How to Train a ‘CAN DO’ Attitude

I have been asked recently ‘how can I train a can do attitude with my staff?’ the answer is surprisingly simple. I thought it was a good idea to share my experience and tips as a follow up from a previous post on LinkedIn.

In a previous life I worked in the RAF as a staff instructor at the School of Physical Training that involved taking square pegs and making them fit into round holes.  As a Physical Training Instructor (PTI) we had to have the ‘can do’ to justify our jobs in the RAF. 

How possibly do we contribute when it comes to the battlefield apart from being a stretcher bearer. When you arrive at PTI trade training it is made clear from the start what behaviours and standards are expected from you. You are given constant feedback positive or constructive to keep you in your lane. The environment for excellence is set and the results and communicated essentially setting you up for success. Once we know this we can focus and spend the time doing the most important thing at the most appropriate time in the most effective way.

Every couple of months I would have a new batch of trainee PTI’s that we had to train to be the best of the best and rise to any challenge. Now not everyone has the positive ‘can do’ attitude you normally associate with PTI’s so we had to train them to make sure it was an automatic instinct, create a new habit not a reaction or a forced response but something they would just bounce out of the seat and say, ‘I will do that’.

How did we do this?  

You guessed it! PUSH UP’s or chest development exercises, not as any type of punishment but as a practical exercise that built long term memory recall.

It started like this:

‘Can I have a volunteer?’ no hands would go up.  

Everyone a quick 50.

‘Can I have a volunteer?’ 1 or 2 hands would go up.  

Everyone a quick 50.

‘Can I have a volunteer?’ maybe 5-6 hands would go up.  

Everyone a quick 50.

Now this would go on for a while until everyone’s hands went up. Once this happened it meant they all got the point.  I wanted everyone to volunteer all the time! Not all the jobs were bad, I would reward them with some great jobs, but they never knew until everyone’s hands went up.

When I was deployed out to Qatar on detachment some years previous I arrived and my first meeting with the Deployed Operating Base (DOB) Commander, the first words out of his mouth were, ‘What is a gym queen doing out on operations?, I don’t want you here.  Get your brylcreem, comb, mirror and jog on!  

What could you possibly offer apart from a mirror?’ (Yes PTI’s can be seen as gym queens or muscle mechanics, who over use brylcreem and look in the mirror occasionally!) I made it my mission to change his perspective and make sure he would need a PTI on every deployment from here on.

To cut a long story short it was the ‘can do’ PTI attitude, volunteering for everything, organising bbq’s, taking out the garbage, stocking the fridge with water, doing the weekly postal runs to the embassy any job I was your man! On my exit interview he said, ‘I need someone like you on every deployment, you are the grease that makes the cogs go round’.  

It was the PTI ethos and attitude that had been trained into me from my training.

What’s the take away from this story?

I’m not saying as a leader you should start giving your employees push up’s for none compliance to get a response, but using the following principles will help;

Set the vision, theme or purpose – What does your team want to be known for? How would you like others to talk about your team? How should we operate as a team? This is essential to align your team to a common theme, it makes sure they are all heading in the same direction.

Set the expectation – Tell the team what you want them to do and what behaviours are expected. It is normally assumed as a new person in the team you know, guess what they don’t! Be explicit set the standards of behaviour and results you want to achieve.

Give feedback – Following on from the previous point, by giving feedback it ensures your team keep on track and are made accountable, it doesn’t have to be a big deal. This makes sure people are kept in their lane and enables them to win.

Model the behaviour – Lead with intention, I would never give anyone something I wouldn’t be willing or could not do myself. (including 50 push ups) Actions are more powerful than words.

Reward – Reward the positive behaviour this creates small wins and builds momentum. A person who is rewarded will deliver twice as much next time and become an advocate.

Ask for feedback – a way of continuously improving and shaping your team behaviours. What made you successful as a team at the start will not necessarily serve you now, landscapes, customers and trends are always changing.

Once these actions take place then you are off to the races!

If you would like to have a chat about how this can help your team feel free to get in touch.

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