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Why Our Best Intentions Might Not Be Interpreted as the Best

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I attended a leadership seminar last week, one designed to help us perform better as team leaders.


This is certainly not the first of its kind for me, as I’ve attended many of these types of programs at other places I have worked. I get something fresh out of it every single time.

You can teach an old dog new tricks, and I’m proof of that.

Related: 4 Rules to Avoid the Game of Telephone When Leading a Virtual Team

This particular seminar included a few new techniques that I hadn’t experienced before, which opened my mind quite a bit. I learned new ways of personal engagement that I hadn’t thought about in a long time.

There was one topic in particular that has really stuck in my mind ever since. So much so that I think about it falling asleep at night and I wake up in the morning mulling it over. I can’t get it out of my head, and it has me intrigued as to how I can get better at work. Better at my leadership skills.


So much of our communications fully depend on our intentions. The words we choose and the language we display is often based on our intentions. They are based on what we are trying to accomplish and how we are trying to accomplish it, in that moment.

The problem is that we don’t often state those intentions. Intentions are often left to interpretation, and those interpretations can often be inaccurate. I personally just assume that people understand my intentions. I’m quite naïve about that.

Related: How to Ask the Right Question in the Right Way

But when we don’t state our intentions, we leave the recipients to interpret them on their own. Because we are all different people with different experiences, we may not be interpreted the way we’d like to be or the way we thought we’d be.

It happens all the time.

So while we think we are exhibiting good judgment based on what’s good for the situation, if our intentions are misunderstood then so too is our communication. People may think that our actions and decisions are based on other motives -- motives that may not be pure or legitimate in their eyes, despite what we might have been thinking.

It happens all the time.

I had my very own “aha” moment throughout these discussions at this seminar. This is happening with me! And it’s my responsibility to make sure that people understand my intentions. Sincerely, honestly and accurately.

It’s the only way to be truly understood and truly productive with the team.

And by the way -- the same is true at home! 

Related: 15 Secrets of Really Persuasive People

Jim Joseph

Written By

Jim Joseph is a commentator on the marketing industry. He is Global President of the marketing communications agency BCW, author of The Experience Effect series and an adjunct instructor at New York University.