“Assuming positive intent” is somewhat of a mantra that I use on a regular basis. Essentially, I operate under the assumption that no one wakes up eager to do a bad job at work. I choose to believe that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have that day.
Beyond this being a personal belief of mine, I encourage organizations to intentionally implement this into their culture. Not only does this curb emotional cycles in the workplace, it fosters a more collaborative environment in general. It also goes to the root of what makes teams thrive- trust.
Jack Gibb's Trust Theory was formed out of a study on group development and centers around the idea that higher trust leads to higher functioning groups. It shifts the spectrum from a “high fear” environment to one that fosters creative, innovative and effective teams.
So how do you establish a culture of high-trust and positive intent?
Start with leadership. Culture is set from the top-down and if employees don’t feel trusted by their leaders it can start a negative emotional loop in the workspace where trust will continue to break down. Leaders need to be frequently checking in with employees in 1:1s not just on projects, but on the person too. If your organization isn’t already, establish lunch and learns where you can continue practicing organizational trust and respectful 360-feedback.
Avoid reacting. In any instance where you feel like you might start to travel down a path of blame, give yourself 1 minute to reflect on your response. Think of three ways you can give the feedback in a way that assumes a positive intent, or better yet think of 3 questions to ask to get to the root of why expectations were unclear or missed. Mistakes are going to happen. Try to approach conflict with curiosity and support.
Have a beginner’s mindset. Try not to assume that someone knows something because that particular task came easily to you. Hopefully, your team is full of diverse individuals who are going to learn things differently. If a problem persists, kick it back to square one and get on the same page. Offer some additional learning resources and pair them up with an accountability partner who might excel in an area they are struggling.
People are dealing with a lot of mental health issues and stress/anxiety with the pandemic. If your company has the means, how can you offer counseling, childcare and further home office flexibility? When you establish a culture of trust in your business, you will get more creativity, open feedback and higher productivity. You better believe that is going to show up in your profits as well.
As always, contact me if you want to discuss tools and resources that could be helpful to your team as you establish your culture of trust.