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Success Article
January, 2001

If You Want to Succeed, Attitude Is Everything

by Debra Pestrak

Have you ever asked yourself, “How can I be more successful?” or “Why am I not further along in my career?” For most women, those are common questions. Unfortunately, because of the lack of female officers in corporate America, ambitious women who want to excel have few role models. The most recent findings show that only 11.9% of the 11,681 corporate officers among Fortune 500® companies are women.

Even worse, few corporate training programs reveal the answers women need on how to excel within an organization. While there is certainly more that corporations could do to encourage women to reach those top-tier positions, the fact is that women need to focus on what they have control over—themselves and their attitudes—if they want to succeed.

A Positive Attitude Is Key

More and more women who reach the upper echelons of corporate America cite having a positive attitude as one of the most important keys to success. The new book Playing with the Big Boys: Success Secrets of the Most Powerful Women in Business illustrates that finding. In fact, all the top female Fortune 500 executives profiled in the book mention the importance of attitude to their careers. To them, success is a mindset, and if you let internal barriers get in your way and disrupt your positive attitude, your career could suffer.

The question then is, “How can you keep an attitude that will allow you to persevere even when things are not going well, when you’re overwhelmed, or when someone is blocking you?” Liz Fetter, President and CEO, QRS Corporation (formerly at NorthPoint Communications), has had to overcome such challenges often in her career. To keep her attitude on track, she recites inspirational quotes to herself when things are getting tough. Her favorite is: “If you know how to swim, it doesn’t matter how deep the water is.” By keeping control of her mindset and attitude and not letting anyone or anything get her down, she has been able to reach an executive level that few women achieve.

Unfortunately, for most women, keeping an attitude that fosters success requires much more than inspirational verses. There are internal barriers that many women create for themselves that stifle their positive attitudes. Very often these women have been conditioned to think of themselves as less than successful and not worthy of the recognition. Successful women have had to overcome these internal barriers as well. Ultimately it’s up to you on how you want to think and believe in yourself.

Believe in Your Capabilities

Successful women feel competent to take on any assignment. That doesn’t mean they have the specific skills to do the job or know everything about it. However, they know they have the basic skills to do any task and can learn the specifics of a particular job. Do they ever question themselves? Sometimes, but their core belief in themselves is always there, and that attitude shows.

When Anne Sweeney, President, Disney/ABC Cable Networks and President, Disney Channel, worked her way up from an assistant position to where she is now, she was always eager to take on new responsibilities, even if it was something she never did before. Why? As she explains, “It is important to always find the unknown exciting.” She was always willing to open a door that someone else hadn’t yet opened. By employing this attitude, her success was ultimately within reach.

Be Resilient

Men are used to playing on teams and sometimes losing. So they play games to win, but when they lose, they move on. This is good attitude training for business. Unfortunately, some women have a tendency to see a loss as a personal blemish, and then they are reluctant to try again. When they take on this attitude, they view themselves as failures rather than realizing it was idea that failed. Successful women, on the other hand, learn from their mistakes or failures and maintain their positive attitude in order to move ahead.

Like most executives, Ellen Hancock, Chairman and CEO, Exodus Communications, has experienced failing moments in her career. But rather than dwell on those times and give up, she learned key lessons from those moments, such as how to stay focused and how to develop her core competencies. “I learned not to stay in my comfort zone,” she says, “and to always watch around me to see what is changing next.” If she would have let those drawbacks deter her ambitious attitude, she may not have attained the success she has today.

Promote Yourself

Women are taught as girls to be social, inclusive, and not to brag about what they accomplish. As a result, they may not be prepared to accept compliments. However, being able to promote yourself is a key factor to a successful attitude. For example, if someone tells you that you did a great job, how do you respond? Do you look the speaker in the eye and say, “Thank you”? Or do you look away and lower your head? How you respond (or don’t respond) speaks volumes about your attitude. You may be working very hard, but if others don’t know what you are doing and how it benefits the business, all that effort may go unnoticed.

Too many women wait to be noticed. Jean Hamilton, CEO of Prudential Institutional, states, “It’s important to talk about your accomplishments, not in a boastful fashion, but in a way that makes them clear. Some women have been a little less willing to promote themselves. There are a lot of decisions we all have to make every day about who should be promoted or who can do the job well. Obviously, the more that we know about an individual, the more likely we will be to consider them. I would advise women to make sure that, in the right way, their successes in the corporation are understood.”

Take a Proactive Approach to Your Attitude Today

As you can see, attitude isn’t simply about how you feel. It also encompasses the things you do that show your feelings and beliefs to the world. When you’re not afraid to embark on new endeavors, when you can learn from your mistakes, and when you’re confident enough to promote yourself, you exemplify the attitude that fosters success.

Every day, every moment you decide how you want to feel, think, and act. This is your own personal choice, not anyone else’s. This is the one thing you have total control over in your life. It’s the only thing! What decisions and choices will you make from this moment forward? Will you choose to love life, grow and prosper, feel terrific about who you are and what you are capable of? The freedom to choose is yours. Choose to maintain the attitude that attracts success.

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Success Tip

You choose how you think and act.
Only you will determine your success.

Nobody can do it for you.
Nobody will do it for you.
You have to take the actions to make it happen.

Your life will be what you make of it.
The path to your success and fortune are in your hands.
You can take steps each day to reach your goals and dreams.

Take responsibility for your actions and decisions.
Set a higher standard for yourself.

Great Quotations from Great Women

“Remember no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

— Eleanor Roosevelt

Available Now!

Playing with the Big Boys: Success Secrets of the Most Powerful Women in Business may be ordered from the Products page or by calling toll free (888) SUN-3777 or 760 434-3343. Also, the full candid audio and videos interviews with the Most Powerful Women are available.

Debra has also developed a two-day program focused on what it takes to be successful in your career. Contact her at 888 SUN -3777 for more information on this dynamic program.

About the Author

Debra Pestrak is a peak performance expert, an award-winning motivational speaker, and author of Playing with the Big Boys: Success Secrets of the Most Powerful Women in Business and Playing with the Big Boys & Girls in Real Estate. Debra is founder and CEO of Success Unleashed, Inc.®, a company dedicated to developing powerful programs that impact the way people think and work. Pestrak was a player in corporate America for 26 years, working her way up the ranks from a telephone operator to managing a $20 million budget. She also has instituted and led sales organizations, and is the past president of the National Speakers Association – San Diego. To discover more performance advice, contact the author at 888 SUN-3777.


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