Poor communication is a killer no matter what the situation is.
My in-laws are from South Africa. In South Africa, they have many different native languages, one of which is Afrikaans. On my first visit, I saw my mother-in-law address her children (my wife and future sister-in-law at the time) and tell them that she loves them and then called them a word that I make a good practice to never say.
It is a terribly inappropriate word that is extremely derogatory, and I was internally more than a little put off hearing it used in such a cavalier manner and referring to one’s own children.
Over the course of my nearly three weeks there, I witnessed this exchange several times, each time walking away generally aghast at the situation.
Finally, one evening, I had to ask why she would call her children this word. My mother-in-law kindly, and without judgement, informed me that the word she is using is actually “kind” (pronounced kint). It is a Germanic word meaning child or children, and it is commonly used in Afrikaans.
She never actually called them anything less than something completely appropriate.
I had misjudged this wonderful woman for a period of weeks when, in actuality, she was being a very exceptional and loving mother.
Great first impression on my part, right? So why bring the past up in this forum?
People typically want to do great things, be exceptional, and shine. Very few people actually do something with malicious intent. Unfortunately, we often look through a lens colored by perspective, and judgments are made because of that. We very rarely stop and, without judgment, seek to get the facts straight and understand a situation before we draw a conclusion.
Far too often, those initial judgments can be very, very wrong. As leaders, we need to be better and go deeper or else we’ll miss details and not understand intent at all. Those details can take one situation and turn it from failure to brilliance, but you must learn to listen and seek to understand.
Think of the leader you can be if you check every angle before you make a judgment. Think of the silly mistakes you could avoid.
You are surrounded by well-intentioned, passionate people trying to make a difference. Listen to them some time; you might recreate someone in the process.
Who knows, maybe you’ll even recreate yourself.