Jeff Gorman | President | Connect with Jeff on LinkedIn
Suppose you specifically asked someone on your team not to do a task, and a couple of days later, the person did exactly what you asked them not to do. How would you respond? Does it matter who the person is? Would it change your answer based on where the person falls in the org chart of your team?
In the last article, I wrote about the importance of trust within a team and the benefit of healthy conflict, which can arise from a foundation of trust. If your team has a foundation of trust, there should be much more certainty in the reaction to the example scenario. If you trust your teammate, even when they seem to have done something wrong, you will seek to understand why they did what you asked them not to do. Regardless of the person or their role, you would work to understand intention before you passed judgment.
Two things can happen in this kind of scenario when you trust, extend grace, and seek to understand. First, you could find out that indeed there were legitimate reasons for things to change. In this case, you grow the foundation of trust with the teammate by demonstrating that you did not have the default assumption they were deliberately doing things against your direction. You can work together, and even have healthy conflict, based on the legitimacy of their course of action.
Second, you could find out it was a true mistake. In this case, you have still exhibited a foundation of trust by seeking to understand prior to passing judgment, and the ensuing conflict will be healthier because of your empathy. Your teammate will appreciate that you were not predisposed to ‘assume the worst.’ Further, others on the team will also see your approach of defaulting to a position of trust. By showing trust, the level of trust within the team grows.
Extending grace to build and demonstrate trust within the team is about having the perfect balance between empathy and accountability; it is resisting the temptation to assume the intentions of others. It is about being able to care enough about others to hold them accountable while making them know they are valued as a person.
Trusting and extending grace are not about being soft with accountability or responsibility. Trust is not about being lazy about performance management or clarity of expectations. Extending grace to build and demonstrate trust within the team is about having the perfect balance between empathy and accountability; it is resisting the temptation to assume the intentions of others. It is about being able to care enough about others to hold them accountable while making them know they are valued as a person. Stephen Covey is known for the view that people tend to judge themselves based on intention while judging others based on action. This truth creates a fundamental flaw to be overcome if a team is to be built on a foundation of trust.
The next time a teammate does something that does not add up in your mind, rather than pass swift judgment on their action, extend grace seek to understand their intention in the same way you would expect them to treat you. You are likely to find you will build a stronger team, and the conflict within your teams will be far healthier and more productive.