Leadership Skills: Why Assuming Goodwill is Always Good Practice

When a unique occurrence happens again, it pays to pay attention. I learned this recently when two different groups I was coaching raised the same issue during the agreements-building phase (Step 3) of the Team Orientation Process™.

In both groups, members asked each other for an agreement to “always assume goodwill” when observing and interpreting the actions of other team members.

Either I’d never heard this request before or I hadn’t paid attention to it.

It caught my attention this time because in each group this assumption of goodwill sparked a rich discussion that touched on acknowledgment, leverage, mutual support, forgiveness, intention, and grace.

Upon reflection, the assumption of goodwill strikes me as a powerful Leadership Gift tool that’s worthy of adoption.

Checking it against my observations of people who exude their Leadership Gift, I found the assumption of goodwill to be a constant of their behavior.

So what does it mean to request that others always assume goodwill? It means we act from the following assumptions:

1. Knee-jerk negative reactions to other people’s behavior are assumptions of “ill” will — not signs of team health.

2. Teammates are responsible to each other both for their shared intention and the results of their actions.

3. We are wise to interpret a partner’s actions first in relation to her intended results and only then interpret them against some negative result her actions might have caused us.

4. When a teammate’s actions cause us concern, we can assume first that he was so focused on a positive outcome that he was unaware of the problem it caused us.

5. Before retaliating or disciplining, we are wise to check out our observations and assumptions with the teammate. He surely needs to know that his progress caused others to regress.

6. When someone’s positive intentions fuel behaviors that cause negative results for teammates, corrective positive action is in order. We can — and should — help that person  expand his awareness of the results of his actions for others.

7. An assumption of goodwill is both freeing and expansive, while an assumption of ill will (i.e., “It’s a jungle out there.”) drains our energy rapidly and can easily fuel irresponsible
reactions.

So how do people who use their Leadership Gift skills protect themselves against occasional ill will? Easy: they remain open to ill will as a possibility — but not as their primary assumption — and they choose not to work with those who exhibit it.

Wishing a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and goodwill to all.

Get Started With This Week’s 5-Minute Stretch

Consider this: have you divided your world of relationships into two camps:

  1. those few people you’re willing to grant the assumption of goodwill, and,
  2. everyone else?

How can you expand the first camp, not just for this holiday season, but through every day of the year? When will you commit to begin?

Leaders and coaches: Get Christopher’s best team building and leadership strategies collected over two-plus decades of solving teamwork problems for smart people. Attend the acclaimed Creating Results-Based Teams workshop, or get this FREE Special Report while it lasts: The Five Flawless Steps to Building a Strong Executive Leadership Team.

Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.

Posted in Collaboration, Leadership on 12/25/2012 11:02 am
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