Neal Dlin on working with intention and action

Episode #18 – Intention and Action Alignment at Work

In this episode of Relationships at Work, Russel chats with Neal Dlin, founder and Chief Human Experience Officer of customer and employee experience consultancy Chorus Tree, on intention and action alignment at work, including how it can impact culture, the role of leadership and employees, and how curiosity can help.

A few reasons he is awesome – he’s a consultant and keynote speaker born from his experience focusing on the human experience (employee and customer) for more than 25 years in various industries, he’s recognized as a 2022 ICMI Top 25 Thought Leader and he’s the founder and artistic producer of Unsung Heroes Productions, a musical theatre group raising money for various charities.

Connect with Neal on his platforms:

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The impacts of words not matching intent and action.
  • How leadership can help employee intention and supporting it.
  • How actions might mislead intention.
  • How employee experience can be hurt by misalignment.
  • Where being a “detective” around intention and actions can help your relationships at work.
  • Where to start in your organization if the culture doesn’t align actions and intentions.

“Most companies, they’ll have their values, their purpose, their goals… and then who they hire they don’t seem to focus on any of that. Those things should be a beacon to attract talent, to attract like minded people.”

Neal Dlin on intent and action misalignment in hiring

FULL TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW

Russel Lolacher
I’m here and through technology over there is Neal Dlin. A fellow Canadian. Here is why he’s awesome. He’s the Chief Human Experience Officer for chorus Korean agency focused on the customer and employee experience. He’s also a keynote speaker. I don’t know if that’s been mentioned. But I should mention a few times he does it quite often. He’s been focusing on those humans for more than 25 years in various industries. Because you know what, and we just talked about this before we got the podcast going, you can’t improve the customer experience without looking at the employee one. Looking back at Neil’s background, what are the things that my little 21 year old self was like he used to work at Lavalife? I remember, like it was my first online dating profile. We don’t need to go into that. But Neil, my little 21 year old self was like, Oh, well, I remember that. And fun fact, both Nea; and I used to be on ICMI’s International Customer Management Institute’s top thought leaders of blah, blah, blah list. He’s still on the list. I was on 2020-2021. So I am not cool as Neal anymore, but it was a cool honour to share such a list with you. Hi, Neil.

Neal Dlin
Hey, Russel, how are you? I think I need to hire you to do my intros at every single engagement I’m ever part of, for the rest of my life.

Russel Lolacher
What?! What?! Here comes Neal! What?! And I’m doing this at six in the morning. So not so bad.

Neal Dlin
Amazing.

Russel Lolacher
Also, I love the fact that you are a founder and artistic producer of Unsung Heroes productions, which is a theater group that’s main purpose is basically to raise money for great causes. That did my giving heart good. That’s anything you want to mention about that before we get into the employee experience side of it?

Neal Dlin
Yeah, Unsung Heroes, something I started in my late mother’s honour to musical fundraiser shows with folks like us who you know who have other day jobs and they come out they perform. They’re incredibly talented. And we raise money for cancer, mental health, poverty, and our new and our current show this year is for Alzheimers. I’m very excited about that.

Russel Lolacher
Very cool. Very, very cool. Question, I start with every single one of my episodes of relationships at work, which is… Neil, what’s your best or worst employee experience?

Neal Dlin
I think my best experience, I mean, there’s really two but I’ll kind of bring them together really easily. And one was when I worked at a company called now called loyalty, one, which runs the airmiles program here and in Canada, Canada’s largest loyalty program. And then the other one was launching sonnet insurance, which was Canada’s first digital, direct, car and, and home insurance company. And the truth is they do the reason why both of those experiences were incredible, was because the person I worked for was a enabler, not a boss. You know, they were someone who let people who had certain skills run free in a way, running pretty much. They were cheerleaders, they were mentors, they were blocking tacklers. You know, they, they hire talent. And I always say this, you know, if you hire great talent, and all of a sudden, you then put a bunch of restrictions on their on their capabilities. You know, what, what’s the point? And I think I learned that from both of these great bosses, and I’m going to name drop them because I just think so highly of them. One of them is Peter Van Heeswijk, who’s now the CEO of CAA Niagara. And the other one is Carolyn Beatty, who’s at Sonnet Economical Insurance still. Both of them incredible.

