Some drilling contractors have discovered that developing a profit attitude among employees can significantly improve an organization's profitability. But attitudes are funny things. They are suggested by the way people walk, the way they smile and react to others, and the effort they put into their work. Attitudes arise from emotions, so they are not rational. They typically are associated with psychological events, meaning they are acquired, not inherited.

Attitudes also change over time. They are contagious, and they vary in intensity from situation to situation. For example, some people are far less successful than they should be simply because they expect to fail. That attitude isn't rational. If those people saw themselves as successful, they would be successful.

Similarly, there are people who are happy most of the time, even when the circumstances of their lives are emotionally devastating. That attitude may not be rational either, but it's certainly more productive.

Attitudes form the basis of ideas, and from ideas, people formulate plans. People act based on the plans they make, and profits - what every contractor wants - are the results of those actions. Attitudes that form the culture of a company are the foundation for the success of that company and for its long-term profitability.

Employees look to the boss to see how they're supposed to feel about their company. Employees evaluate the way they are treated. They are interested in whether they are viewed as a long-term investment or as a disposable tool that could be easily replaced. The bosses are responsible for setting the examples of the attitudes they want displayed. Good managers can teach attitudes and they can speak attitudes.

But the most powerful message managers send about basic attitudes is from their behavior. Managers act attitudes. By being upbeat and energetic, managers communicate pride and self-respect. Good communication indicates interest and accessibility. And remember -- if words are not consistent with behavior, people generally will believe the behavior.

Employees also look to see how the boss treats customers. Are customers treated as if they are something special or are they treated only as a source of immediate income? Does management speak respectfully of customers? Is the company interested in building long-term stability or a short-term cash flow for the owner?

One of the first things to do to develop a profit attitude among employees is to make sure all people understand the importance of profits. In many companies, the people who actually are responsible for getting the work done don't understand the way the company uses its resources.

Many small business owners don't do a good enough job of educating employees about what they stand to gain when the company is profitable. Some managers never explain anything about the company's strategy or profit objectives. The result is that employees don't know how they will be able to benefit if the company is adequately profitable. They don't understand the relationship between profits and compensation, or profits and benefits.

If management wants employees to start thinking profits, it had better start letting employees know what's in it for them. Without profits, the company will cease to exist. Without profits, employees will be out of work.

Management should use profitability as a lever to build pride in the company among employees. The pride developed may well contribute to an even greater profitability for the future.