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The Coaching Corner with Michael Riegel: Meet Them Before You Move Them: Attitude and The Power of Language

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I would often hear managers and leaders say that it’s all about attitude and that, for those team members who might be struggling or not delivering as expected, if they only had a better attitude then their results would improve. I could not disagree more, and I had to learn it the hard way. Attitude can be tricky and is subjective. You might describe it differently than I do, or your colleague, or your manager. What exactly is attitude? As construction professionals, we might be described as professional problem solvers. That was a term of honor to me, but my attitude that went along with it was not always helpful.

Look on the bright side. I suspect that this phrase was in my arsenal in trying to help others through particular situations. It did not really become apparent how damaging that attitude can be until I was the one who did not want to look on the bright side. There will be times when the person you want to help just needs to sit with a challenge. It is important to acknowledge that your colleague or team member may be struggling without encouraging them to see how it will all work out for the best. A better approach may be “I can see how that is a challenge.”

Just relax. We can easily fall into the trap of wanting for others that which we need or want. If you generally remain calm, even under adverse situations, there can be a sense that remaining calm is the right approach. I had to learn from my daughter Sophie that “just relax” was unrealistic, impossible, and dismissive. Even when you are trying to help, you may have no idea what the other person is dealing with. This is particularly true in the last 18 months with the rise in mental health challenges, anxiety, depression, and more. Sophie wrote a book for teens and parents about her mental health challenges called Don’t Tell Me to Relax. Sometimes, the child teaches the parent and I learned that a more helpful approach was “what do you need right now?”

I do believe that a positive attitude generally leads to positive outcomes. A shift in your own approach or attitude to being helpful will likely be noticed and appreciated by those you are trying to help. Trying to force a sunny and positive attitude with those around you may have the opposite effect you really want.

I look forward to continuing the conversation and, if there are any topics you’d like to see covered, you can reach me at 

Michael Riegel


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