Attitude – Dr Victor SL Tan


I remember a few years ago, when I was delivering a talk to a room packed with CEOs from different countries in Asia, I posed a simple but powerful question: What kind of work attitudes would you like your staff to have? Their responses to this question can be grouped into five categories which I believe are the main attitudes needed to achieve success in the workplace.

1/ “It Is Possible” Attitude
In the midst of facing a great challenge, when many may become negative, it is always very encouraging to hear an employee say that it is possible to solve the problem. Such people believe that anything is possible if one has the right mindset, the will and persistence to pursue the goal until it is achieved. This kind of employee believes in the philosophy of “whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve”. They simply start by doing what’s needed, then they do what’s possible and next they attempt what was thought impossible. With their effort, perseverance and grit, they soon overcome the odds –stretching themselves from impossible to “I m possible.

2/ “I am Responsible” Attitude 
Many employees are trapped by circumstances, excuses and blame. They become victims due to their attitude of not taking responsibility. However, the moment one takes full responsibility for an outcome, one escapes the clutches of being a victim. As the saying goes, “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to what happens”. When an employee accepts personal responsibility for his circumstances, he increases the power to change them – and takes a step closer to becoming a winner.

3/ “Taking Initiative” Attitude 
There is one thing that most leaders value highly about their subordinates – that is, that they do the right thing at the right time without being told. There are many employees who are too dependent on instructions to do things. Worse than this, some need to be monitored and pressured into doing things. CEOs need employees who are independent in their thinking and who take the initiative to do things and create productive change. Employees should heed President Barack Obama’s words,“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek”.

4/ “Do Whatever It Takes” Attitude 
One CEO confided in me that he gets very upset each time a staff member tells him that he will try his best to get something done. He pointed out that “trying” to do something comes across as lacking in self-belief and commitment. He said that when he selects a leader to do something of significance, he does not want that person to try to do it – he wants him/ her to do whatever it takes to achieve success. That’s the kind of passion and determination he wants his top leaders to have at work. An employee who will do whatever it takes to succeed is certainly a rare breed in organisations, and will be greatly sought after.

5/ “The Solution Driven” Attitude
The truth is, in the workplace and marketplace, all of us are paid to solve problems. Bosses are always on the lookout for employees who possess the right attitude towards a problem. Good employees diagnose the problem, ascertain the root causes and seek possible solutions. They then weigh the pros and cons and select a practical and cost effective solution and implement it. The solution-driven employee is one who has the courage and perseverance to continue to seek solutions to complex or challenging problems.

In essence work attitudes arise from the thinking, beliefs and feelings of the employees about various aspects of work and the workplace. According to a Gallup study, negativity in the workplace costs the U.S. economy between $250 billion to $300 billion a year. The best education, skills and talent cannot substitute for a good work attitude. It is time leaders in organisations spent time to mould the work attitude of their staff to improve their organisation’s performance. “Attitude,” said Winston Churchill, “is a little thing that makes a big difference.” Companies can make a big difference in their performance if they start inculcating the above five most desired attitudes in their employees.

This article was published in the Oct-Dec 2015 issue of Inspire Magazine. Download it here!

Dr. Victor S.L. Tan

Dr Victor SL Tan is the CEO of KL Strategic Change Consulting Group. He undertakes change management consulting and training. He is also the author of 10 management books. Find out more at