Want to improve your professional relationships and be more effective as a team member and leader? Try this: make as your default to always assume the best in people, right from the start. Show the other members of your team that you trust them and believe in their excellence.
Aron Ain, one of the world’s most successful CEOs and Brandeis International Business School’s 2021 recipient of the Perlmutter Award for Excellence in Global Business Leadership, says “trust is the magic glue that makes personal and professional relationships thrive; when we trust each other, everything becomes possible. It liberates us to do so much more.”
Ain’s hugely successful company, UKG, is a perennial Fortune “Best Company to Work For.” As a leader, Ain doesn’t wait for employees to win his trust; they start with full trust from the outset. As he writes in his book Work Inspired: “When you trust your [team members], you help them to grow and expand. …People become more open and honest, and communicate with more clarity and confidence.”
Benjamin Zander, founder and conductor of the Boston Philharmonic orchestra stated simply and powerfully: “If you automatically assume the best in people, and give everyone an A in life, then you let the best come out in them.” In his book The Art of Possibility, Zander says: “The practice of giving an A transports your relationships from the world of measurement into…a possibility to live into.”
Choosing to simply assume the best in your colleagues, trusting automatically and giving them an A from the start creates a culture of positivity and performance that spreads through a team. As Dale Carnegie famously said: “Give people a fine reputation to live up to, and they will make every effort to live up to that reputation.”
As you evaluate career opportunities now and in the future, see if you can get a sense of a culture and the leadership beliefs of your manager and the company’s senior team. Evidence of a culture that trusts and believes in its employees can make a big difference in your happiness in this company and in your career overall.
Frank Fessenden is the Executive Director of Corporate Relations at Brandeis International Business School.