When Fortune magazine asked former CEO of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi, what the most important leadership advice she received, Nooyi said, “Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent.” It makes for a smoother conversation with your peer when you assume good intentions.

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Reflect on how to have good intentions

Learning how to have good intentions while being candid is fundamental in developing and honing your leadership skills. Start by simply taking a moment to reflect.

Do you think there is power in assuming good intentions?

Exercises to help you have good intentions

Now, it's time to put your reflection into action. Finding opportunities to implement your leadership skills can allow you to have good intentions while being candid.  

  • Give your peer the benefit of the doubt when giving feedback. Take into account external factors that may be impacting your peer’s performance.
  • Verbalize your intentions before a difficult conversation. Share your purpose for the meeting. Consider: “I’d like each of us to address our concerns about...” Then ask your peer what they’d like to get out of the conversation.
  • Be direct and empathetic when giving feedback to your teammate. After you relay the feedback, reassure them: “Everyone makes mistakes. We all deserve a second chance.”

Additional resources to help you have good intentions

The Hidden Power of Assuming Positive Intent
There have been many instances in my career when I’ve turned a negative into something positive, including employee conflicts, business setbacks, and yes, dealing with direct competitors or other companies that step out of line.
For People to Trust You, Reveal Your Intentions
In our last blog, we discussed the importance of competence for fostering the trust you need as a manager to influence others. We stressed that management competence includes not just technical knowledge of the work but operational and political know-how as well. Here we want to focus on the other g…
What is Affiliative Leadership and How to Leverage It | Matter
When Indra Nooyi stepped down as PepsiCo’s CEO after 12 years, she would not only be regarded as the first female CEO, but a leader whose unique methods changed the trajectory of the multinational corporation.

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