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Building a “Whatever It Takes” Attitude On Your Team 

The phrase hung over the doorway of the Pittsburgh Steelers locker room for decades. It has been used over and over again by championship teams from all sports. It’s a mindset. It’s a way of life. It’s an attitude.

“Whatever it takes.”

Yet, after surveying young adults today I’ve observed a hesitancy to embrace this attitude.  While the phrase “whatever it takes” sounds sexy, getting down to actually practicing it is physically, mentally and emotionally hard. When I ask students why they believe their generation hesitates to jump in “head first” with this attitude, their answers vary, but all of them are insightful:

  • I am afraid of being stressed out by the attitude, like I can’t leave without feeling guilty; or over-extending myself or working overtime.
  • I don’t want to be like my dad, who was a workaholic and never had time for anyone or anything outside of his job.
  • I might be taken advantage of by my supervisor or my coach if I have this attitude while I work or play for them.
  • I’m afraid I might fail if I lay it all on the line. And if I fail, I won’t know what to do or where to turn as a failure.
  • I want to keep my options open, so I feel I just can’t sink myself into any one thing. I want to have balance in my life.

My Journey


I bought into the “whatever it takes” attitude at age 23 when I went to work for John C. Maxwell—who expected all of us on his team to practice it in our jobs. My very first employee at Growing Leaders was David Christie, a recent graduate of Pepperdine University. Prior to the job, he’d worked part-time for a production company that made TV commercials. He told me his boss called him one day, saying they were going to shoot a commercial for Toyota Trucks in Honolulu the following week. They wanted a Silverback Gorilla in the bed of a truck for the shoot. David was asked to find a way to get a gorilla in Hawaii in a matter of days.

What I love about David is—he didn’t say:

  • I don’t know how to do that.
  • That isn’t in my job description.
  • That’s impossible. It’s never been done before.
  • No one ever showed me how to do that.
  • The book, “Gorillas in Hawaii for Dummies” has not been written yet.

Instead, he spent several hours searching on the phone and on-line until he figured it out and was able to tell his supervisor the good news. Hearing this, I knew David was the kind of guy I wanted on my team. At the same time, I understand why many young team members balk at our demands for a “give it all up” lifestyle. They fear we don’t really care about the rest of their lives, outside of our requests. So—how do we balance communicating we want them to experience a healthy, balanced life while at the same time getting them to lay it all on the line during practice and games?

I think it’s all in how we sell it. After communicating you genuinely want them to have a healthy, balanced lifestyle—there are specific benefits you can share that may help you sell this attitude to your team members.

Eight Benefits of a “Whatever It Takes” Attitude

As a coach, you may have to “sell” this attitude to your team. Talk over these eight tangible benefits team members gain from possessing this attitude:

1. It generates energy.

I found a “whatever it takes” attitude almost always gives me more energy. My mind tends to live up to expectations and this attitude raises both expectations and energy.

2. It increases creativity.

When I practice a “whatever it takes” attitude, I find my creative juices flow. As my brain knows I have to get something done, suddenly I dig to find the answers inside.

3. It helps you meet deadlines.

This attitude acts like an accountability partner, pushing me to get the job done on time and with excellence. It overcomes my laziness, selfishness and skepticism.

4. It creates a growth mindset.

Carol Dweck taught us all about the growth mindset. Implied in this mindset is the belief that jobs can get done, that our brains can grow just like any other muscle.

5. It positively influences teammates.

When I have a “whatever it takes” attitude, I become contagious with the people around me. Others who might be prone to doubt or give up follow my example.

6. It fosters resourcefulness.

This attitude actually develops the ability to be resourceful. Once again, when we believe a job can get done, we continue looking for ways to achieve it.

7. It builds optimism.

Predictably, a “whatever it takes” mindset begins to cultivate optimism inside me. I can’t practice the attitude without positively believing that somehow I’ll pull it off.

8. It empowers you to reach goals.

This attitude gives me the strength to finish what I started and reach my objectives. It’s the intangible—beyond talent—that pulls me forward and enables me to finish.

The bottom line: with a “whatever it takes” attitude—you can live with no regrets. You can lay your head on the pillow at night and know you did your absolute best.


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Building a “Whatever It Takes” Attitude On Your Team