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Product and Topic Expert
Product and Topic Expert

Around this time, most of us are reflecting on our achievements in the past year, while planning for the next. I'd like to share a simple management model I learned from a mentor that I've adapted for use with my clients as a career and leadership coach. It involves aptitude and attitude.

For managers leading teams, this 2x2 model evaluates members based on levels (high or low) of the criteria of aptitude (proficiency in performing work) and attitude (approach and manner towards performing work).  The four quadrants below show the actions that managers can take with team members they evaluate as having either high or low levels of aptitude and attitude.

High Aptitude

High Attitude


Low Aptitude

High Attitude


High Aptitude

Low Attitude


Low Aptitude

Low Attitude

(Let Go)

This is a very simple model, and because of this I initially raised a few objections:

  1. Very simplified view - people are more complex than that.

  2. Binary categories - people's aptitude and attitude is more a lifecycle and spectrum of changes.

  3. Limited use - not all people are managers.

  4. Danger of bias - labels tend to follow individuals even when they have changed.

  5. Subjective - especially when it comes to evaluating an individual's attitude.

However, I soon realized that this simple model can help guide managers when they need to quickly determine a course of action for managing team members. More importantly, the model gives me, and most of us, a unique perspective into the how we must present ourselves to those who evaluate our performance, whether it is our managers or our clients.

Aptitude in functional skills can be learned through various modes of training and education. The criteria I'm more interested in developing is attitude. You may know from my interviews with entrepreneurs years ago (sorry, videos were removed when blogposts were migrated a couple times), that they also thought focusing on developing the right attitude was more important aptitude. And just to connect the dots, read my last Coach's Corner blogpost to learn why adopting an entrepreneurial mindset is especially important in this time of our lives. I'm only saying that the method of developing aptitude is more clear-cut, and managers have the responsibility to provide resources and training for it. Attitude is something individuals have control over, although it is not as clear what exactly the 'right' attitude is or how to overcome the pitfalls of being misjudged.

Taking into account the shortcomings I've listed above, these are a few strategies I've developed to make this simple model more useful for both managers and individuals:

  • Understand team culture - the expectations and protocols established by the team's leader should guide you. Fortunately or unfortunately, team managers create the culture and influence the career trajectory of their team members.  Will your questions or ideas be viewed as helpful, or will it be viewed as disruptive and obstructive?

  • Reduce subjectivity - even good intentions may get misinterpreted. Convert your intentions into observable behaviours, such as raising your hand and speaking up to volunteer or to contribute to a project. Identify outcomes and results that takes the guess work out of demonstrating your willingness to learn and approaching tasks.

  • Develop an entrepreneurial mindset - develop and exhibit characteristics like optimism, ongoing learning, curiosity, goal-drive but willing to try a new path.

Like most things we want to improve, these take effort and practice. You got this!

What strategies can you share to develop or manage your attitude in work and life?


Check out more blog posts in this series: Coach’s Corner.

Photo by Ian Taylor on Unsplash