A coworker does something we don’t understand or agree with, what do we do? We write a story in our head. We create scenarios on what we think the intentions of this person were. We create a story with little real evidence, only perception, “intuition” or assumption. Typically these stories are negative. Typically these perceptions are assuming the worst. Typically these assumptions make us the victim of a conspiracy to cause us harm. Why is that?
Often these stories we write are the result of our own insecurities and fears. They are about our lack of trust in our bosses, peers and co-workers. Lack of trust and our natural inclination to write these stories in our heads cause a significant amount of organizational dysfunction and lost productivity. Look at places you’ve worked. How much of the work day was lost to sharing these stories written about the actions of others? How much time was wasted worrying or being angry at another employee or boss because we made assumptions about the motives behind their actions?
What’s a leader to do in these situations?
Always start with assuming righteous intent from the other person.
1. Don’t allow yourself to live in the false reality of assumptions, perceptions or intuition.
2. As leaders we have an obligation to seek the facts first and not become party to perception and assumption.
Leadership is about stripping away the prisms we and our teams are using that are skewing the facts, undermining trust. By removing these prisms we help reveal real motives and intentions behind actions, behaviors and comments. At times we learn the motives were self-serving or malicious. When this is discovered then the attitude or behavior of that employee becomes a performance issue. To achieve the status of a high performing leader we need to create a climate of trust among co-workers and the organization and work tirelessly to preserve that trust in actions, motives and intent.
An important trait of a leader is to teach ourselves and others to pause these stories we write in our heads and seek facts and understanding first.