Turbocharging Our Culture with Noble Intent
Recently, I took my leadership team offsite to celebrate our success and do some long-range strategic planning.
The industry is changing quickly, and it is critical to take our relationships to the next level to cope with that change.
Not to mention, to help our company stay ahead of the curve and level-up.
What started out as an exercise to get to know each other better ended with a realization that one of our core values lay at the heart of what has been holding us back from growing as a team.
All this time I thought we were doing a great job hiring and leading to our core values throughout the organization.
However, what I came to realize during those two days, is that we weren’t doing a good job of ascribing noble intent to our fellow leaders when engaging in spirited debate.
To be sure, I have some very strongminded and action-oriented leaders who didn’t just fall off the apple cart yesterday.
They have a full body of experience informing their decisions and opinions and they aren’t afraid to voice and defend their positions.
I’m no different. Having said that, I believe all our leaders want what’s best for our company, but that wasn’t coming through as clearly as it needed to.
That’s where we get in trouble. Leaders tended to get their perspective out there and then dig in with all the vigor of a badger building its fortress.
Sometimes the delivery of an idea left the other leaders with an impression there was no room for debate.
As it turned out, the receivers of the information didn’t feel empowered to fight back because they weren’t ascribing noble intent to the deliverer.
What they did do many times was tell themselves all manner of stories about the intent of the person with the strong opinion, but weren’t seeking to clarify, and weren’t probing for full understanding of the other leader’s opinion.
So, we rallied as a leadership team around a simple concept of seeking clarification by being curious one more minute.
Going forward, when a colleague takes a stance, we have all committed to following up. We are committed to finding a way to express our curiosity in order to completely understand the set of facts and assumptions used to inform the opinion.
We also agreed not to go to the dark side when a perspective is given, but rather engage in honest dialogue with our colleague to get the full picture.
Of course, dialogue, by definition, requires two-way communication. Therefore, the person holding the opinion must also commit to keeping an open mind when they encounter resistance to their original view. We as leaders must be prepared to be open to challenges to our perspectives.
This has two positive effects. First, it makes for better decision-making.
But more importantly, it empowers others to speak truth to power and to feel their opinions matter, creating trust and respect throughout the organization.
There are so many ways this perspective of noble intent can be applied in our every day lives. When that person cuts you off in traffic, perhaps they really didn’t see you in their mirror. When a customer gets hot because it’s taking too long to exit the garage, it could be unadulterated impatience, but it could also be they are late for an important meeting and need to get on their way.
Let’s not be so quick to condemn, but rather, be willing to concede there may be noble reasons for others’ behavior.
It won’t be as easy for you to be curious another minute in these circumstances, but it provides a way to give that person some grace and make the world just a little better by ascribing noble intent.
Lower your blood pressure and let go.