Leading with Benefit of the Doubt Versus Assuming the Worst
Whether it’s a husband and wife, two brothers, or a direct supervisor and direct report, I can’t begin to count the number of clients I have coached over the years who have pointed their fingers at someone else and blamed them for doing something wrong. While there clearly are appropriate times to hold others accountable for their actions, that’s not what I’m referring to here. I’m referring to senior executives and family business leaders who regularly assume the worst about their team members and colleagues, attributing blame as if the offender has malicious intent and truly wants to bring harm to their organization.
l don’t usually experience people in organizations who are evil or bad. I do encounter folks who have differing opinions about what’s “right” or perhaps use different rationale and logic, thus reaching different conclusions about what actions need to be taken. I also find that people aren’t always aligned and simply respond based on their different priorities.
When we assume the worst in others just because we disagree with them or perhaps because they did something we wouldn’t have done, we destroy our chances for collaboration, and we make it nearly impossible to produce better results together. Instead, we create a predictable future with people pitted against each other, taking sides over what’s right and what’s wrong. This generally comes from very short-term thinking and/or from a single-minded view of the situation.