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Matching Actions and Words with Your Intentions

Linda Miller, a Master-Certified Coach, says that her conversations with coaching clients are often focused on relationships where miscommunications occur and the impact is different than the intent.

For example, Sharon who is a marketing manager for a mid-sized health care company
is known for her ability to focus her team and to get things done. However, she sometimes feels an undercurrent that she doesn’t understand and senses that morale
in her department could be better.

Recently she stopped in the hallway to talk with Tom, one of her direct reports. Tom
is a top performer, and his contribution to the team is widely appreciated. As Sharon was speaking with Tom, she noticed that he backed away and withdrew from the conversation, politely stating that he had a meeting where he needed to be. Sharon didn’t know what to make of Tom’s behavior.

When she discussed the encounter on the telephone with her coach, Sharon realized that her tone of voice might have conveyed something other than what she intended?something Tom might have interpreted as accusing. When the coach asked if she had checked with Tom to see if it was a good time to discuss the project, Sharon realized that she hadn’t. She also recognized that she had stepped toward Tom a number of times, which may have been perceived as confrontational.

While talking with her coach, Sharon realized her intent in talking with Tom, which was to gather information about a project with a pending deadline, had a different impact on him than she intended. Tm unfortunately had viewed Sharon as abrasive, directive and intimidating—behavior that made him uncomfortable.

With her coach’s help, Sharon began to see that her actions and words might be affecting the rest of the team’s morale in ways she didn’t realize. She also questioned whether her family perceived her as confrontational at home. She and her husband had been having some difficulties, and her older daughter said more than once that she didn’t like the way Sharon spoke to her. Before the conversa-tion with her coach, Sharon had not connected what was occurring at work with what was going on at home. Once that connection was made, Sharon and her coach began to strategize about both situations.

Immediately after speaking with her coach, Sharon walked down the hall and approached Tom. She told him that she observed that her request for information evoked a response she didn’t understand. She asked if she had come across strongly and explained that was not what she had intended. As the conversation continued, Sharon noticed that Tom began to relax. The next day, Sharon received a call from Tom with information about the project.

Applying Intent vs. Impact

What can you do if you realize that there’s a mismatch between your intent and your impact on a colleague, a friend, or someone at home?

First, ask yourself some questions:

  • What just occurred?
  • What was my part in it?
  • Where can I take responsibility?
  • How do I clean this up?

Second, take action to clean up mismatches of intent and impact as quickly as you can:

  • Be honest about your intention.
  • Discuss how you could have handled it differently.
  • Take responsibility for your actions.
  • And, remember that old adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” As you communicate with others pay attention to the signs that there’s a mismatch and take immediate action!

Linda Miller who serves as’s Vice President of Coaching, is a founding recipient of the Master Certified Coach credential from the International Coach Federation—an honor held by fewer than 300 individuals to date She is also a member of the National Speakers Association, and is a sought after speaker at national and international conferences. During her professional coaching career, Miller has coached individuals and delivered numerous coaching programs for large organizations that include Boeing, Microsoft, Duke Energy, Delta Faucet, Catapult, and several of the big five consulting firms.

Additional information about the positive impacts of coaching is available at 800-993-1600, or at



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