I was once taught; we tend to use an unfair standard when judging ourselves versus other people. We tend to judge ourselves against our positive intentions, often against our last best intention. We know what we intended to do, or say, even though our behavior may have “fallen short” of our intentions. We expect others to assume we meant well and that our intentions were good.
However, when we judge others, we tend to judge them by their last worst behavior, completely ignoring they may also have had good intentions in which they fell short. Many times, we compound this problem and assume their poor behaviors were intentional and by design. We assume “evil intent” in others and yet, for some reason, expect others to assume we meant well. We expect others to extend us grace while simultaneously failing to extend the same to others.
I don’t know where I read, heard, or learned the quote below; may have been from a book, a mentor or one of the thousands of people I’ve been privileged to work with, and learn from, over the years. It is one of my favorites, here it is:
“We are measured not by who we are, but by the perception of who we seem to be; not by what we say, but how we are heard; not by what we do, but how we appear to do it.” – author unknown
We all have “blind spots” and most of us are aware we have them, at least intellectually. Yet for some reason, most of us are afraid to shine a light into those scary places we call blind spots.
Reducing the size and scope of our blind spots is quite simple; ask people for feedback. Simply stating our intentions and then asking people if our behaviors (actual or perceived) match what we intend. Please remember it is their perception of our words and actions that matter, not our intentions alone.
In my leadership development practice, I often collect feedback from a leader’s various stakeholder groups using a tool most commonly referred to as a 360°feedback survey. We collect opinions from a leader’s manager, peers, direct reports and sometimes others who have a vested interest in that leader’s growth and development.
That data is then aggregated and shared with the leader in a report format. The primary purpose is to help leaders identify their strengths, areas of opportunity and any potential mismatches between their intentions and the perceived impact of their approach to leadership. This can be a powerfully insightful process. Depending on a leader’s level of self-awareness, there is often a significant gap between intentions and the actual impact of behaviors.
You can accomplish the same thing by simply asking people for their observations and being willing to listen, nondefensively to what people have to say. Here are a few examples of how that might sound:
“My intentions are to facilitate productive, value-added meetings that don’t waste time or money. In what ways could we improve our current meeting structure? What would make our staff meetings more valuable to you?
“My intentions are to help you grow as an important member of this team. How might I be more helpful to you as you transition into your new role at this company? How might I be a better coach?
“My intentions are to be the best department manager I can be. What do I do that you appreciate and is there anything I could do differently, or better, to make your jobs easier and more rewarding?”
One more example as I attempt to “walk my talk” and practice what I preach. Would you be willing to help me with my blind spots?
My intentions, each Monday Morning, are to provide you, with simple ideas to encourage your continued growth and development as a leader; to begin each week with thought provoking concepts that just might encourage you to live and think differently, or better; to be a more impactful leader regardless of your position, rank or station in life.
What do like about my weekly missives? In what ways could I make them more impactful, or more meaningful for you. I would welcome your feedback and opinions. If you’re enjoying them, in what ways could I reach more people?
Bonus quotes below.
Thank you for your consideration.
How will you live or lead differently, or better, this week? All the best… Do you best. Give your best. Be your best.
“Expanding Your Capacity for Success”
“The worst distance between two people is misunderstanding.” Unknown
“I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.” – Augusten Burroughs