We Judge Ourselves by Our Intentions

We Judge Ourselves by Our Intentions

I was working with a client some time in the past, performing a detailed organizational assessment. Over the course of many interviews over several weeks, it became apparent that cultural issues had formed and had become deeply rooted inside the company. Individuals had taken on alarming behavior, quick to tear down their teammates and superiors, and worked counter to the values being espoused around the corporate campus.

While individuals cited a lack of trust and unacceptable behavior across the company, it became clear that while everyone directed blame to others, others were including them in their own synopsis. I was reminded of the quotation attributed to Ian Percy, “We judge ourselves by our intentions. We judge others by their behaviors.”

Terry had been attacking Karen, his peer, on a regular basis. She could do nothing right or well, in his eyes. Another quotation, this one attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, that I found to be quite pertinent for this client and to this situation, “The moment there is suspicion about a person’s motives, everything he does becomes tainted.” This can also be considered confirmation bias, a topic of a future blog post, but suffice to say that left unabated, this behavior will increase in frequency and in gravity.

Let’s consider the first quotation. Without a doubt when we err, or fail to deliver on our work, rarely is it due to our intent. We hold ourselves accountable, but allow ourselves some slack knowing we hadn’t intended to fail. But more often than not, when someone else fails, we, as outsiders, judging their behavior and not their intent, are more apt to castigate them without much thought or consideration. We seem to see this regularly in politics, don’t we?

Isn’t it time we apply a similar lens to the one we use on ourselves to judge others?

Why aren’t we investing more in teaching and coaching, building people up rather than breaking them down? Once defeated, they are more reluctant to take new chances for fear of the repercussions of failing once again.

If we demand creativity and innovation, we must foster and celebrate the mistakes that are sure to come along.

Allow me to make this more personal. Here at Core, our mission is quite simple to state. It doesn’t mention shareholders, and doesn’t mention profitability. “We wish to have a positive impact in the lives of others.” This is our intent. When we have failed we held ourselves accountable and attempted to rectify our mistake.

Our operating ideology contains some fairly easy constructs:

  • You are empowered
  • You will make mistakes
  • We will celebrate your mistakes (teaching moment for others)
  • Trust your instincts
  • When in doubt, take a partner
  • Serve the needs of your family, client, community and fellow associates before your own
  • Most of all, enjoy the journey

The bottom line is this – we believe in each other, in our intent. Yes, our behavior will sometimes spell failure, but for that failure we are confident that we are pushing ourselves to be our best, to make a positive impact in all that is around us.

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