The Impact of “Impact”

This week’s entry was inspired by a client who has been making huge strides in his ability to manage himself and build relationships, and who is encountering resistance to building a more productive relationship from one hold-out…a long-time critic who is senior to him.

A client of mine was in a conversation with a senior leader about determining the proper path forward on a particular project. Knowing my client, it was probably less a conversation and more of a debate, which she lost due to the subtle, but expected, influence of rank. So she has a choice…first option: she can just eat it, and move on. (By the way, I’ve never seen that work in longer-term relationships. It cools things off for the moment, until we enter into conflict with that person again.) Her second option: rather than confront the senior leader on the “task” front–defining the step forward for the project–she could maneuver to the “relationship” front–confronting the dynamics between them that are eroding trust and respect.

Here’s the eye-opener: if you really want things to change, address the relationship issues that contribute to the status quo, rather than focusing only on task-related debate. The task is important, and you’ll get there faster when you give attention to improving the relationship.

Now it starts to get dicey, because relationship requires us to use f-words. No, not that kind of f-word! “F” as in feeling! And no, I’m not asking you to sit on the couch and tell me about your feelings. It’s all about revealing the gap between Impact and Intention. Did that senior leader intend for my client to feel undervalued, dismissed, incompetent? Probably not, but that was the impact. When people realize that their actions had a different impact than the one they intended, they often seek ways to close that gap. By sharing the impact that someone has had on you, you’ll be inviting greater connection, teamwork, and honesty—helping you to resolve the current conflict and lay the groundwork for future collaboration.

Your coaching assignment for the week: Consider one person that you experience conflict with on a regular basis, and identify just one f-word that describes the impact they have on you. Maybe it’s a word like dismissed, blocked, belittled, untrusted. Just find one that most accurately describes how you feel when you are in conflict with them.

How has this worked for you? What examples do you have of approaching conflict from the relationship front and describing the impact that a person’s actions have on you?

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