I have a wise friend who has been a community and business leader for a while. She is currently running a successful nonprofit. Even though I`ve known her for a fraction of her working life, I`m sure that she`s had a career full of success.

There are many reasons for her successes, including hard work, deep dedication, a purpose, vision, and passion for what she does. But there is one other, perhaps the most important ?€“ she has always believed in the potential of her employees. How do I know this?

A simple, profound truth

Because of something she said to me recently with great conviction:

“I`m quite certain that most employees don`t come to work to do a poor job.”

I wrote it down, because it was such a profound, simple truth. It also happens to be a truth that all leaders should embrace.

What this tells me

What this tells me is that she has made a habit of believing the best in those she leads. She has coached the ones who are falling behind and is willing to put in the time and effort to help them step up to someplace greater than the spot they are in.

It tells me that she starts from a place of knowing that, with some effort and dedication, those who follow her will find that they are capable of so much more than they are doing.

It tells me that when these employees make a mistake, she is willing to see it as a learning opportunity. She knows that they will do better the next time.

It tells me that those she is leading they are lucky to have her in their lives. She sees that there is great potential waiting to be unleashed in them.

It tells me that, instead of coming from a place of assuming the worst in others, she assumes the best, and she is ready to watch possibility unfold in that direction.

I`ll bet she`s seldom disappointed.

I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.

5 comments on “Believing

  1. I agree with you, Mary Jo, that her employees are lucky to work with a leader like your friend. All companies want their employees to be passionate and motivated about being a part of the team. Your friend is very astute in pointing out that asking a lot when you’re looking at them with the expectation that they’re incapable of doing anything above par.

    Thanks for sharing her quote, and the insights you derived from it. An encouraging read.

  2. Mary Jo, This is such an important insight into the attitudes, assumptions and beliefs that good leaders have about people, and specifically the folks who work for them. It has profound implications for the kind of relationships that leaders will form with others.

    People KNOW when they are valued, trusted and respected, and they’re motivated to give their best under these conditions. On the other hand, if they’re micro-managed and treated like children because their leader assumes they’re trying to get by doing the minimum, productivity and job satisfaction will plummet.

    A key factor is strong self-esteem on the part of the leader. Belief in one’s own value makes it significantly easier to demonstrate trust in others’ capabilities. Truth is, I believe healthy self-esteem is a pre-requisite for every aspect of effective leadership.

  3. Tanveer, there is so much to be said about having a positive expectation from others. Her comment was very like her, down to earth. Yet filled with inspiration, don’t you think?

    Meredith, yes, simple in concept, but profound in implications! The importance of “healthy self esteem” for effective leadership is wonderful insight, too.

  4. Mary Jo,

    Love this message! I gave a “how to coach” workshop last summer. I told the coaches to always assume the best of their people. Go in with an assumption that they are doing their best. They all stared back at me, expressionless! Next time, I will hand them your article… 🙂

    The benefits are incredible for those being led. Now think about what it can do for the leader. The frame of reference changes – “leading” is not about correcting anymore but about supporting for tomorrow. And doesn’t that sound like an easier, more rewarding task?

    Thanks for sharing this message with the world.


  5. Sonia, I love your comment that “leading” is not about correcting anymore but about supporting for tomorrow. That is the essence of leadership. Bravo. You’ve summed it up so well, thanks!

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