“We judge ourselves by our intention and others by their impact.” The moment I heard those words I knew they were true. The simple implication is this: we are judged by how we land on other people, not how we meant to come across. Our reputation has everything to do with how we leave people feeling and what we leave people thinking, not what we actually said and did, let alone what we meant to say and do.

Successful leaders learn this early on and plan accordingly.

Here are two habits you can adopt to become a more successful leader:

1.       Cultivate your “Other Awareness”

Stop and think about the other people in the room. Imagine the world through their eyes.

  •  What are their top concerns every day?
  • What are their fears?
  • What do they value and appreciate?
  • How do they like to be treated?

2.       Assess your “Impact Zone”

Take the time to follow up and ask creative questions. The sort of questions that will prompt people to give you candid information. Avoid asking, “How did I do?” or “Can I ask you for some feedback?”

The goal is to be more specific and ask for more nuanced reflections:

“What part of my talk is sticking with you still?” and “Did I have a habit of speech or gesture that got in the way of your listening?” will likely offer a speaker better information than, “How did I do?”

Here are some questions that can get you started on your own Creative Question list:

  • If you could erase one of my habits, what would it be?
  • What have I said or done in the last few [days/weeks/months] that helped you most?
  • What have I said or done in the last few [days/weeks/months] that got in your way?
  • This week, what opportunity did I miss to connect with someone? What do you think it cost me?
  • If I were to choose one thing to work on improving when I am with people, what would it be?
  • Who would you cast to play me in the movie about our lives?

You get the picture! Have some fun with this. Ask creative questions with curiosity and see what you learn. In the process of asking these questions, and then listening to how people respond, you will learn about both yourself and others.

Our success and our satisfaction grow when we close the gap between our intentions and our impact.

Why? Because when our intentions and our impact are aligned, we are, quite simply, getting the response we intend. It is a lot easier to leave a room when you are aware of the actual impact you had while you were there.  


What type of peer are you?  How would your direct reports talk about you?  How about key customers?

I have recently been working with a team that is struggling with trust issues at the Executive Level.  This is a progressive company that has had tremendous success in the past and has cutting edge ideas that are reinventing the business they are in.  However, the Executives can barely stand to be in the same room.  Have you ever been in this type of situation?  I believe you probably have been at some point in your career.

I want you to think about a peer you really trust.  What is it about this person that allows you to open up and share your ideas, concerns and hopes?  We do an exercise at Voltage called Elements of Trust.  There are 6 characteristics of Trust and we ask people to rate the following elements from 1-6 (1 is high, 6 is low) reflecting how important each element is to each person.

6 characteristics of Trust

·       Time

·       Standards

·       Competence

·       Involvement

·       Sincerity

·       Reliability

Many times trust issues result because we value different things.  If you value competence highly and someone says they can do something but then does not perform the task appropriately, you are going to have a trust breakdown.  They may have been sincere, on time, and involved you and others but, if they miss the result, it will still be hard for you to trust this individual.

We took the previously mentioned Executive Team through this exercise.  Two had standards in their mind that had not been expressed.  Another two really cared about sincerity and thought competence could be grown over time.  However, another two thought you had to have proven competence or else they would not want to work with you on the project.  They realized that some of their challenges were because they valued different things and this understanding helped them in resolving their trust issues.  Try the Elements of Trust exercise at your organization and see what you discover.