Always Believe the Best


I hadn't been on staff very long when I found an e-mail written about me by someone on my team. It was a message sent between three individuals who were gossiping about me and suggesting I was involved in something that was deeply disturbing and wrong. It was full of ambiguous references and hearsay. As the e-mail string went along, the stories got more extreme and the case against me was building in these individuals’ minds. But it was utterly and completely false.

I was shocked. But more than that, I was hurt. I immediately took the e-mail chain to my boss and let him know of these accusations that were brewing. I offered to step down temporarily if needed so he could pursue the truth.

He didn’t hesitate. He supported me 100%. He met with the three individuals and found they had zero evidence (except their own gossiping statements), and he quickly and sternly rebuked them for being involved in marring the reputation of a leader.

I was so surprised and honored that he had my back. When shots were aimed in my direction, he chose to stand by my side.

In order to have a healthy culture in your organization or business, you must believe the best about the others on your team. This is less about what you do and more about what you believe. It is less about strategy and more about a discipline of your mind.

  • When people attack your team (and they will), always believe the best.
  • When you receive an anonymous accusation about someone, throw it away. Why? Because you choose to always believe the best.
  • When you hear one side of the story, and there is every reason to believe that your staff member’s motives, intentions, or actions were wrong, wait. Don’t react. Get the rest of the story. Believe the best.
  • When there are two opposing sides, and it isn’t clear what is true and what is false, always side with your team. Make the mental choice to believe the best about those who are standing by you and with you.

This isn’t natural. It is easier to assume the worst. It’s always easier to believe the gossip and fall for the slander. Sometimes it takes discipline and integrity to go against popular opinion. But your team will give their best, be at their best, and perform their best when they believe you have their backs.

When I was at Granger I received an e-mail that one of our pastors was having an affair with a woman in town. The anonymous note came from an address we didn’t recognize and could not trace. I wrote back and told the person the only way I would listen to the accusation was if he or she would meet with me in person. The individual refused.

I wrote back and in the strongest words told this person that it was cowardly to make such an accusation against a leader while hiding behind anonymity. Because this person was accusing a pastor, I shared 1 Timothy 5:19, which says, “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.” And I proudly stood by the side of the accused.

If you receive an accusation with firsthand information, you are obligated to dive deeper. But there is strength in believing the best in your team. If it’s a “he says, she says” story without corroborating evidence, I’m going to believe the best of my team every time.

I’m a pretty secure leader. But nothing takes the wind out of my sails quicker than when I feel as if my leader does not trust me. If I know he or she loves me, trusts me, and has my back, then I can be the best at what God has wired me to do. That is true of most of us. Your team deserves your trust.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t deal with incompetence, bad attitudes, misaligned leaders, or the sinful choices of others. It also doesn’t mean you should keep your head in the sand and not notice or deal with the obvious signs of trouble in the ranks. But those will be isolated situations. With most of your team most of the time, they need your undying loyalty and trust.

Whether they are below you, above you, or next to you in position, your team will soar if they know you have their backs.

Read more in Fairness is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles to Revolutionize Your Workplace