Assuming Good Intentions
It has been 'one of those weeks'!
While trying to keep a clear viewpoint on all that I needed to complete this week, I heard through the grapevine that another team was trying to make changes to an initiative that I was leading. Without giving much thought to the context of the situation, I immediately assumed the worst and it really threw me off. I became frustrated and immediately developed a negative thinking pattern around the meaning of this information.
It was really getting to me, so I called a trusted mentor who very clearly stated, "Don't forget that you need to assume good intentions - especially as you are hearing this second or third-hand." We continued to talk about my response to this situation for a few more minutes and when I left the call, I took some time to stop and think about my reaction.
As a people development professional, I teach others to not rush to a conclusion and to seek an understanding of the whole picture. If I was teaching a course on assuming good intentions, I would have said that the leader needed to go to the person responsible for this team and have a conversation....leaving any judgement pending until the conversation happened. This would allow clarity around intent and vision for their reasoning. Yet, that's not what I did...
One other question my mentor asked - does this person really know the historical context behind the current decision? I couldn't answer yes to that question.
This last question really hit me because I made a judgement call against someone else without seeking clarification on where they were coming from. I immediately went on the defense and stressed that someone was trying to change what I had been working on.
As I write this today, my perspective has changed drastically. Why?
I went and had a conversation with that leader. I shared the information that was provided to me and the leader responded with their true intent - which wasn't what I was thinking or considering.
I listened. Even though I spoke with that leader, I could have approached the conversation with a closed mind, only seeking to verify that this leader would not be messing with my initiative. Instead, I was open. I wanted to understand their viewpoint. This viewpoint was different than mine, but in the end we were able to come to a positive conclusion that provided benefit for the both of us.
I took some time for self-reflection. Change happens all around us all time time. I am a fan of change. So, even if this leader wanted me to make a change to my work - why should that matter? I realized that when I was stressed and bogged down by all of the events happening at the same time, I went into self-protection mode. I felt like I needed to protect my work and make sure that it was rolled out in its current state because I didn't have time to make the changes that might be recommended.
The last point is interesting to me because this initiative was put together by a team - not just me. This initiative required multiple perspectives to be successful - so why was I all of the sudden against another perspective?
Assuming good intentions is hard. This is a skill, or level of awareness, that I feel like we all have to remind ourselves of regularly. In the end, I created more stress for myself when I didn't need it. If I would have just taken the information and added the "conversation with leader" to my to-do list, I could have moved on with my week and not lose time worrying about what they could have meant.
As leaders, we are faced with so many different situations throughout our week. As we know, issues like these always come up at the 'worst time.' But, I would offer that much of the stress around our assumptions is caused by us and us alone. Assuming good intentions gives us space to listen, space to understand, and then make a decision. If we aren't willing to be open and listen to others, then what are we doing? Once a project or initiative has been completed, do we say, "this is now closed. No more input....ever! 'cause I have more to do!" Or, are we willing to listen and assume good intentions if someone were to bring a recommendation for change relating to our work.
What will you do with this information? Are there areas where you could do better in assuming good intentions?
Let me know in the comments below!
Until next time, Take Care!
Jason Weber is the Founder of SLI Coaching and Consulting. To learn more about Jason and to learn how SLI Coaching and Consulting can support your personal and professional growth, visit www.serveleadinspire.com