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“The WINNING Edge” - Attitude

Updated: May 22, 2021

This blog provides insight, into what it really takes, to go up the business ladder. There is an adage in the business world which says, “I.Q gets you hired but it’s your E.Q that gets you promoted”.

Talking about Intelligent quotient, if you remember, when you passed out of college, higher the marks, better were the prospects in the job market. But once into the job, marks are hardly of any significance. Be it a multinational company, a Govt institution or a venture of one’s own. It is the Emotional quotient that takes you far and high. Funny, isn’t it, after all the rigorous efforts put in to score high marks, you are told, “OK dude, and just keep that marks thing aside”. Well, that’s how it is.

At the workplace, three factors are of importance. Attitude, Domain knowledge and Experience. If we were to assign a percentage to each of them, how much would you like to give them each? Well, long back, well before our economy opened up, I had asked this to a Senior HR manager of a well-known Public limited Co. He said he would accord equal importance to all three of them.

Few years back while addressing final year students of a well know Engineering College, I posed the same question. The answer was refreshingly different. The score for Attitude was over 50%, followed by domain knowledge and of course experience. Recently, when I put the same question to Business school students the percentage for Attitude went way above 70%. - I’m sure, a few years into the job, the same students will tell you that, “Attitude is everything”. If one has the attitude, all else that is needed can be acquired.

We’ve all heard of The Stanford Business School. It’s acknowledged as the number-One business school in the world. When Stanford business school speaks, the business world listens. Stanford, had conducted a survey among a large number of highly successful people. They were asked, how much of their success and achievements were due to domain knowledge and how much of it due to Soft skills. Astonishingly, 87% ascribed their success to Soft skills and the remaining 13% to Domain knowledge.

But let’s see what’s happening on the ground. What’s the ground reality? 90% of a student’s time, effort and money are spent on acquiring domain knowledge. Hardly any investment goes into seeking and acquiring Soft skills. This, is a universal truth. Huge money is spent on education and next to nothing is spent acquiring soft skills.

And this is no different even among the Ivy League institutions, where ever they be.

Attitude, meaning developing the right mental attitude and acquiring soft skills is really a package deal. If you have the Right Mental Attitude, you will automatically tend to acquire the required soft skills. So they are co-related. One goes hand-in hand - with the other.

Team work, Interpersonal skills, Communication skills, staying healthy, handling stress, Humour at the work place, Decision making, Managing change. These are the Soft skill that one needs to develop as one goes up the corporate ladder. Now, let’s look at most of these.

Attitude – We shall now hear few short stories on attitude. First let’s hear the good ones.

The first one is a real life inspiring story of positive mental attitude of a great mother.

We have all heard of Thomas Alva Edison. One day Edison came home from school and gave his mother a paper. He told her, “My teacher gave this paper to me and told me to give it to you only”.

His mother eyes were full of tears as she read the letter out loud to her child. “Your son is a genious. This school, is too small for him and doesn’t have enough good teachers for training him. Please teach him yourself.”

Many, many years later Edison’s mother died and by then, he was acknowledged as one of the greatest inventors of the century. One day, he was looking through old family things. Suddenly he saw a folded paper in the corner of an old desk. He took it and opened it up. On the paper was written. “You son is addled (mentally ill). We would not like him to come to school any more.” So this was what the teacher had really written.

Edison cried for hours.

He then wrote in his diary.. (of course those days, there was no Whatsapp or Twitter) He wrote, “Thomas Alva Edison was an addled child but by a Hero mother, became the genious of the century.”

Now let’s analyse this. His mother, on receiving that letter had a few options. Most of us would exercised these options. “Complain against the teacher. Complain against the school. Go to an ifluential guy. These days, that means a dirty politician. Or may be seek legal recourse and swear to even close down the school.”

Edison’s mother did none of this. She was determined to make him do well in life. She had a very positive mental attitude. And she set about her task, not complaining to any body. She ---home-schooled her son. Today home-schooling is quite common world over. Educated mothers leave aside their careers and home-school thir children. Incidently, my daughter-inlaw is doing it and is quite adept at it. Edison’s mother must have started the trend and he went on to become a genious. So that was earnest display of R.M.A or call it P.M.A.

