Assume Positive Intent

“The team just doesn’t have a sense of urgency.”

Have you ever uttered those words? Or felt the frustration from this preconceived notion? Have you ever wondered why your teams aren’t performing to your expectations? You question whether they just lack passion or simply don’t care? Or maybe they just aren’t into their jobs? Are team members just phoning it in?

Did it ever occur to you that…

Maybe they don’t have the skills necessary to perform the work, and need to be taught? Or maybe they can’t focus due to getting pulled in multiple, conflicting directions? Maybe the user stories are too large, too complex, or too bulky to finish within a sprint? Maybe they are working on outdated laptops, with severe performance issues, and they literally cannot speed up their process? Maybe they don’t understand the expectations due to language, cultural, time zone, or physical barriers? Or perhaps, maybe the sense of urgency was never adequately conveyed because they don’t know why they’re doing the work?

How would asking curiosity-based questions change our internal narrative? The dynamics of our relationships? What if we proceeded based on curiosity, rather than secretly fuming from a place of scrutiny and distrust?

Assuming positive intent (API) is the first step towards strengthening our bonds with our teams, rather than destroying them, based on false presumptions.

I challenge you to try API as your personal internal experiment. Afterwards, reflect on your experience: Did your relationships shift? Did you gain insight about yourself, your team members, or the process? Did you find yourself responding from a place of empathy or concern? How did it feel to assume positive intent – did you feel less frustrated and gain empathy?

This is just one step we can take to strengthen our relationships and build in psychological safety. Not only at work, but in our personal lives as well.

Stay positive! Stay curious!

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