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Intent vs Impact: How Do You Communicate?

How do you communicate?

People thrive on communication; introverted, extroverted, verbal and non verbal, we all need to be able to communicate with one another in order to survive and succeed. Though sometimes, things get lost in translation. Your intent, the way in which you are communicating, doesn’t necessarily send the messages and signals that help to achieve your desired goals, the impact. Intent vs. impact is not uncommon in human interaction. People can hear things via their own filters, and messages can become misunderstood.  

So what happens when your attempts at communication go a bit awry? When your intent doesn’t match up with the intended impact?

Part of being a successful communicator is being able to identify these potential situations. Indentifying these situations starts with awareness and understanding. It is important to try and understand the other parties’ point of view, possible filters and the way in which they may see and hear things. You must adapt your style and messaging to work with these things in order to maintain positive communication and strong relationships.

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” - George Bernard Shaw

 

This is especially true when it comes to workplace communication in the business world. And there’s no sector of the working world to which communication skills are more critical than for those in leadership positions.

good leader successfully communicates with their employees, building trust, creating understanding, raising awareness and engaging them - guiding them to achieve the company’s goals - as well as their own. The results of a positive communication strategy affect both the long-term sustainability and immediate success of an organization. Clear communication can lead to:

  • An open a dialogue and effective transfer of ideas. This can contribute to finding the best possible solutions for success and increase high performance.

 

 

However workplace communication often gets messed up - the wrong thing gets said or the right thing gets said in the wrong way – intent vs. impact. Often nothing gets said – or heard - at all. Not having communication awareness as a leader can be extremely detrimental. It negatively impacts an organization’s people --> performance --> profit™.

A lot of communication mishaps come down to this one issue: intent versus impact. Someone in a leadership position communicates something to an employee, but does so in a manner that doesn’t consider the potential impact, based on how the employee receives the message. We’ve all had that leader (or peer, or friend, or partner) who we know had the best intentions (or at least we gave the benefit of the doubt), but they communicated those intentions in a way that may have been conflicting, terrifying, and unclear.

Thus our feelings and responses to the message resulted in the opposite of what they actually intended. And when we as human beings receive the impact as negative, it shuts us down – it also shuts your employees down. They can feel unheard, uninvolved in the decision process, unappreciated in what they do, and uncertain as to their purpose in the organization.

So how can you avoid making these little mistakes?

  • Think Personal: in order to build trust, leaders need to have an understanding of the people they’re actually leading. Understanding and trust go hand in hand. This means making an effort to understand employees as people, not just drones. It’s important to try and understand who your employees actually are, and what experiences and situations may have led them to hear and see things, via the filters and lenses they do. This will help you determine how they respond to certain things enabling you to flex your communication strategy to create a relationship that will lead to success.

 

  • Listen with an Open Mind: If you’re a successful leader or an entrepreneur, you probably achieved your success because you had brilliant ideas and were terrific in the job you did, you also probably have a leg up on effective communication practices. But that doesn’t mean you know everything. So listen to your employees. Be open to new ideas and suggestions. Be open to feedback. Be willing to keep an open mind and remain flexible. This is especially critical when you’re working with a diverse workforce.

 

  • Own up to Your Mistakes: When it comes to communication, mistakes and misreads are inevitable. But be prepared to manage the conflict. If something you said is perceived in a way you think you didn’t intend – check in and ask the receiver. If they ask for further clarification, provide it, and check in again. If in fact they inform you that the message was not received in the way intended, ask why, then flex your communication style based on their feedback and try yet again. Often, sometimes an “I’m sorry” goes a long way for building trusted relationships and resolving communication conflicts. Learn from your mistakes and adapt for the future.

 

To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” -Tony Robbins 

When you’re leading any group of people, you’ve got to understand how to communicate within a given audience and situation to be most effective. True, no two people or organizations are identical, and thus neither are their communication strategies. However, all in all, clarifying intent vs. impact and developing good communication skills and strategies is a key to success in business – and life!

About Scott Span, MSOD: is CEO & Lead Consultant of Tolero Solutions - an Organizational Improvement & Strategy firm.  He helps clients in facilitating sustainable growth by connecting and maximizing  people --> performance --> profit™, creating organizations that are more responsive, productive and profitable.

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Tags: communications, engagement, human resources, leadership, retention

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Comment by David B. Grinberg on September 12, 2013 at 6:58pm

Nice post, Scott.  Great quote from George Bernard Shaw, very illuminating.

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