Russel Lolacher
Anything you can remember, specifically,

Neal Dlin
You know, what one of them… I’ll give you an example that is really timely, I think, and it was that it was at air miles, and I was young, I didn’t even know at the time that I add, which I’ve now you know, medicated for. But at the time, I wasn’t aware and I was quite young. To be in the position I was in I think I was probably in my early 20s And I was leading the email and online service channels at the time. And I wasn’t like a traditional you know, employee I kind of was a bit still am, I guess always will be rough around the edges. And I remember my boss said to me, Peter said to me, you know, your because I didn’t I didn’t I think I said to him even I said, you know, I’m not always the guy that’s going to be here at 9am or 8am or whatever the time is, I’m the guy that will get everything you need done and more in less hours than others not because I’m better but because the Add actually unknowingly that’s how it works. But I’m going to get it done for you and more you know, and he said, you know, Neil, I don’t I don’t know that matters to me. You know, I look at you like a blue flame. You know, you’re the that bright flame the center you know, that burns brightest, but maybe not for as long and so, I leave it to you, you know No, to set those things, if you’re getting the work done and you’re hitting the goals, everything else is in your purview. And and if you look at it, now we’re in this great resignation, which sometimes gets misconstrued as well, that’s just cuz people want to work from home, which is just one thing, but it’s more about people want control over their work life, they want the ability to balance other things, they want the ability to work at their own pace and time. And by the way, not everyone, I mean, that’s the other thing is you have to know that everyone has different needs. But the point is, is he was very aware that, you know, if this guy is given that that runway, he’s gonna do great things. And the truth is, we did great things, we had phenomenal results. If you have someone that’s great, and they work a little differently, why would you make them work the way other people do if they’re giving you what you need,you know. It didn’t make any sense. And so yeah, that was a good lesson.

Russel Lolacher
There’s a lot of power of a leader that actually sees you for you, sees where your strengths and leverages even things that may others may see as weaknesses as something that like, actually, we can, we can work together on this and do better through it. That’s literally leadership, Neal!

Neal Dlin
Crazy, crazy stuff.

Russel Lolacher
So our topic today is about intent, and action at work, basically, if I’m not wrong purpose, and doing something about it. So isn’t that kind of what we do when we go to work every day anyway? Here’s your job, go do your job, then do your job. Isn’t that intent action? Or what are we talking about here?

Neal Dlin
Intended action is is is about understanding what drives people’s behavior, and, and also understanding how you how your actions are perceived. You know, and it’s, and it takes a long time, I think, to become good at this. And it seems to be when I have conversations with any leaders, it just seems to keep coming up. You know, people, often times, especially earlier, not just in their career, but before they really maybe even discover who they are, which for some of us takes most of our lives. You know, they we don’t always we’re not always aware that we might have good intentions, we might mean well, but how we’re speaking our body language, the actions that we take, how we go about, you know, acting on our intentions, may be looked at from someone else as completely different than our intentions and a lot of time at work is wasted, actually on navigating that and, you know, a tensions build in, in meeting rooms and between colleagues and who are fighting, you know, I’ve seen I’ve seen two executives, you know, almost at war with one another, when both of them really just wanted to create a great customer experience. They obviously had different feelings about how to do it, but their intentions were the same. And if they could recognize that and each other and say, hey, look, you know, I see that you are passionate about this, I see that you really care about the customer experience. I do too. You know, let’s not fight about that. Let’s just figure out what are some of the differences in how we want to approach this and try to find a way collaboratively to get there. But but that’s not usually what happens. Usually what happens is there’s, you know, you see the offensive posturing, the defensive posturing, time is wasted. Silos are built, you know, it’s just, it’s insane how much time and organizations gets lost, because of misinterpreted intention. So, on one hand, there’s this skill of an important skill of being really good detective at getting past words and emotions and body language and try to understand where someone’s really coming from. By the way, this is a skill that works for everything, it works for customer service, it works in our personal lives, but it certainly works at work, you know, really tried to be that detective and try to understand what is what is what is happening for this person? What do they really want to accomplish here? And maybe I can start to identify that the reason that coming across this way, is not why I think it is and their intentions are actually you know, good. And then on the flip side, knowing that most people aren’t good at that. Most people don’t have that skill set. They just don’t want it you know, even me who works so, so much with people on it, it’s so easy to fall into confirmation bias, subconscious, you know, subconscious bias, all these different things that are just personally we can get triggered, right that make it hard for us to keep that top of mind. So because people aren’t good at that, we also have to be really good at being so mindful of how we are projecting, you know, so if my intention is x are my words and actions really plainly representing that intention. And if they’re not that I’m going to be sending people mixed messages, they’re going to be creating potential tensions wasting time. So this this really, I mean, this happens in every aspect of life. But it definitely happens all day long in companies, between coworkers between employees and their and their bosses and vice versa. So it’s really important, you know, it’s a really important skill, both those skills to manifest.

Russel Lolacher
Do you think people show up at work? I mean, truthfully, everybody’s a little different. Obviously, we’ve already mentioned that everybody treats work differently. Everybody approaches work differently. So is there strength, I want to kind of divide it up here between intention and action, because I totally get how they’re linked. But I don’t think everybody shows up to work with intention. Some of them just show up to work just to do their job, check the clock, leave the door, hope it’s a good experience. Well, you have other people that are quite a lot more driven, and show up to work with, this is what I’m gonna do. Here’s where the intention of I don’t know. It’s just it feels like there’s more of an engine in them when they go to work. And they have that intent of changing the culture reaching that goal. Yeah. What is the downside of not treating work intentionally?

