I recently attended an international training conference, where I had the opportunity to see two different presenters speak on virtually the same topic.  Both were very well qualified – experts in their field.  Both had well-designed presentations, and both knew their subject thoroughly.

One had a very successful and well-received presentation.  The other one did not.  What made the difference in the audience’s reaction?


You see, the first speaker made it clear early on that he had a negative attitude, and it permeated his presentation.  He repeatedly made negative comments about his supervisors, the other investigators involved in the case he was discussing, and even the crime victims.  His anger over various problems he was describing and his (apparently) general attitude toward life was communicated quite clearly to the audience, both by his tone, which was generally rather angry and frustrated, and by his use of foul language, including the occasional “F bomb.”  I looked around at the audience while he was speaking (it really was a fascinating topic), and noticed that the majority of them were looking at their phones or computers, or reading the program for the conference. No one asked questions.  He lost their attention about five minutes into his hour-long presentation and never got it back.

Contrast this with the other speaker, who spoke an hour after the first one.  Their topics, covering a specialized aspect of investigations, were nearly identical.  The two presenters, however, and their reception by the audience, could not have been more different.

The second speaker used a positive tone and positive word choices.  He encountered similar problems during his investigation, but his attitude towards them was far different.  Instead of viewing them as roadblocks to his progress, he viewed them as an expected, routine part of the job, using them as opportunities to develop new approaches and try out new ideas. I’m sure he also had frustrating bosses, and probably many of his victims or witnesses were uncooperative; but, unlike the first speaker, he didn’t bring that frustration to his audience.  Instead, he focused on what could be accomplished, rather than what could not.

Attitude makes a big difference.  It often makes all the difference.  Your attitude not only colors your view of a situation, but how you approach problems, and even dictates the words that you choose to express yourself.  A positive attitude shines through in the words we speak and the actions we take; so does a negative one.  As John Maxwell reminds us, “People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.”

Those we lead look to us for guidance on how to handle problems, and the attitude we display colors both our approach and theirs.  The attitude we take towards problems, viewing them either as roadblocks preventing progress, or opportunities to find new approaches, directly affects how successful we are, as well as the success of the teams we lead.

With a positive attitude, you accept that problems will occur as a matter of course, and you maintain confidence that, yes, there is a solution to be found.  Problems have a way of derailing the best-planned project or initiative, but only if we allow them to do so.  A negative attitude expects problems, too, but then allows those problems to control the situation and its outcome.

What attitude do your words reflect? What does your attitude say to those you lead?  What does it say about you?

~ Written by Tony Leonard, Co-Founder- Guardian Leadership