Three Key Assumptions

Leading with positive intent develops trust, capacity, and resilience, in yourself and for others. Leaders who provide feedback and support with positive intent, demonstrate prosocial behaviors. Their approach is not self-centered, it benefits others.

Leading with positive intent requires thinking which may feel inefficient. You may have success going with your gut. Our brain quickly decides if familiar items are relevant based on our experience so that it can process more information to navigate our complex world. This leads to judgment (gut reactions) based on generalizations applied to limited information. Suspending judgment takes awareness and effort, and paired with positive intent, combats overgeneralizations and inherent biases by valuing the complexity of others’ lives and seeking deeper understanding.

When faced with a red flag or pet peeve behavior, focus on adopting these three assumptions to lead with positive intent and open your mind to new possibilities:

1. Everyone has exceptional talents. Individuals have unique experiences, preferences, and ways to approach and interact with ideas, projects, and people. Broaden your definition of talent to see more of the good around you. When you see an exceptional behavior, positive or negative, understand its source by asking, “what talents may be related to this behavior?”

2. Everyone is doing their best. At some point you may have thought-that is not my best work, yet at the time it was the best you could do, where you were, with the skills, energy and materials you had. It is human nature to strive for safety and happiness. When you wonder about a performance related behavior, understand its purpose by asking, “what needs are possibly being met by this behavior?”

3. When we know better, we do better. Individual experience, talents, and perceptions are limited. Recognizing this and seeking fresh perspectives, new strategies, or even adventures provides opportunities to learn and do more. When you sense someone needs feedback and support, ask, what needs, if met would lead to more success for them?

Providing talent-based feedback, acknowledging others may need something to do better, and asking them, “how can I support you?” is more than positive, it is leading with prosocial intent.