A few years ago, I was working on a project for the organization I worked for. Annually, we created staff manuals for our team of about 500 people. These manuals were hundreds of pages – all of which needed to be updated, edited, formatted, and printed. It was not the most fun project that I got to work on, but it was something that had to be done.
I lead a team that worked hard on revamping the manual. We worked with college students and the 3-inch binder we were giving them made them break out in hives and we lost their attention… well maybe it was not that bad, but pretty close. We decided to change the way they were printed in hopes to get a product that was easier to use for our staff throughout the summer.
I reached out to a printing vendor that our organization used fairly often, hoping he could come through for me with a very quick turn around. See, the process to get the information in the manual updated, edited, and formatted took way longer than expected so we were up against a quick deadline to get the manuals printed.
I spent many hours getting the data to the printer and I spent a lot of time communicating how quickly we needed the product. Not only did we need it printed quickly, but we also needed it shipped overnight to Orlando, FL for an event we were hosting
I knew it was a recipe for disaster, and it was all on my shoulders
We got the product in Orlando just in the nick of time. But when we got the product, there were countless things wrong with it that did not match the intentions of the project. I was mad and I was frustrated. I had just spent thousands of dollars to get this done quickly and shipped quickly to get a sub-par product.
I thought – how could the printer do this? How could he give us a product this far off of spec? Why would he deliver such a product when you could tell it was poor quality?
I instantly assumed that he was being sloppy, that he was being careless, and that maybe he didn’t care. I was mad at him.
When I reached out to him to express my frustration – what I realized is that he had actually had the best intentions at heart. As I communicated to him about the project, he heard that speed was my number one priority. He heard me communicate over and over that getting the product on the right date was the most important thing for me. He was doing what he thought was best to fulfill my request. In fact, he was at Kinko’s until early in the morning working to get the project done for me.
What I learned that day is that I need to assume the best of people. Yes, we had some issues that we had to work through – I needed to communicate the scope of the project better, he needed to be clearer on what he could deliver in the time frame –
However, had I taken the approach to assume the best of him, I would have seen that he was doing what he could to make it meet my priorities. If I would have assumed the best of him, maybe I would not have been frustrated at him, and I would have been able to take the time to see all the things I had done wrong in the process. If I had assumed the best of him, I would have helped my relationship with that vendor in the long run.
We have a responsibility to assume the best of people; however it seems like our tendency is to assume the worst. We assume that people are out to get us, that they are lazy, or that they don’t care. When we choose to assume the best, we can get to the real heart of issues because we are not quick to judge the motives that we cannot see.
When we assume the best of others, we build relationships, we build trust, and we work together better to accomplish our goals.
Let’s be mindful to assume the best of those we work with, those we lead, and those we are in relationship with day in and day out!
Question: When have you not assumed the best of someone? How could it have been different?