7.26.13 Issue #594 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Nancy Haller, Ph.D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
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Bridge the Gap Between Intention and Impact
By Nancy Haller, Ph.D.

Do you ever wonder why communication is so difficult? Are you baffled when your employees don’t understand you? The fact is, the majority of problems and conflicts we experience in our professional and personal lives stem from our failure to communicate effectively. It’s a common human phenomenon – in our interactions with others, we tend to assume that our words and actions are understood as we intended them. Unfortunately, it just doesn't always work out that way. The message people receive doesn’t match the one you intended. Here are some examples.

  • Dr. Smith complains that his employees seldom participate in the monthly staff meeting. He starts discussions by informing his team how he feels about issues and then asks for their input. His intention is to convey openness and put people at ease. The impact is that employees see him as the boss telling them what he wants, so they don’t contribute any additional ideas or comments.

  • Dr. Jones lowers her voice and speaks more slowly when she is frustrated. Her intention is positive because she wants to remain calm and logical. The impact is that her staff doesn’t have a clue about how angry she is nor the severity of the issue she raises. The same problem keeps happening.

  • When Dr. Miller addresses an employee performance problem he feels tense. His intention is to avoid conflict. In his discomfort he smiles. The impact is that staff members don’t take him seriously. His words fall on deaf ears and nothing changes.

  • Jessica the Clinical Assistant is new to dentistry. Dr. Roberts wants to train her to set up the tray correctly. Each morning he rearranges the instruments without saying a word. His intention is positive – he wants to train her to work efficiently with him. The impact is that she feels annoyed. She dismisses his actions as ‘obsessive compulsive’ and continues to do the tray set up the same way.

Intention is what you want to convey. Impact is what is received and understood. These two are often not the same! Furthermore, we tend to judge ourselves by our intention but others judge us by the impact of our behavior on them. Effective communication occurs when there is shared meaning - the message that is sent is the same message that is received. It’s easier to say “that’s not what I meant” as a defense, but if your message isn’t being received the way you expect, it’s time to take a look at your communication.

Your leadership effectiveness is directly related to your ability to win trust and gain respect through communication. You may think you have credibility, but your employees and patients are the final judges. Pay attention to the signs that there may be a mismatch between your intent and your impact on an employee, a patient, or someone at home. By adopting a more mindful approach, you can facilitate yourself to think about your impact and how you deal with others.

As you get really good at observing what happens in your interpersonal exchanges, ask yourself some questions: How is the outcome different from what I intended/expected? Where can I take responsibility? How do I correct this? Next, take action to clarify mismatches of intent and impact as quickly as you can. Be accountable for your words and actions. Have an open dialogue with the other person and get their perspective. Listen carefully. Inquire about how you could have handled the communication differently.

If you’re like most dentists, you underestimate the impact you have personally on the habits and effectiveness of your team. As the leader, you have the authority to authorize, encourage, or impede most aspects of their working day. This places you in a position of power and responsibility. Leadership development is often less about making big changes, but more about small modifications in your behavior. In turn, these kinds of shifts can create significant improvements in outcome. Many seemingly simple habits can have a huge impact upon your rapport with your team.

Simple misfires between intention and impact can result in a quagmire of errors, misdirected activity and utter frustration. Model interest and curiosity about how employees see you and what they experience in their interactions with you. Ask questions from a position of open-mindedness. React positively when you hear of communication misunderstandings. You might be the problem, but you also can be the solution.

I am available to help you strengthen your leadership and team impact. Contact me at coach@mckenziemgmt.com

Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at coach@mckenziemgmt.com

Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here

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