Managing Motives Instead of Behavior

MARCH 16, 2011

It's an incredibly common scenario for me. I am talking with a senior leader in an organization about a conflict, problem employee, or frustration with someone and they say something like, "You know why they did [this or that], they were trying to [fill in the blank]." The only reply that I can offer to that statement is, "You don't know WHY they did anything. You only know why YOU would have done the same thing."

That's the problem. We are subject to the filters for our own behaviors when evaluating the behavior of others.

You wouldn't challenge the idea that you shared in a meeting because YOU LOVE THE IDEA. Therefore, if someone else challenges it they must be trying to satisfy an ego need, play a political game, score points with the boss, or position for something they want.

Now, I am not saying those aren't possibilities.

However, what if they were like you?

What if they really cared about the best interests of the company, the ministry, or the team? What if they were more committed to the success of the outcome than protecting themselves personally. AND, what if your idea was a stinker?

What if they were trying to save you from yourself? What if they believed in you and just wanted to contribute to improving your efforts? What if they really had a better way? Isn't that something you want as well?

When we manage from the position of evaluating motives, we almost always lose. When we manage from the position of evaluating behavior, we are free to see the best possibilities in others.

Q: Have you ever been guilty of assuming poor intended motives on the part of another person and been wrong? What happened?

Q: Have you ever been the victim of someone else making a bad assumption about your motives?

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