Believe the best but don’t assume

This is my new axiom coming out of the last several months of difficult conversations, organizational repair, and building a new consensus around God-inspired vision.

I’ve always been a person and a leader who prided myself on believing the best about people and seeing people’s potential over their problems. That’s really good and I don’t want to lose that, in part because the alternative seemed to be cynicism.

However over the last few months I’ve realized at a whole new level that this is not only a naïve approach to life but is also a bit lazy. I no longer believe the only two options are to assume the best or be cynical. I’ve learned there is a third option. Here’s what I mean.

When I make the big ask of a colleague, employee, or a volunteer to accomplish a task, I  should believe that when they say, “Yes” they mean “Yes.” That’s believing the best.

The problem is that if that’s all I do, I don’t know what they actually said “Yes” to. I may have made an impassioned pitch that won their heart but that doesn’t mean they fully understand all the parameters and expectations I have about what their performance needs to look like to get a “win”.

They may work very diligently at what they think I want but if I have not been abundantly clear both verbally and in writing about my expectations all their hard work may be in vain. Worse yet, I will be disappointed with their performance and now we have a relationship gap. At that point, they could feel I’m unfair or that I’m the kind of leader that can never be pleased; simply because I didn’t take the time to clarify the win.

There is no true evaluation without clarity.

What is the win here? If that question is not answered with crystal clarity it is highly unlikely either of us will be celebrating at the end of the project.

Yes, believe the best but don’t assume the person knows your mind unless you’ve taken the time to make it clear in a way they understand.

About keithspurgin

Just a guy with a great wife, fantastic kids, good friends and a really big God!
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