theMALC

Organizational Attitudes

By Dennis Lawson
Published on Oct 14th, 2009

I have studied the subject of Organizational Behavior for over 20 years. My last article “What is a Learning Community Anyway?” was the first of a series of articles on organizational structure. In these studies, I will clarify and define some of the differences in Learning Communities (like TheMALC) and more classical organizational structures. Dr. Joshua Williams’ research paper, Personality Styles Which Influence Organizational Safety has helped me understand how important individual personality types and attitudes are in defining any organization.

We often use the word ATTITUDE in the Martial Arts. For example, TheMALC in a recent newsletter defined ATTITUDE 1) pertains to and individual’s mental disposition, traits of which can be positive or negative. 2) The postural structure of your body in combat that displays your feeling or mood. Depending on your mood your body language can intimidate or invite aggression. In Mastering Kenpo, Skip Hancock states ATTITUDE is the arrangement of your body or your opponent’s body. It is your and/or your opponent’s mental position or feeling as regards to environment, situation, predicament, or each other. In Dr. Williams’ article he refers to research (Murphy 1994) which classified individual’s attitudes into these three categories:


Complainers --- usually voice concerns to express displeasure; not to make improvements. They regularly find fault with the organization and their fellow members.

Core Beliefs: Others cause their problems, there’s always something wrong, change is inherently bad --- it won’t improve things anyway, people don’t have control over their lives

Primary Feelings: Anger, resentment, doubt, frustration, fear


Sideline Spectators --- seldom voice their concerns, as they perceive their actions will have little or no consequence on the organization as a whole. They seldom get involved in change making or other initiatives.

Core Beliefs: other people will solve important problems, change is unnecessary, most problems are “no big deal”, and people have little control over their lives

Primary Feelings: Tired, uninspired, unemotional, detached, indifferent


Champions --- express their concerns constructively and work effectively with others to make improvements. They have a positive outlook toward other members and the organization as a whole.

Core Beliefs: There’s good in most situations, problems create opportunities for change, change is a sign of growth and development, and people can control their own lives

Primary Feelings: confidence, happiness, contentment, optimism.

Using the above models, we find that numerous Champions at all levels of an organization creates a healthy culture. Sideline Spectators and, especially, Complainers continue to create a negative and unhealthy culture, not only for themselves, but for the entire group.

In common usage, ATTITUDE refers to a person’s internal state. It is a schema or internal pattern of thinking. We are unable to directly perceive what a person is thinking. We can only infer his cognitive position (attitude) from his external behaviors, such as posture, tone of voice, etc. Poor individual attitudes often manifest in organizations where optimal communication strategies aren’t used. Classically structured Martial Arts organizations often have poor methods of resolving conflicts between members, or members and administration. This one area (disputes) has been the impetus for the creation of numerous “splinter” organizations. Often, these “new and improved” groups have the same old beliefs (internal pattern of thinking), attitudes, and similar methods of conflict resolution. This is one example of how an “organizational schema” becomes internalized. Negative attitudes can last for years and can easily be spread to others. For a culture to remain healthy; all associates must be able to voice a concern, support an initiative, and especially, feel that they are heard. For any community to thrive it must foster the development of Champions, now and in the future.

What makes a healthy culture?

Coaches and especially Leaders must:

  1. Solicit input from associates and respond to them in a timely manner

  2. Create opportunities for members to get involved in, manage, and profit from projects

  3. Encourage discussions between and within organizational levels. Increase the frequency and quality of one-on-one discussions for all associates

  4. Own up to past mistakes and create positive change in the present. This helps develop a better future for all concerned.

  5. Treat all mistakes as learning opportunities not as occasions to blame or punish.

  6. Demonstrate and teach respect, even (especially!) when it is not reciprocated


Filed under Philosophy and Opinion

Author Bio :: Dennis Lawson

Dennis Lawson has trained for 4 decades in Ed Parker's Kenpo. During his varied career, Mr. Lawson has been an IKKA Regional Director for Region #3, has acted as Master of Ceremonies for the International Karate Championships, and has published numerous articles in publications for the International Kenpo Karate Association, The Martial Arts Learning Community (TheMALC), and Kenpo 2000.

Mr. Lawson has had the opportunity to study other Martial Arts and holds advanced rank in Aikido and Takemusu Aiki Budo. Dennis taught, competed in, and promoted events in the New Orleans area for 20 years. Among his list of favorite achievements is choreographing and performing Kenpo for the Dance Council of New Orleans. His academic background in psychology and love of music allow Dennis to offer a unique and entertaining approach to tailoring "the Art" to the individual. Dennis has taught seminars in Ireland, Jersey Channel Islands, The Netherlands, Portugal, and throughout the United States.

Dennis holds a Sixth Degree Black Belt in Ed Parker's Kenpo and was awarded the title “Professor” under the auspices of The Martial Arts Learning Community (TheMALC). Mr. Lawson was inducted into the International Black Belt Hall of Fame as Master Instructor of the Year for 2006.

Other Articles by Dennis Lawson

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