A positive attitude starts with math

By Beth Roessner

Mark Schulman thinks a simple math equation can empower leaders and help them build more positive teams: A × B = C.

"Attitude times behavior equals consequence," said Schulman, a drummer-turned-speaker who has toured with big-name acts such as P!NK, Cher, Billy Idol, Foreigner, and more. He will be the keynote speaker at the AICPA & CIMA Employee Benefit Plans Conference on Wednesday, May 11. "[It means] that we cannot control what happens to us so much of the time, but at any moment, you can shift your attitude about what is happening to you," he explained.

As a building block for "perspective," attitude is the culmination of what we see and perceive, Schulman said, and that determines our experiences and our overall views of the world. With a different attitude, people are better able to act and lead.

At the conference, Schulman will talk about how simple, daily attitude adjustments can foster a more creative and supportive workplace culture. Here are a few of his takeaways:

  • Attitude leads to change. To Schulman, the ability to adapt and evoke change is the "rock star attitude."

In the high-intensity realm of showbiz, Schulman has seen firsthand the power of attitude and how tiny, everyday shifts can be a catalyst for change. "You have that choice to use your attitude to drive outcomes," Schulman said.

Every day, Schulman makes conscious decisions about his attitude by directing his energy to be more productive. In less than a minute, Schulman can manifest positive feelings from past experiences. He'll focus on memories that match a certain attitude — joy, for example — and it's those recollections that help drive his mindset for the day.

"I prep my brain my counting backward from five, like it's a rocket launch," Schulman explained. "Five, four, three, two, one. And then I'll close my eyes, clench my fists, and tighten my core so I'm fully engaged mentally and physically. And then I recall a time when I was joyful, involving as many senses as I can."

During the interview, he recalled a memory from over a year ago, when he was celebrating New Year's Eve in Mexico and he and his then-11-year-old daughter sneaked into the pool at night. "I can feel the water was a little bit chilly, and I can hear the echoes of our voices bouncing off the walls. We were having so much fun," he said. As he mentioned the memory, he felt his attitude shift. Schulman practices these memory recalls five times in a row, and that builds his attitude.

  • Embrace change. According to Schulman, you either embrace change or resist it. "Business is constantly evolving, and we either evolve or we atrophy," he said. When leaders fully embrace what is happening around them, they can boost personal outcomes and those of their teams.
  • Change your story. "You're the only person who can change your own narrative," Schulman said. Question your role in the story: Are you the hero or the victim? Is the story a comedy, romance, murder mystery, or a horror story? (The last being "really bad," according to Schulman.) It's your attitude that influences your behavior and sets the foundation of your story. You believe what you tell yourself — so make your story one that's attainable and balanced.
  • Be a mirror to your employees. "You have the power to influence and impact the attitudes, behaviors, and consequences for others by showing them how to do it," Schulman said. The trickle-down effect can occur: When employees see positive, driven leaders, they internalize those traits and learn how to affect their own attitudes.
  • Be a rock star and act. Despite physically demanding conditions and tough schedules, rock stars must adapt and overcome them quickly to ensure they perform at their best. "Rock stars are the ones that transcend any blocks and barriers. They really put their audiences, customers, and clients ahead of their own needs," said Schulman, who teased a story of rock star P!NK that he'll share at his keynote. "Powerful, passionate leaders are the ones that do that."

Frequently, choosing positive attitudes and mindsets can be hard, and constantly putting others' needs above your own could be viewed as draining. It could be seen as a recipe for burnout. However, Schulman believes the opposite — he sees it as energizing.

It's a leader's job "to create a space where people can be the best that they can be," Schulman said. "If that is taken care of, then you are fully functioning and at 100% capacity in your own performance. If you are creating a space of joy, productivity, ease, great communication, synergy — all the greatest attitudes that your employees need to possess so they can progress — that's got to make your life easier."

Editor's note: The AICPA & CIMA Employee Benefit Plans Conference will be a hybrid event this year. Join us at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn., or online May 10–12 for a variety of sessions on the evolving world of employee benefit plans. The keynote address by Mark Schulman will be on Wednesday, May 11.

Beth Roessner is a content writer at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, representing AICPA & CIMA. To comment on this article, contact Courtney Vien at Courtney.Vien@aicpa-cima.com.

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