Intentions and Impact

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September 27, 2013

The word intention is often used quite liberally in the coaching field.  We speak with our clients about being purposeful and intentional.  Being clear on what we want and moving deliberately in the direction that will get us there.  But when it comes to relationships with others, sometimes we can get so caught up with our goal and intention that we become unaware of how our behavior impacts others.

Let me give you a real life example I witnessed while coaching a leader.
Mary was the director of a quality control group in her organization.   She made a conscious decision to try to empower her staff and allow them to “take the ball and run with it” on a specific project.  When she realized that the deadline for completion was nearing and little had been done, she took back the assignment and did herself. She let her team know “after the fact” that they had disappointed her by not rising to the occasion. In her mind, the assignment had been a test … but of course no one knew that. While she had “good intentions”, her behavior had a negative impact on the team.  Her team was frustrated with her behavior, felt untrusted and devalued.  They were no longer interested in taking on new tasks.  Their motivation had been cut off at the knees.

Obviously, this could be a story about poor communication and delegation skills.  But it is also a great example of how good intentions can have a negative impact when leaders rush to satisfy their own needs.  When we react and act without thinking of the impact on others, we lay the ground work for mistrust, turmoil, conflict and poor workplace relationships.

So what is the solution?  Self-awareness and self-control are a good start.  Before jumping to action, take a moment to consider the impact, the implications, and the fall out.  If we were all able to hit the “pause button” and think before acting,  many workplace issues would never evolve.  I am not suggesting that you refrain from intention and action … just consider the ramifications of your actions and behaviors in advance.