Want to build great relationships? Then start by assuming positive intent

Everyone is different. Everyone is their own unique person.

Just because they don’t think or feel like you, that doesn’t mean that they are wrong. People typically do the best they can. Rarely do people intentionally set out to annoy others or create conflict. If somebody says or does something that makes you feel tension, take a step back and look as objectively as possible on the situation. Assume that they have positive intent. If you only do one thing, let it be this one – assume positive intent.

The positive intent may not be clear to you as you don’t always have the full context or particular experience of the other person. They may have had something happen which has unsettled them, or they may be stressed or under pressure. We don’t always know what is going on in people’s life. However, just because it’s not easy to grasp what the positive intention is, it’s fair to assume there is one. 

I don’t believe that people wake up in the morning thinking “who can I treat poorly today?” Always assume positive intent.

Mary-Francis Winters

When we are intentionally curious and accepting of others, it’s easier to assume positive intent. Our mindset is shifted to a state where we want the best for the other person. We can then more easily be accepting of differing views – and see the value in them. And break down barriers, build relationships of trust, collaboration and courage – where we can make mistakes, learn and innovate, without being harshly judged for daring to try something new or maybe just daring to speak up and challenge.

My failures have been errors in judgment, not of intent.

Ulysses S Grant

Challenging, differing views, when seen with positive assumption, create better dialogue, more perspective and better solutions. 

Create the best possible relationships – assume positive intent.

Let’s embrace the certainty of never-ending Change

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.

John F. Kennedy

Do you ever wish things could remain the same for a while? Do you feel like there’s too much change? Do you wish it could just slow down, even if just for a while? To give you a chance to catch up?

Yes, we probably all have those wishes at times.

Change is all around us though, it’s our constant companion – and for reasons such as fast technical development and globalisation – the speed of change is only getting faster.

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Wayne Dyer

Don’t worry about it. Relax. Make change your friend. No change is necessarily good or bad – it’s only how we choose to look at it that makes it so. So we may as well look for the opportunities in change. Look at change as a door opener, a valuable companion that creates opportunities.

When change is a given, when we cannot change that, then we need to accept it, embrace it and make it work. We need to become proactive – because through proactivity comes a sense of control, which has a calming and strengthening impact on us.

It is also good to question change, to challenge it when needed, to explore and find answers – because there will be times when a proposed change is not the best solution. But when change is a given, when we cannot change that, then we need to accept it, embrace it and make it work. We need to become proactive – because through proactivity comes a sense of control, which has a calming and strengthening impact on us. This in turn makes it easier to deal with the change.

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.

Alan Watts

To be able to deal with change, to lead and manage it, is an evergreen leadership skill, which is more important than ever in our fast-changing world.

If you are serious about developing your leadership capabilities for the future, then focus on how you can lead and manage change better and better.

Here are 5 ideas to get you started:

1

Become an outstanding listener and communicator. Great, effective communication is a must when it comes to change. Communicate, communicate, communicate – keeping in mind that you have two ears and one mouth – communication is a two-way street. Listen first, then talk.

2

Be a great role model for change. People do what you do, not what you say. Think about the impact you have on others; how do you talk about the change? Are you positive, negative or neutral about it – and how does influence others? What are you doing to make it work?

3

Engage and involve people in the change. Change is often perceived as scary and it can feel pointless if we feel like it’s being done to us. By engaging others in a change that affects them, you minimise that fear and you increase the chances of the change becoming a success.

4

Show courage. It’s hard to know the correct answer all the time as things are changing, and yet you need to keep moving forward. This takes courage – to try things out, to test and evaluate, to adjust and improve – and to keep moving forward.

5

Anticipate and lead change. Look around you; be aware of the internal and external environment you are in. What are the trends in the market? What are your competitors doing? What could be improved and changed? Look for opportunities to lead change, and empower your team members to do the same.

Change is indeed inevitable, and that’s just as it should be. You may as well welcome it, embrace it and become a master at it.

Change brings opportunity.

Nido Qubein

7 Tips for steering your Team through the unexpected

Smooth sailing is rare – we are always surrounded by some degree of change.

But at times it’s more choppy than usual; more uncertain than the norm. Leading your team well in those circumstances is more important than ever. Team members may feel worried, angry or frustrated and not perform to their best. So what can you do when you find yourself in turbulent times?

Here are some practical solutions, which you can adapt to your specific context:

1. Meet regularly

Have regular quick check-ins – face-to-face, on video call or phone. Make people feel that they are not alone, that you support each other and are stronger together. Have some fun together and make time for laughter and casual conversations too.

2. Find answers to questions

Uncertainty and turbulence create questions. What will this mean for us? How will we resolve this? How will I be affected? Make sure you create frequent opportunities to talk as a team, so you understand concerns and hopes – and where possible, provide answers. Follow these four principles of dealing with questions transparently:

  1. Try to answer the question.
  2. If you don’t know an answer, say so.
  3. If you cannot answer the question now, make a commitment for when you will and honour it.
  4. If you know the answer but cannot say currently, say so and make a commitment to share information when you can.

