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Let Me Tell You a Story
Part VII

While serving as UA’s chancellor, I was invited to participate in the M&M Augustine Foundation’s Easter Feed. Each year, on the Saturday before Easter, more than 6,000 meals are served by volunteers. Local businesses provide food and volunteers assist in preparing and serving meals. See for information on the foundation’s wonderful work and its impact.

Picture, if you will, me standing to the right of Arkansas State Representative Sarah Agee. As people of all ages move from left to right past people serving the amazing collection of food items, Sara is responsible for serving carrots and I am responsible for serving green beans. As the line moves steadily past us, I notice that hardly anyone is choosing to have stewed carrots placed on their paper plate. However, everyone is happy to have the delicious green beans that I am serving.

If memory serves me correctly, Sarah’s approach in asking people if they want carrots signaled that she wasn’t a fan of stewed carrots. Perhaps it was her frown or how she phrased the question, “You don’t want carrots do you?”

Finally, I remarked on how poorly she was selling carrots. (I should add that Sarah and I were friends. In sharp contrast to several I could name, but won’t, she was one of the members of the General Assembly who was very supportive of what I was doing as UA’s chancellor.) Sarah said, “No one can sell carrots!”

Quickly, I replied, “Let’s change places. You serve green beans and I’ll serve carrots.”

As people filed past, everyone chose to have carrots. No doubt my emphasis on how much the Easter Bunny loved carrots persuaded each child to take some and I convinced adults that they wanted to set a good example for children by not bypassing delicious caramelized carrots prepared by loving hands of volunteers.

After observing how successful I was in “selling carrots,” Sarah admitted that my approach made the difference. However, she wasn’t willing to swap places and return to dispensing carrots.

The main message of the story is simply this: attitude makes a difference; how you frame an issue can be the determining factor in how successful you are in effecting change. Never forget the importance of the WIIFM factor, what’s in it for me.

Chapter 13 in Why It Matters: Reflections on Practical Leadership addresses twenty-five keys to As in leadership: attitude, alignment, acumen, aspiration, ambition, availability, accountability, allocation, affirmation, anticipation, awareness, attentiveness, alertness, assertiveness, ambiguity, accuracy, adaptability, accommodation, association, arbitrariness, authenticity, acting, achievement, adversity, and ability. The first key in the key-chain is attitude. It’s the most important key. Without it, you can’t unlock the door leading to exemplary leadership.

Attitudes are contagious. Sir Winston Churchill said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” General Jim Mattis, in Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead, noted, “Attitudes are caught, not taught.”  Donnie Smith, CEO of Tyson Foods, told students in my leadership class, “A positive attitude is a force multiplier.” Shelly Simpson, CEO of J.B. Hunt Transport Services, reminded students that attitude and effort are two things they control. Both play major roles in a person’s success in life.

With the right attitude, you can sell carrots!


Next: Let Me Tell You a Story—Part VIII