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  • Writer's pictureMark Olivito

The Leadership Choice-Attitude: Debbie Downer or Larry the Cable Guy?

Updated: Jul 1, 2022

A classic Old School Principle has to do with one’s ATTITUDE.

Attitude, like HUSTLE is one of the critical CHOICES in life.

Notice I used the word CHOICE.

Optimism vs. Pessimism is certainly an aspect of attitude. Viewing the world through a glass half full lens vs. half empty certainly matters, but it extends beyond this.

There tends to be a very DISTINCT WORK STYLE people bring to the party, with attitude under-cutting that style.

Let’s deal with the two extremes:

Meet Debbie Downer (DD).

Image Credit:

In the business world, we all know DD. At her worst, Debbie can suck the life out of room. She can take a joyous celebration and find tragedy in it. But usually, the Saturday Night Live character is NOT that blatant in real life. But the impact is the same. Signs you may be dealing with Debbie…

  • Risk tolerance, or willingness to change always seems to be minimal. You could be dealing with massive challenges, yet you find yourself always having to “sell a case” to DD why you need to change course.

  • Their lack of change willingness may be rooted in experience, something like trying to teach the old dog new tricks.

    • “Industry norms, been there done that. Can’t work. Not by the book.” Having bad results? DD will almost always go back to the past for solutions vs. plowing new land in the present and future. Works great in stability. In hyper-competitive low margin, low share businesses, this approach can be deadly.

  • More energy is spent telling you why something can’t work, vs. rolling up the sleeves to figure out a new and unique way.

  • Always seems to be a victim of circumstances vs. someone that will identify and solve problems.

Meet Larry The Cable Guy. Known for his Mantra: “Git-R- Done!”

Image Credit: Ticket Master

Larry’s are more rare in the business world, but they exist. When you deal with Larry….

  • Git-R-Done!- The mantra is optimistic by nature. We can do this!

  • Their default position is ACTION. They don’t get distracted by noise and are biased to throw energy at solving a problem vs. complaining

  • Because of the bias for action, they are less likely to get sucked into negative water cooler chatter, dare I say gossip?

  • They are not master delegators; they get DIRT UNDER THEIR NAILS.

Larry and Debbie are the 2 ends of the spectrum with Attitude. Again, you have the choice to associate with 1, both or neither.

Why does it matter?

  • Guilt by association is real. Keep good company, company that accelerates your results, not slows you down

  • Attitude tends to be contagious.

    • Ever engage in a bitch session that lasts 30 minutes longer than “healthy venting.” Then you agree, attitudes, positive and negative can rub off easily.

Action: Try This

1) Find the best representation of Larry in your office. Offer to take him/her out for a cup of coffee or drink at your local tavern. Ask them a few questions that matter.

  • Life Lessons?

  • Where you from?

2) Do the same with Debbie Downer. It pains me to tell you to do the same (invest time and some pocket change).

3) Compare the differences between the 2 encounters. Write down a summary of each meeting. Use a tool from the Old School (Flashcard) to keep it simple.

Most importantly, ask yourself:

If you doubled your time in the trenches with Larry The Cable Guy, and eliminated your time with Debbie Downer, wouldn’t your life change dramatically?

So what are you waiting for?

Attitude Reflects Leadership, Remember The Titans

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