3. Focus on strengths

Everyone in a team contributes in their unique way. Give each other feedback based on individual strengths and attributes. When people are able to use their strengths, they are energised, which is a vital resource when faced with uncertainty, as it can give a real boost of innovation and determination.

4. Focus on your purpose

Remind the team of their purpose and how important their role is within the organisation. Stay focused on that purpose and get on with the task at hand. It’s easy to slow down when faced with uncertainty. Keep the team moving forward. Adjust goals, plans and tasks if needed, making sure the team keeps progressing.

Don’t waste time in the “uncertainty void.” Show that it’s okay to make mistakes. Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn (from what went wrong). Use the disruption as a way for the team and its members to develop.

5. What could go right?

There is never just one way of looking at a situation. You probably know people who have expressed that some of their greatest learning, insight and growth have come as a result of (unwanted) change.

Help your team to reframe a situation by exploring what it could bring from an optimistic standpoint. Ask team members to share the moments when they’ve experienced a good result during a time of uncertainty. Use a crisis to pull the team together. Create new solutions together.

6. Balance bad news with good news

When things are turbulent, the news we encounter is typically not very positive, and endless exposure to bad news has an effect on people. It’s hard to stay optimistic when all you read and hear is on the negative side. There is always more good news than is immediately noticeable. Make a point of finding the good news and sharing it with your team – and encourage them to do the same.

A company that banned bad news from the workplace during the recession found that it increased performance. People were of course allowed to read what they wanted to outside of work, but they decided that it wasn’t the focus they wanted people to have while at work. The results? Higher productivity, employee engagement and sales.

7. Celebrate Success

To celebrate successes is always important, but particularly so when facing turbulence. That’s when the pat on the back and sense of achievement can really make a difference. Say thank you. Celebrate the milestones and encourage continued effort. Take care of each other. Be proud of your team – and show it.

A version of this article was first published in City AM in 2017.

Video: Celebrating our 7th book award in style – in virtual style

We are so very proud to have received our 7th* book award, Finalist in the Book Excellence Awards’ Leadership category!

This is the first award for our third book “The Leader’s Guide to Impact” published by Financial Times Publishing 2019.

We live in unprecedented times, all around the world. The COVID-19 pandemic is horrific, impacting people and societies everywhere. Our thoughts are with everyone who is affected.

And in all of this, it is important to stay strong, hopeful, resourceful and grateful. Not every day will be brilliant but together we can do a lot to make each day matter, taking it a day at time, finding solutions to the challenges we face.

On Friday evening we enjoyed this virtual book award event. It is particularly important to celebrate at this time, we all need to notice the things to be happy and grateful for. And we, of course, couldn’t do it without Julian and Rich, who have cheered us on from the start.

AND we wanted to share it with you too, as a reminder that we all need to stop and value the good things in life, especially at a time like this.

Cheers! Stay safe and strong! x

*Other awards:

’The Team Formula: A Leadership Tale of a Team who found their Way’, MX Publishing 2013. has received two awards: London Book Festival runner-up & Indie Book Excellence Book Awards Finalist.

‘Leading Teams 10 Challenges 10 Solutions’, FT Publishing 2015, has received 4 awards: Book Excellence Awards Winner, Best Book Awards Finalist, Axiom Business Book Awards Bronze & International Book Awards Finalist

Book Award for The Leader’s Guide to Impact

We are very excited and proud to share that our third book “The Leader’s Guide to Impact” has been honoured as a Book Excellence Awards Finalist in the Leadership category.

These Awards honour books that have high quality design, writing and market appeal.

Our purpose with writing leadership books is to support leaders around the world in making the most of their unique leadership style – and that’s why this award is so important to us – it allows us to support more leaders through greater reach.

Thanks for reading and sharing!

You can buy the book in all online bookstores including

Amazon UK 

Amazon USA

The Book Depository (free international delivery)

Bokus Sweden

Amazon Germany

Amazon India

Booktopia Australia

Loot South Africa

Work/life balance or not?

Christine wanted to encourage her team’s work/life balance, so she kept telling her team members to not work too late, but instead go home at the end of the working day and spend time with friends, family and on hobbies. The team members were really pleased, they had a very positive reaction to this message and responded by leaving the office shortly after 5 most days.

However, after about a week, they noticed that they had received late evening emails from Christine almost every day. This confused them, as her actions didn’t match what she was saying. Why is she working late while telling us not to? She’s clearly not meaning that we should go home at five. So what else is she meaning or not meaning? Can I trust her?

To top it all off, Christine decided to reward a couple of people who had been working all hours on a project, late at night and into the weekends. Now the team members were really confused.

This short story from ‘The Leader’s Guide to Impact’ (FT Publishing 2019) highlights how easily good intentions become confusing platitudes if not also role modeled. The old expression “walk the talk” still rings true.

Ultimately, people don’t do what we say, they will do what we do. Leadership is contagious.

And as leadership is the act and art of influencing, we are all leaders.