Ok, now let’s hear the next one on ATTITUDE. It’s about a farmer.

A farmer, grew award winning corn. Each year he entered his corn in the state fair and each time he won the Blue ribbon. In fact, he won it hands down.

One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something very interesting about how he grew his corn. He discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors.

Living in a highly competitive world, the reporter was surprised. He asked the farmer, “How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors, when they are themselves entering the competition?

Why Sir,” said the farmer, “did you not know the wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. So if I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn”. Can you beat that argument?

He was very much aware of the connectedness of life. His corn cannot improve unless his neighbor's corn also improves. So it is, with our lives and our businesses. Those who choose to succeed in an organization must help others to succeed. The welfare of each employee is bound up with the welfare of all. If we are to grow good corn, we must help our neighbors grow good corn. Just imagine the good act rubs on each one of them. No wonder, that area grew the best corn in the world

In the business world, we say it thus, “Excel in your work, but do not compete with your colleagues. –Do compete with counter-parts in competing companies.”

OK, now let’s hear the bad story. Most often in life, it’s the bad one that’s more interesting. Well,“A bad attitude is like a car with flat tyres”. You can’t get anywhere until you change it.

I’ll now tell you an incident which my friend, an airline pilot, articulated to me. He is a Captain with Etihad airlines. We all know that cabin crew world over, are well trained in manners and etiquette. They never lose their cool even in the worst of times and are always very pleasing and helpful to passengers. This what happened on a flight from Mumbai to Abu Dhabi.

After all the passengers had boarded, just prior to take off, one of the passengers seated in the Economy section of the aircraft summoned the Air hostess. This hostess was a very efficient and senior member of the day’s crew. Even as she reached the passenger, she realized the problem. She could sense it. The lady who had summoned her, had an aisle seat. She was a small built Gujarati female. Next to her was seated a large and heavily built lady of African descent.

The poor thing, the aisle seated lady, was literally compressed in her seat. She asked the hostess if she could find her another seat. The hostess sadly and very politely replied that the flight was full. Meaning the Economy section was full. The hostess also noticed the heavily built lady was least compassionate about her neighbor’s plight. She had purposefully spread herself in the seat, causing distress to the Gujarati lady.

Just then, the Captain announced, “Crew to take off stations please”. So the hostess rushed back to her seat and the flight took off. Sometime after takeoff, the air hostess returned. To every body’s surprise, she asked the African lady if she would care to shift to another seat. Mind you, not the Gujarati lady who had made the request.

The African lady replied with disdain, ‘why ask me baby? She’s got a problem, not me”.

The hostess didn’t say another word. She just asked the Gujarati lady to follow her. Now, the passengers, few of them Gujaraties, got interested in the proceedings. They were watching every move. The duo of the hostess and the Gujarati lady started moving forward. One of the guys said, “She said it’s full? Where’s she taking her?” Another guy, his friend, started counting the seat numbers as the two ladies progressed towards the front. 10, 9, 8, 7. Just then, the hostess stopped. The passengers were all eyes. Someone said, “Oh, the front row in the Economy section”.

But then, the duo proceeded further into the Business class. And somebody shouted out aloud, “Hey, she’s got a business class seat”. Immediately, all the passengers looked at the African lady. Some of them in triumph as if they had themselves got into the Business class.

The episode didn’t end there. The hostess came back to fetch the Gujarati lady’s trolley bag. When the African lady asked her, “Baby, why didn’t you tell me it was a business class seat”. The hostess replied with bluntness and with a sneer in her voice, she said, “you had your chance mam, but you just blew it”.

After the Captain told me this story, I was about to ask him, what all of you must be wanting to know. “Why did the hostess first ask the African female and not the Gujarati one who had asked for the change of seat?”

The Captain said the hostess had only sought his permission for a seat in the business class. He had simply said, “Give it to whomever you want”. The hostess knew, here was an arrogant, big made female. And she needs to be put in her place. She knew in advance what would be her answer. So she just wanted to rub it in.

Knowing air hostesses worldwide, they are trained to behave very nicely and politely with passengers. But this big lady was asking for it, with her bad attitude.

Well this is what happens to people with a bad attitude. More so in the business world. Nobody tends to like them.

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