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Attitude Is Everything!

For a number of reasons, I am sometimes in a position to make a reasonably confident prediction about whether a candidate will pass the CPHQ exam or not.

In my last three years of professional CPHQ training, I’ve never been wrong about a prediction I made. Not even once. It might seem quite incredible to observers, but it is far from magic.

(I actually find predicting a candidate’s score on the exam more challenging, and therefore more fun, but that’s going into the nitty gritty.)

I rely on a set of factors when I make an assessment, which necessitate sufficient information about a particular candidate. But once I have sufficient interaction with the person, it’s quite an easy call.

One of the most important things I look at is what I call “attitude”—you might have another term for this attribute.

The test comes very naturally in my work as a trainer/coach/mentor: I provide new insights, a different way of thinking about concepts, new information, suggestions for improvement. I sometimes challenge the person’s approach or their understanding of principles or the way they are applied in the real world. I think all these things are expected of a trainer charged with responsibility of advancing an adult learner’s skills and knowledge base.

The immediate response is often telling. More often than not, it will be something like:

“Let me tell you how I do it.”

“I disagree.”

“OK, but…”

A very small minority simply verbalize their subconscious in one word: “No.” 🙂 (I appreciate the frankness.)

It took me a few years to arrive at the following conclusions about this phenomenon:

  1. It is common; more than 50% of all CPHQ candidates who I come across exhibit this type of behavior;
  2. It is a defense mechanism to protect a thinking pattern that the person is comfortable with and/or has taken a long time to develop (and which they are unwilling to change/modify/tweak);
  3. It is also a way to “prove” that they know more, which I think demonstrates lack of maturity (realistically, someone isn’t going to know more of everything than another person)

Moated castleAre you too proud to admit that your thought processes (and therefore, your actions) have been ineffective, inefficient, or wrong? Do you build a moat around your castle to defend against new ideas or suggestions?

Improvement—in any context—comes only with the willingness to change.

Successful CPHQ candidates demonstrate a completely different “attitude.” Their reaction to new ideas is more welcoming than defensive. It’s quite obvious (to me, anyway) that the person wants to learn and/or share their knowledge and skills, rather than prove that they are smarter. I believe most people can tell the difference without too much difficulty.

Identifying a problem (like the one I’ve described above) doesn’t necessarily solve it. The next issue is trying to deal with it effectively—this task has proven extremely difficult because you’re up against usually multiple layers of defensiveness and also mental models that have developed over years and which might have previously served a useful purpose (but which may no longer be relevant). The fact that mental models had worked in the past makes it more difficult for people to change. I have tried several strategies for this situation but they need to be personalized to the individual and they don’t always work. Therefore, it’s probably not useful to discuss them here.

So how does all this help you? Firstly, consider whether you might be exhibiting some defensive traits, especially in the context of acquiring new skills or knowledge. If you are, it may be worth spending some time thinking about how you can gradually open yourself to fresh ideas. The reward will be a much easier path to CPHQ certification.

Womack Rucker, Vice President of Corporate Relations for Adventist Health System, once told me that attitude is everything. He was right.

Attitude Is Everything!

Womack Rucker, Vice President of Corporate Relations for Adventist Health System, gave me this T-shirt in 2005. I still wear it on occasions.

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