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INTENT and IMPACT: Different Sides of the Same Coin

Alan Andersen

 Photo by  Andre Guerra  on  Unsplash

How many times have you said, “I didn’t mean that!” or “I didn’t mean to hurt you!”? Wait, I’m sure you’ve never had those experiences before, but maybe you have a friend who has…

Look, all kidding aside, if we’re honest we’ve all said or done things that if we were granted a do-over, we would definitely say or do differently.

Have you every wondered why that is?

Practically speaking it is because in the moment we were not mindful about making certain that our intentions and our actions were connected.

Connected, how? Like connect the dots?

Somewhat. Think about it this way.

The Platinum Rule

One of the greatest ways to build true trust and lasting, effective relationships is to practice the Platinum Rule. To be clear, you must do so with a genuine spirit or attitude of serving and caring for others in greater ways than yourself. If you practice the Platinum Rule with ulterior motives, you will be found out and you will ruin your relationships. Likely for good.

Okay, I’ve heard of the Golden Rule, but what is the Platinum Rule?

Good Question! I’ll share both “rules” so we’re on the same page.

  • The Golden Rule is essentially the principle of treating others in the same way that you want to be treated.

  • The Platinum Rule is essentially the principle of treating others in the way that they want to be treated.

Now that may seem gimmicky or like a subtle nuance. However, Bernard Shaw shared this helpful insight back in the 1930’s! Yet, the reality is that this idea is more true today than ever before.

A simple reinforcement of this concept is found in a great book by Todd Rose called, “The End of Average”. The gist of the book is this:

There is no more “average”. Instead, humans are more individualized and unique than we ever knew or were taught. Stop treating people based on the “averages”.

Intent and Impact

Now, if you “buy-in” to this notion that we are all unique*, then you can begin to see why it is imperative that we start to put ourselves in the shoes of those that we engage with. Namely, we must begin to exercise the mental muscle that thinks ahead and thoroughly considers not only the intent of our thoughts, words, and deeds. But as well as the impact of those expressed thoughts, words, and deeds.

Alright, but what are you getting at here?

My premise is that we, as a society, have not grown accustomed to proactively making sure that our intentions and our actions are in complete alignment. For instance, when I was in my first career job, I had the opportunity for a promotion. Through the multi-phase interview process, I became friends with the hiring manager and over the course of the 3 or 4 week hiring process, I would pass my “new friend” in our very public hallway at the office and enthusiastically say things like, “Hi, dude.” Or, “Hi, brother.”

That behavior resulted, in large part, to me not getting the promotion because I did not have the tact and or professional courtesy that our corporate setting required.

Did I intend to be disrespectful or flippant? Not at all. Could my actions have come across that way? Yes.

The truth is that I simply misunderstood our relational connection to be more familial than it was. Add to that the company’s cultural norms within the hierarchical chain of command and my impact came across like a “bro” versus a young professional.

Graciously, that hiring manager took me to lunch (which he paid for) and helped me understand what tact and professionalism looked like at our company.

Actionable Takeaway

Do we all screw up? I know I do regularly!

Have we all said or done something that we regret? Obviously.

However, we must remember that our intentions and therefore the subsequent impact of our expressed intentions (via word or deed) are simply different sides of the same coin.

How do we remember to align our intentions and impact?

  1. Pause.

    • I know that sounds too simple, but pause before you speak or act.

  2. Consider.

    • Think about the worst case scenario of how your words or actions will be experienced.

    • Then assess if you can proceed as planned or if you need to…

  3. Clarify.

    • When in doubt, ask it out.

    • Literally, just ask a clarifying question before you mindlessly proceed like you “always” do.

Let’s not carry on without intentionally putting ourselves in the shoes of the people that we interact with.

Even if you don’t desire to be a great leader, I implore you to seriously learn how to align your intent and impact 24/7/365. And if you find yourself regularly making statements like, “I didn’t mean that.” or “Come on, you know what I meant.” let’s talk. There is likely more happening below the surface than you are aware of.

Pulling for you,

Alan Andersen


*To be clear, I am not working to push the “snowflake generation” idea. We simply believe that there is insurmountable evidence that every human is equal in dignity, value, and worth and simply different in form and function.


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