As our children grew up and into their own jobs and families, we’ve lived on a farm several miles from Knoxville, Tennessee. It’s a wonderful place each evening with its pond, the deer grazing in the pasture, a couple of horses and some chickens. We enjoy log home living and fires in the fireplace as we settle in for the night at the edge of a beautiful forest and open fields.

Years ago, I would start for the city to work and need to stop for gas before getting on the interstate. There was only one place available at the time—Melton Hill grocery. It was just an old fill-it-up gas station that was run down inside with an unused eating facility. It was cold and dank. The expressionless people inside its musty walls would take my payment without a smile or acknowledgement, and, after paying, I would hurry back through the dust on the floors, out the old door to my car, and to more personable and life-giving parts of our county. I really didn’t like stopping there and avoided it as much as possible.

One day, an old couple in their late sixties moved a Winnebago next to it, and, at 5:30 in the morning, they opened up the old gas station and began serving whoever would enter. Later, I discovered that they had owned an old diner in a small city nearby for years before retirement, and they had decided to do it one more time. 

I remember the first time I met the lady there. I had forgotten to fill up in the city, and I had to stop there on the way to my office. As usual, I hurriedly opened the old screen door and walked to the register. I didn’t look up, left my payment, and hurried back to the safety of the outside. 

Suddenly, I heard someone behind me with a loud, real, and positive tone say, “Y’all come on back now! It’s good to see your face!”  

As I got back in, started the car, and pulled out onto the road, the words kept coming back to me, “Y’all come on back now! It’s good to see your face!” 

As the weeks passed, this older couple began serving breakfast and added a lunch menu. Soon, there were so many cars and tractor trailer trucks there that it actually became difficult to find a parking place. The inside was bustling with energy, laughter, and the smell of food.  They were doing a ton of business from people stopping or coming from the government plants nearby for lunch. These cars in the past were always traveling by. The previous people running the place had not enjoyed any repeat business, because they didn’t get up at 5:30 a.m., open the diner, or greet people the way that I had been greeted. 

The sales and the profits had tripled and quadrupled. Why? It was the same place and in the same location as before. One important thing had changed, and it was this one thing, this main thing, that made all the difference—the people. They changed the lighting, the environment, the chatter, the greetings, the energy, and the results. Customer visits exploded, parking became a problem, food was consumed, laughter increased, and joy entered this Melton Hill Dam market. 

It’s the same in sports, a family, or for a sales team. Everything changes depending on the coaches, the parents, or the sales leaders. People are either attracted to or repelled by the products and services because of the people—their attitudes make all the difference.

We Control Our Attitude

Victor Frankl, after surviving in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany before liberation, wrote this in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

I’ve seen sports teams change, because the leaders were fired. The leaders who replaced them brought new attitudes to the same players, and immediately they began to win—players who had lost hope and desire under the previous coaches were transformed by the certainty of direction from new, honest coaches concerned for the players, their improvement, and their ability to win ball games.

A few years ago, a close friend of mine was asked to take over a cellular market of stores in northern Indiana. He had done so well in southern Indiana that the Regional Director thought he would make a difference where people were struggling. When he arrived, he realized that the talent there was better than that of the top stores in the south, but they were underperforming by thousands of dollars a month. He spent a week conducting personal interviews with each salesperson and getting to know them as people—their frustrations, desires and goals. He then established standards of behavior and results, clear expectations, and a belief in their eventual success for their benefit and that of the customer. Within three months, the same people began producing at a level that took them 200 positions up the chart to #1 in the nation out of over 300 sales teams. 

All that changed was the leader.

The Transformation Begins With Us

I once had a leader I admired tell me to my face that I was not behaving in a way that was consistent with my beliefs—that I had a negative and prideful impact upon the culture that she led. She admired my talent and hated my attitude. I remember her words searing my heart and kindling a desire to change. I did, and the next year I worked to depress my arrogance and create a positive impact on those around me. 

Why do I tell you this? If the problem is you or your attitudes and beliefs, you can change them. You can work to serve those you lead with clear expectations, respect for them as persons, and belief in their capacity to change and achieve sales goals. You can work to help them increase their incomes and their lives as professional salespeople. 

When you make that change, some will go with you, however some may not want to believe in the new you. There is a potential for turnover, but, at the end of the day, the culture will improve for those on the team and for those who join. You and those you lead will rise up the charts, bring outstanding service to those you sell to, and become a purpose-driven team of people who enjoy winning and bringing great products and services to people. 

You Have What It Takes

Get started now. Decide the new values and beliefs you will embrace with a passion. When you do, you will portray new attitudes for the benefit of those you will lead and the customers you will help. 

You can do this. It isn’t talent. It isn’t the attitudes of those that lead you. It’s your freedom to choose the winning and positive attitudes that will be the right ones in any given set of circumstances. You can control how you choose to serve the people you influence. You can be results-focused. You can lead with humility, You can work hard for the benefit of others. You can be fair. You can be positive. You can believe in the people you lead. You can be clear about the standards you want met. You can desire to win through the success of those you lead.

These are all attitudes, and you can change them. You can transform this year. Start with your own check-up from the heart up. Do this now, and let me know what happens in the next 90 days.  Remember this, I know you have what it takes for better leadership in the year ahead.

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