Make This One Assumption and Improve the Way You Lead Forever
When it comes to people, it is almost always best not to assume anything. That natural tendency to use past personal experiences or information collected along the way to make mental leaps is a terrible practice and will almost certainly lead to someone looking like an ass (as the saying goes). Good leaders often learn early on in their careers that making assumptions will almost always lead to more problems than solutions and so, we regularly and consciously work against our instincts to assume and in most cases, it saves a lot of headaches. However, there is one assumption I encourage every leader to make every day, in every interaction. It'll not only change the way you lead, but it'll also change the way your team follows.
What is it?
Always assume that people are acting with the best of intentions.
It sounds simple because it is! But I can promise you this single assumption is a game changer.
Think for a moment about a time you got riled up about something, confronted another person (or maybe you DIDN'T confront them, which made the situation last longer and turn out worse), where you ultimately found out that you didn't have the whole story and then felt silly or embarrassed for getting upset. That, given the information that person had at the time, their actions were reasonable. Or worse, that it was something you said or did that was easily misunderstood and caused them turmoil in some way, which caused them to act the way or say what they did.
Now imagine that you had approached that same situation by telling yourself that while you didn't yet know why they did/said that thing, you are certain that they had the best of intentions at the time that they did it. You'd approach that conversation differently, right?
Instead of going in guns blazing, ready to set that person straight, you'd go in with from the perspective of connecting, figuring out where the disconnect was, and then coaching that person through it -if needed- knowing that their intentions weren't to cause harm.
Now imagine you go in from the perspective of fact-finding instead of destroying, and you actually find out there WAS malicious intent; that they actually DID NOT act with the best of intentions. While that sucks, but since you've approached the situation calmly and with an open state of mind, you are in a much better emotional state to handle a difficult conversation of this nature.
It's a little thing, to give everyone the benefit of assuming they're acting with the best of intentions, but in literally every scenario it'll improve your ability to lead. For even better results, weave this mantra into the company culture and watch the interactions between your team members improve before your eyes. Departments will work better together, communicate better, and trust each other more if they approach each other from the perspective of assuming the best, while prepared for the worst.
There is real power in giving people the benefit of the doubt coupled with believing the best in someone. Try it and let me know how it goes!