I attended my wonderful co-worker’s wedding yesterday. Since his wedding centered around a culture different to the ones I know well, I paid special attention to the advice and customs. In his speech, the father of the groom advised the couple to “Forgive. As many times as it takes“.
During the ride home, my friends and I talked about why, for most of us, this phrase struck us. For me, I like the implication that if we can receive continuous forgiveness, with no upper bound, we can make mistakes, and thus learn (which, for me, makes life fun), secure in the fact that our partner will not abandon us once we hit a certain threshold.
We then debated if this “continuous forgiveness” does and/or should exist in business. We ultimately concluded no, since at some “forgiveness” threshold at work, you would cut the inefficiency.
However, my Director told me a few months ago that she always “assumes good intent” of others at work. In some ways, her mantra coincides with the groom’s father’s speech. And, although different than forgiveness, I can attest that it promotes a surprising amount of empathy, calm and learning.
For example, a few weeks ago one of my colleagues took credit for work he did not do (and one of my employees did do). Instead of fuming inside, or becoming passive aggressive, I tried to abide by my Director’s ethos and assume that he did not intend to take credit for work that he didn’t do, but rather wanted to efficiently start taking about a project, so the “I” slipped in there.
Assuming a simple mistake rather than a malicious one, I could much more calmly tell my colleague that I thought we missed an opportunity to highlight a less senior person’s work. Once he heard my perception, he quickly pinged others from the meeting and let the entire group know my employee, not him, thought of the idea.
While this reaction did not exemplify any extraordinary feat, the copious situations when I used my Director’s mindset in the past few months demonstrates the its potential. Try “assuming good intent” at work and “forgiving, as many times as it takes” in your personal relationships. Let me know how it goes.