We all grew up hearing the old saw about why one should never assume. As a child of a multigenerational military family, it was explained to me at a young age, unvarnished, in full color. And it stuck, holding me in good stead both as a person and a professional. Dedication to asking questions to ensure clarity has helped me avoid the proverbial outcome. So. Many. Times. But today, a chance comment turned the concept of not assuming on its ear in the best way.
I joined Infotech as a Project Manager right in the middle of the pandemic. Of all the Zoom meetings sprouting like mushrooms across my calendar, there was one I looked forward to attending: Infotech’s Presidents’ Lunch for New Hires. If you’re thinking stuffy, with a high potential for awkwardness, well, you’d be wrong. It isn’t a pro forma activity devised to check the box for executive engagement - it’s a meaningful tradition. An opportunity for all new hires of the recent quarter to spend quality time with leadership, made even more meaningful in a remote work environment where most of this year’s new hires have never set foot in the building.
To the delight of all in attendance, there was no PowerPoint presentation to endure, no canned speech. Just sincere variations of, “Welcome, we are glad you are here.” It was refreshingly humble, and humbling, to engage with our executives in a conversation; to share ourselves, learn about one another and—the best part—enjoy an open forum to ask questions. Real human interaction. What a novel approach.
The question I posed to Tom, Jamie and Will was this: If you could identify one trait or characteristic common to those who are successful at Infotech, what would it be?
“Because our people have so many different strengths, it isn’t easy to generalize a top two or three characteristics,” Co-Founder, Dr. Tom Rothrock, said. Of course, he then generalized so beautifully, starting with one word. Dedication. “Dedication to learning our products. Dedication to working closely with our customers,” ranked high for Tom, followed closely by, “Openness to learning.”
President of Infotech Systems, Will McClave shared being a good listener as a quality he finds key to success, adding an important caveat, “Be a good listener, with an empathetic mindset.” With Will’s input a theme emerged. Could the recipe for success be as simple as pairing basic skills with a mindful approach? Yes.
President of Infotech Consulting, Dr. Jamie McClave Baldwin, was the last to reply. She said, “I could just leave it with what those two already said, but I won’t.” I am so thankful she didn’t, because what she shared was powerful. Given the state of the world right now it is something I, and likely others, need to hear. Jamie’s tip for success?
“Assume good intent.”
Over the past nine months, the foundation of how humans act and interact has been shaken. Whether friends or family, kids or colleagues, patience gets frayed and tempers can flare. To preserve my sanity, and stay both married and employed, I have done my best to keep this tactic front of mind. Whenever possible, cut the other person some slack. Simple in premise, harder in execution, it takes practice. I fail a lot, but I keep trying.
Some days, when I do it well, I get the pleasure of making someone’s day. But I didn’t realize until Jamie spoke those words that I was missing half the equation. Here is my amended version. Whenever possible, cut people slack AND assume good intent. Fact is, we have no idea of the trials others are experiencing. Take a breath and give some grace (even when you feel people are trying to test your patience - especially then). Say it with me: cut people slack and assume good intent. You will feel better for it, believe me. I hope you give it a go.
So what was my primary takeaway from the President’s Lunch? That openness, communication and empathy are inherent in our culture. I saw treating people right live, in action today. It was heartening to hear a common thread, the simple philosophy of a learner’s heart, woven throughout the fabric of a business dependent on statistics and technology. From start to finish, the meeting was relaxed, casual and engaging. In my short time at Infotech, I’ve learned this is the norm. It’s nice to know the leaders who founded our company and run it today are regular folks. You can talk to them. They have hopes and dreams, stories and big ideas, and they love to share these things with the ever-growing team they consider family. And, like family, an open, honest (often spirited) approach is not only preferred, it’s expected.
I am by no means a “woo-woo” person, but I do find joy when things occur serendipitously. Today the universe conspired to deliver a message that I needed to hear and I am thankful. In the spirit and style of my newfound work family, I am able and comfortable to speak my truth, and it is this: being heard, truly heard, builds incredible trust and empowers us all to contribute, to bring value, to succeed.