The power of assuming positive intent

Recently a friend asks me about my approach to deal with country/regional culture differences and ways of working? The context of the question is this: working in a multinational corporation, we often come across many decisions made that puzzle us, or even appear to be crazy at first. When we have more and more of these “puzzled” looking decision, we may decide to go with a centralised model of decision making, where each country owns very limited decision making power and they need to get approval from regional/global lead. If this works for you and you are happy with what is happening, then congrats! well there are many ways to solve a problem 🙂

However, if you still want to try the decentralised model, to empower the local/sub team to make their own decision, then I think the first prerequisite would be the assumption of positive intent. 
With a water tight interview process, one would assume that the company could bring in talented and passionate team members. Then it is logical to coach/empower them to do their own job.

“Assuming positive intent” is very hard at first but it would become easier with practice. You may want to try to sleep on it if you find your initial emotional reaction is strong. Try your best to resist the urge to say something, to make a quick decision. I know how tempting that could be, how rewarding it could feel to release your “anger” though the feeling could be short lived.
Many times by always start with the assumption that the other team member must have valid reasons/context behind certain “crazy decision”, we would broaden our understanding and hence our solution is more complete.
Remember your team want it to work as much as you do.

There are many examples like when your team member didn’t response to you on time, instead of thinking that him/her is being lazy, you could assume that he/she has something more urgent to take care of and at the soonest suitable moment, they would get back to you.

Obviously i am not too naive to think that this is true across everyone, in all organisations. Office politics, different personal agendas would lead people to making decisions not for the common good of the team/company. Rather than being discouraged by it, understanding the range of it so that you could factor it in your approach/solution.

Assume positive intent has helped me tremendously in my professional and personal lives. It has helped me to grow, to be a better version of myself over time and I hope it would help you too. So if you haven’t tried it yet, start !


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