Assume Good Intent

Loyalty. It has a different meaning for each of us.

For me, it’s an actual defined personal value. Not only do I value it in myself, but I expect it in others.

And I’m increasingly disappointed. In others.

Perhaps it’s just my old-fashioned mindset, my father inculcated in me ideals like “dance with the one who brung you” and “don’t forget who butters your bread”.

These adages might sound trite but they deeply formed who I am as a person and how I treat others. Perhaps not all “others” but I sure try.

I’d define loyalty as a form of “pre-forgiveness”. I’m around even if you slip up, or screw up, or really lose your way entirely. I’m there for you.

What’s that phrase… “when the world walks out, a friend walks in”.

The cancel culture is fierce. Piranhas really. Unforgiving. And it seems to be growing.

I’ve seen very public, famous friends recently make a misstep, even a few, back to back and the vitriol piled on them is unrelenting. Lots of motives I suspect, hate looking for a target, pent-up anger looking for an outlet, or worse, fame to be achieved at the expense of someone else’s ignorance or ineptitude.

Sure there are some people who deserve to be abandoned because their deliberately crafted views are repugnant or their behavior so intentional and repetitive that they must be drowned out. Fortunately, I don’t associate with or even know anyone in those categories. But I do know people who’ve been trampled and put out to pasture by other opportunists and I dislike it intensely.

To those “cancellers”, here’s some sage advice – likely also from my father, “those who live by the sword, die by the sword”.

I suggest we all assume good intent in others – until they absolutely prove you wrong.

Be a bit more patient with letting people find their ways, stumble a bit longer before you kick them to the curb. Or better yet, reach out earlier and actually coach them, help them understand more holistically why their post, tweet, email, or dialog might be offensive to others. Give them some background on the issue – actually teach them some history in a loving and helpful manner. I’ve found most people, when sat down in a safe setting, with someone credible, and whose intentions they trust, nearly always come away enlightened, humbled, and more a part of the solution than perpetuating the problem as they may have done previously. Likely accidentally.

As the late co-founder of FranklinCovey, Dr. Stephen R. Covey said, “Be a light not a judge. Be a model not a critic.” Or as the nun in my parish told me, “We’re all just walking each other home.”

Who could you walk home, versus burn their home down?

Building a culture of trust starts with a shared vocabulary of simple, yet powerful phrases that leaders use to express gratitude, offer compassion, and provide support. Here are 10 phrases leaders use to build trust with team members.

About the Author

Scott Miller

Scott Miller is a 25-year associate of FranklinCovey and serves as Senior Advisor, Thought Leadership. Scott hosts the world’s largest and fastest-growing podcast/newsletter devoted to leadership development, On Leadership. Additionally, Scott is the author of the multi-week Amazon #1 New Releases, Master Mentors: 30 Transformative Insights From Our Greatest Minds, Management Mess to Leadership Success: 30 Challenges to Become the Leader You Would Follow, and the Wall Street Journal bestseller, Everyone Deserves a Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife and three sons.

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