Have you heard the phrase, “Don’t shoot the messenger”?
What it means, of course, is don’t blame the bearer for the message they deliver.
It happens time and time again in the workplace. Just as it does in our personal relationships. A person you trust steps up to deliver the news you need to hear, but you transfer your anger at the news onto the one who gave it to you.
This is the kind of reaction kids might have had at school but by now as a leader, we should have grown out of it.
If you’re a leader, reacting this way will kill any trust your team have in you.
There are a couple of key issues here that we need to talk about.
First, let’s talk about vulnerability.
Someone has just made themselves quite vulnerable to you by taking the risk of delivering bad news. And what have you done? You’ve trampled all over it with your anger.
It’s not likely this person will ever trust you enough to do this again. You’ve cut off a source of important information but most importantly, you’ve damaged a relationship.
It doesn’t stop there.
When you damage a relationship with one team member, it spreads. The team pays attention to your behaviour and will quickly learn that they can’t trust you to listen to what you need to hear.
Now let’s look at the second key issue and that’s your fundamental belief about people…
You’ve reacted with anger and probably said things you regret.
Why might you react this way?
Quite possibly it’s coming from somewhere deep inside you which tells you that people just want to hurt you. Or they want to prove you wrong. Or that they like making you feel inferior.
This is a mindset you must change because in truth, most people actually have the best of intentions behind what they do.
Neuroscience has shown human brains are wired to do what we think is right, and we see it from childhood. It makes sense when you think about it. Humans are social and we want to fit in. We want to belong and to look after our tribe. We prefer to do the right thing.
What does that mean for your change of mindset?
It means you need to believe most people come from a good place.
It means believing in the person’s good intentions even if you don’t like their behaviour or action.
We’ve been talking about gaining your team’s trust. Today I’m reminding you that you need to put your trust in your people, too. It’s a two-way deal.
And let me say one more thing.
If you believe the best of people, they will strive to live up to it.
I’ve seen it happen over and over again. We all want to be the person you think we are.
So, leaders, believe in the best intentions of your people even if you’re not thrilled with their actions. React to the intention, not the action, and you’ll solidify the trust you’re building amongst your team.