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Has anyone ever accused you of having an attitude problem?
I hope so.
If you don’t have an attitude problem, I encourage you to develop one. For your sake. For the sake of your organization. For the sake of the nonprofit sector. You can even make it your 2014 New Year Resolution.
I’m not suggesting you cultivate a bad attitude. Instead, I’m encouraging you to shake up the status quo regardless of what others might think. I want you to challenge conventional wisdom in an intelligent way.
Remember, if some of our ancestors had not had an attitude problem, we’d still be living in caves.
Let me share two stories that will illustrate what I mean.
I quite fondly remember the very first time someone told me I had an attitude problem. It was Mrs. Imperiali, my first-grade teacher. Mrs. Imperiali, her real name, asked the class, “What’s the smartest animal in the world?” I immediately raised my hand. When Mrs. Imperiali called on me, I confidently answered, “Dolphins.”
My response puzzled my teacher. She asked, “Why dolphins?” I told her, “Because they don’t kill each other for no reason.”
Mrs. Imperiali snapped, “Mister, you have an attitude problem!”
I need to point out here that, when I was in the first grade, it was during the height of the Vietnam War. I guess Mrs. Imperiali didn’t appreciate what she believed was the anti-war sentiment of my response. However, since I believed in my answer, I did not take my teacher’s criticism as a negative. As a result, I’ve worn the attitude-problem label with pride, not shame, my entire life.
In case you’re wondering, the answer Mrs. Imperiali was going for was “humans.” As it turned out, she had designed her lesson plan to demonstrate that humans are part of the animal kingdom. Oh well.
A couple decades later, I met Carol Buchanan Daws at the Academy of Natural Sciences. Like me, Carol had an attitude problem.
As the Assistant to the Museum Director, Carol was responsible for the back-office processing of museum memberships. Despite being the oldest natural science research institution and museum in the Western Hemisphere, the Academy only had a token membership program and no Director of Membership.
Carol saw an opportunity to grow the membership program. She repeatedly told her boss about the potential of the membership program. Unfortunately, the Museum Director was content with the status quo. So, Carol did the only natural thing she could do: She kept nudging him about it.
Finally, when the Museum Director was sufficiently annoyed or, perhaps, convinced, he appointed Carol Director of Membership.
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