

Once in my car, the next hurdle was clearing the final check-out/exit process. There was only one person working the exit gate with an active line about 10-12 cars deep. Keep in mind, it’s late and I’m ready to get moving. My turn finally came about.

Now comes the important part. Amidst all the rigmarole, it all-of-a-sudden got better. The young lady working the exit could not have been any more courteous or professional. She apologized for the wait and seemed genuinely concerned about my experience as a customer. I told her to keep smiling and shared some encouragement. Her positive attitude was a difference maker!

As I drove away, I pondered on the importance of attitude. I was reminded of Chuck Swindoll’s timeless explanation:

“Attitude, to me, is more important than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% percent how I react to it. We are in charge of our attitudes.

The emphasis is mine. It serves as a great reminder, no matter the circumstances, we are in charge of our attitudes. Swindoll seems to know our young lady at the exit gate.

Somewhere along the way, she made the decision to come to work with the right attitude. It altered her demeanor and outlook in a positive way. That’s an empowering position –- not only for her as an individual but also for her company.

All of that, though, can seem somewhat intangible. Having a good attitude is vague; it’s hard to define what that really looks like. What really separates people with a good attitude from the rest?

Author Clement Stone provides some help in addressing that question. He mentions the following qualities that go along with a good attitude: integrity, faith, hope, optimism, courage, initiative, generosity, tolerance, tact, kindness and good commonsense. Now those are tangible! They’re characteristics that all of us value and appreciate.

He goes further, though, providing an apt warning when those qualities aren’t apparent. “The wrong mental attitude has the opposite characteristics. With the wrong mental attitude, the driving force of dissatisfaction can be injurious.” Note the intentional, causal order of his phrasing: bad attitude, then dissatisfaction. The implication being a right attitude comes first, that subsequently leads to satisfaction –- not the other way around!

I’m confident our young lady at the exit booth is going to find satisfaction. She has the right attitude, and that ultimately will propel her to excel in everything she does. All of which will translate into touching more lives in positive way and experiencing more success along the way.

It starts with us; the wrong attitude is the first real barrier we must overcome before we can do anything else well or of real value. To that end, one of my colleagues use to have a saying on his office wall that read, “What are you doing to make things better?” The parallel question would be, “Did you bring the right attitude with you today?”

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