Most of the people who work for you are not intentionally trying to do poor work. They aren’t trying to fail in their role, and they aren’t trying to make mistakes. Very few of them are acting on some malicious intention to do harm to the business, nor is it their intention to harm themselves.
Most of the time, and there are exceptions, people are acting out of good intentions.
- That employee who called the client to explain in a somewhat impolitic manner that the problem they are having is their own fault wasn’t trying to make them angry. Their intention was to help the client see that what they are doing isn’t working, even if they lacked the diplomacy and relationship to have that conversation.
- The employee who spent more money on the marketing campaign than he should have, mistakenly believing that if a little is good than a lot is better, wasn’t trying to be reckless or wasteful. His intentions were to drive leads to the business and help the company grow.
Assuming Bad Intentions
When you assume bad intentions, you believe something about the person who made the mistake that is rarely true. When you treat mistakes like they are intentional, you are treating the person who made that mistake unfairly. You are accusing them of something of which they are not guilty.
When you assume bad intentions and punish the person who made the mistake, you may get fewer mistakes. You also get an employee who is afraid to take initiative and unwilling to use their own resourcefulness to take independent action and make decisions. This is how you manufacture unengaged employees who end up being dependents. You are creating employees who wait for your permission to do the job you hired them to do.
Assuming Good Intentions
You don’t have to be happy when people make mistakes. But you do have to help them learn from their mistakes.
When you assume good intentions, you reinforce the idea that you expect the person you lead to take action and make good decisions. You reinforce that you expect initiative and resourcefulness. And you expect them to be open to the coaching that will help them understand how to make better decisions once they have a deeper understanding and more information.
If you understand people you realize that most of us aren’t here to cause problems – most of us want to be part of the solution. The way you treat the people who work for you may mean the difference between someone who believes they can make a difference, and someone who simply wants to stay out of trouble. Who would you rather have working for you?