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The Servant Leader is servant first...Robert K. Greenleaf

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Give the Benefit of the Doubt

 Michael Nichols

They never came to you – they just believed what they were told. There was more to the story – much more. Not just your side, but the truth.
If only they had asked you.

It’s happened to me, too. My motives have been questioned many times. In some instances, I was aware of the questions. But many times I was not – because they never came to me. Grace was not extended – the same grace desired by every person in the world when wrongly accused.

To be fair, there have been far too many times when I have not extended grace – I’ve jumped to a conclusion. Rushed to judgment.

Yes, we often fail to give others the benefit of the doubt. It’s all-too-easy to perceive one’s words or actions in the worst possible way. I have done so with my wife, my friends, my colleagues. There may be several reasons for this – our inability to trust people, cynicism, self-preservation.

When you don’t offer grace, you categorically dismiss the opportunity to work together toward collaborative solutions. Colleagues cease to function as a team and function, rather, as opponents on the attack. Nothing productive will be accomplished.

Yet, if we are going to grow with purpose, we must give people the benefit of the doubt. If we are going to lead effectively, we must extend grace.

If you’re the leader

People will bring you bad news, rumors, and hearsay. What do you do with it? Ignore it? Believe it? Look into it?
As the leader, there are 3 ways you can set the example for extending grace within your organization.

1. Care for people. When in doubt, lean toward grace. When you have the choice, ALWAYS believe good rather than believing bad.
2. Get the facts. I experienced the greatest disappointment in my career when a trusted mentor – with whom I had spent hundreds of hours and for whom I had extended much grace – chose to believe an attack on my character without looking into the facts.
You don’t have to believe everything one employee tells you about another. Always seek truth. Sit down with both parties. I am often amazed by how the story evolves when all parties are sitting down eye-to-eye.
3. Restore the relationship. It’s easy to forget, most people have far more in common with others than difference. Help the parties focus on areas where they agree. Refocusing on agreements will often resolve the matter and restore the relationship.

If you’ve been hurt

1. Determine if the offender is ready to listen. This is important. If the offender is not ready to listen, addressing the matter may make it worse.
2. Be patient. Repairing the damage takes time. Don’t push. Avoid becoming defensive. Remember, truth needs no defense. Just don’t give up on the relationship – no matter how long it takes.
3. If you’re wrong, admit it. Start with, “You’re absolutely right, it is my fault and I’ll fix it.”
If you’re not wrong, give them the benefit of the doubt. Consider offering, “I may have been wrong. Let’s look at the facts together.”
It’s hard for anyone to argue with that! When you extend grace, you validate the other person’s viewpoint and diffuse the tension. The attacker may ultimately become an ally and end up defending you.
Maybe you’re asking, If I give them the benefit of the doubt am I accepting their bad behavior? While that may be true, remember, a lot of people accepted your bad behavior. Why not extend grace to someone else?

You’ll never regret giving someone the benefit of the doubt. But you will regret, many times over, the times you failed to extend grace.

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ACCESS Family Care

http://www.accessfamilycare.org

What is Servant Leadership?

The skills of influencing people to enthusiastically work toward goals identified as being for the common good, with character that inspires confidence.
--James C. Hunter
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