There are some legends that withstand time and are retold in hopes that generations to come will learn the wisdom of the tales. Each legend, folklore, or fairy tale contains the cheapest lessons that can be learned. One such legend is found carved into a stone monument in Beddgelert located in Snowdonia, North Wales. The tombstone reads:
“In the 13th century, Llewelyn, prince of North Wales, had a place at Beddgelert. One day he went hunting without Gelert, ‘The Faithful Hound,’ who was unaccountably absent.
On Llewelyn’s return, the truant, stained and smeared with blood, joyfully sprang to meet his master. The prince, alarmed, hastened to find his son, and saw the infant’s cot empty, the bedclothes and floor covered with blood.
The frantic father plunged his sword into the hound’s side, thinking it had killed his heir. The dog’s dying yell was answered by a child’s cry.
Llewelyn searched and discovered his boy unharmed, but nearby lay the body of a mighty wolf which Gelert had slain. The prince filled with remorse is said never to have smiled again. He buried Gelert here.”
This is a heartbreaking tale about the dangers of jumping to conclusions. Every day we make assumptions and snap judgments to varying degrees that can have lasting effects. There are three ways that we can focus on decreasing the likelihood of making an avoidable mistake.
- Acting Before Examining: There is a reason the legal process begins with a discovery phase. This process allows both parties an opportunity to interview witnesses, gather evidence, and develop their arguments. In any circumstance, it is important to take a step back and really look at all sides of the issue. It is easy to stumble upon a situation or be confronted with a scenario and feel the need to make a decision in the moment. This more often than not leads to the first avoidable mistake. Take the time necessary to carefully review the facts of a given situation before weighing in with an opinion or decision. Leaders build trust by developing relationships focused on putting others first. It is important that leaders take the time to gather evidence before taking actions that could damage this trust.
- Listening to Understand: We have all heard the saying, “there is your story, my story, and the truth.” It is vital after examining the circumstances to speak with the individuals directly involved in the issue. More often than not, many challenges arise from poor communication or someone having a bad day. A key component to building trust is listening to understand and exercising empathy. It’s important to try and understand the perspectives of everyone involved. Each person assesses situations from their personal experience. Team member’s unique perspectives contribute to a team’s success, but can also create misunderstandings. Leaders need to demonstrate caring for their team members by investing the time to understand problems and challenges from their perspective. Invest in building relationships by taking time to understand.
- Assume the Good: It is human nature and our natural inclination to assume the worst. This is a type of coping mechanism to instantaneously develop solutions before we fully understand the problem. The challenge with this behavior is that we waste precious time getting ourselves worked up over a situation that in the end, is not nearly as critical as we first thought. If we learn to assume the good, we can move past the emotions of the situation and move on to truly comprehending what happened so we can respond effectively. Leaders can assume the good when they have taken the time to invest in the right people who can continue moving the organization forward.
We think about Llewelyn and gasp with wonder on how he could misread a situation so tragically, but we have all destroyed a relationship when we ourselves jumped to conclusions. Llewelyn slayed Gelert, his faithful companion due to a lack of trust. We jump to conclusions because we lack trust in the other person. Trusting other people is always a risk, but it is the only way to allow people to surprise you and exceed your expectations. Allow people the opportunity to always prove you wrong.
“Leadership means taking the risk of trust even if it goes the wrong way.” ~ Simon Sinek
How do you build trust and avoid jumping to conclusions?