The last few days, I have been on a much-needed vacation. It’s been go go go at work and now, with the news that Emily and I are expecting our third child, a new level of anxiety has exploded into our lives. So, a couple days at home was appreciated by all. Being present during the day with our two kids is great, but I noticed something this week, and what they did reminded me of an encounter at a dealership from a couple months ago. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but it turns out this was a reminder I badly needed.
Every day the kids take a nap from around one to three in the afternoon. For those of you out there without kids, let me tell you; naps are of the upmost importance. Nobody tells you this beforehand, but a tired kid is kind of a selfish jerk. It never fails, when they don’t nap, the afternoon is filled with temper tantrums and unnecessary crying. These were a few of those days.
Tired, crabby kids are nothing new to me, but here is what I found this week: the kids have the ability to choose not to be in a bad mood. They are no different than adults, every situation we encounter, we get to choose how we react. But to watch a child, make this choice, that was something to see. Now let me be clear, this only worked for maybe fifteen to twenty minutes, then I crouched back down to their level and asked them to make a choice again. “Do you want to be happy? Or do you want to be crabby?”
They didn’t choose happy every time, but at least they acknowledged that they had control of their demeanor.
Watching them change their attitudes by choice echoed the dealer group I visited a few months back. There are two dealers located in neighboring cities I am working with. Both dealers sell the same brand of vehicle, and they both have roughly the same clientele. An apple to apple scenario if you will.
These two dealerships were family owned for a long time, and the staff was loyal to the family for years. There was almost no turnover at these stores, a rarity in today’s climate. Family owned stores with solid tenured employees almost always have a solid culture and thrive.
The father of the family, decided it would be best for him, and his family, to sell the dealerships and move on. I am not sure of the particulars, but it rocked these little stores when the they were sold to a major dealer group. They went from “Mom and Pop” to “Corporate America” overnight. It was fascinating to see how they each reacted, the leadership was forced to make a choice how they we’re going to handle the change.
The timing of my arrival put me a couple months after the sale. I spent a few days in one city, then drove to the sister store to spend the time with other location. Talking with both teams, there was a clear difference.
One location was devastated with the new regime, they focused on all the cons of the change. There was a new management presence that demanded better results, there were new policies to follow for HR, and new reporting procedures. All the sudden this lone star manager, had a boss. He was so upset, that he changed his password to “ihatemyjob” on his computer. You can imagine the impact this pessimistic view had on his staff.
The other location was excited with the change, they focused on the clear benefits. There was now support for any technical issues they had. There was money for building and equipment upgrades. There was expertise to bounce ideas off to grow revenue and efficiency. The culture of the store was positive and ready to grow.
There is a well know saying that “perception is reality”. But what I learned a few months back from these stores, is that attitude shapes perception. One store, had a positive attitude and made the choice to have a positive perception of their new situation. The other store, had a negative attitude and made the choice to have a negative perception of their new world.
Is it fair to say; that if perception is reality, and attitude shapes perception, then attitude is reality? I would argue that is the truth.
Here I was, watching my kids make a choice to shift their attitude. Are they going to be happy and enjoy time with me home, or are they going to chose to fall victim to their tired bodies? It would be easier to take the route of just whining. This was no different than watching the two managers a few months ago making the choice to look at the pros or the cons of their new work environment.
The important thing to note here, is that in both situations, the leadership team and the kids, did not have control over how they arrived at the situation they were in, but they did have complete control in their attitude about it. Or, you could say they had complete control of their reality. That is a powerful notion.
Ask yourself, are you in a situation where you need to change your attitude? Are you struggling with a situation at work or home where they may be another side to the story? It is very possible, that the very reality you are struggling with, could be an opportunity in waiting? It might just be an attitude shift away.