Neal Dlin
I think I mean, that’s almost even like a different thing altogether, you’re talking about, wow, how we set intentions are a little bit different, right? Everyone shows up to work with an intention, someone’s intention might be to work as little as they can. And that could be someone’s intention. Everyone, everyone has intentions. But I think what you’re also talking about is those who really set an intention. That’s, you know, that’s constructive and productive and positive. And that’s a different thing altogether, then that’s a great exercise for all of us, right? I mean, there’s all kinds of benefits to us sort of making a mindful point of setting intentions, and then trying to put that into play. So I’m going to answer that, I guess your question in a funny way. So just by going back to the former, which is everybody has intentions, right? So you know, you just described someone coming to work, who maybe is and really focused on the best things for the company, they seem to just be, you know, hoping that they have a good experience and leave. But how do we know? Like, how do we know what their intentions are? And how do we really understand and get to what their intentions are? How do we get to what’s driving it, you know, maybe their intentions or maybe they are in a work environment where people who have at who have their kinds of skills, and I can give you a million real examples of this. People who have their kinds of skills and approaches don’t do? Well, I am because I’ve spent a lot of time, you know, in contact centers and helping people with that side of the of the customer experience. A lot of contact centers, you might actually be you have great intentions of, you know, wanting to do what’s best for the customer. And really, you know, personally feel gratification from solving problems, you’re naturally empathetic, you, you know, you’re a great communicator. But in many contact centers, those kinds of skills may not serve you well, because you’re being measured on how long your call is, you’re you’re being your calls are being listened to, and you have to use a certain script, you are not able to get off the queue and call a customer back. So you can’t make that commitment. When in your heart. That’s what your attention is. How does that manifest that work? Well, that might manifest as you know, you’re trying to stay under the radar. So if you get back to the intention, you know, when you see someone who is maybe not gung ho and not energetic and not seemingly doing everything for the company, it could it could be if you really understood their intentions, because their good intentions are largely not just Are they not recognized, but they could put their job at risk. And so now you’re impacting their engagement, you know, so intentions are a funny thing. It isn’t always to say that they’re good. The the idea that I was sort of, you know, kind of honing in on is just being able to understand what they are. But I will say this statistically, scientifically, psychologically, the vast majority of people’s intentions are good. And we tend to forget that. And we tend to treat some people as if their intentions aren’t good. And we tend to act and react as if their intentions aren’t good. And that’s some of the waste I was talking about. If you’re not really good at understanding someone’s intentions, then you’re not reacting to what they really feel and why you’re reacting to what you see. And that’s the wrong actions to take. So I don’t know there was a bit of a roundabout answer. I don’t know if it answered your question.

Russel Lolacher
No, it’s it very much did. And that’s sort of where I’m digging into a bit too because it is not Oh, Only the intent of how staff show up. It’s also how leadership guides that intention either and they have their own, obviously, intention and agendas of so forth. So I like that you mentioned that constraints. And traditional measurements can actually get in the way of possibly being productive, for sure when you can have all the best intention in the world. But if you don’t have an environment of support, or if you’re, you’re putting too much of a box on things, people may not be as, oh no reach those actions have the intent that they are hoping to do. So you kind of touched on at the beginning, what is leadership’s role? Is it just identification, but then once you identify it? How can you sort of I guess, capture that intent and support your staff in reaching their goals? Because they come in, they want to do a good job, they’re being intentional. Where’s leadership in that?

Neal Dlin
Yeah, I mean, there’s levels of leadership too, right. So if you’re like a frontline leader, as an example, there’s lots of things you are not in control of either. If you’re looking at leadership as this beautiful, ambiguous body of all the folks that are, you know, responsible for that employee experience, you know, leadership’s role is to look at the entire employee journey. It starts with, you know, what is your company’s purpose? What is your company’s product? What is your company’s brand? What are your values? What are your goals, I know, this stuff sounds pretty obvious. But I can tell you that as I’m about to describe something, it rarely happens. It should, because I’m not saying anything, that’s not intuitive, but this rarely happens. So if you really have a great picture of that, then your first job is leadership, while your first job leadership is to have a concrete picture of that right to really have a clear vision of what that looks like. Your second job is leadership, when it comes to employees, is to embed those things in the kind of ways in which you screen for the people you hire. And that doesn’t happen very often, you know, It happens in some great companies, but most companies, they’ll have their purpose, their values, their goals, and then who they hire, they don’t really seem to focus on any of that, you know, those things should be a beacon to attract talent to attract like minded people, you’re never going to change someone who’s not like minded if your belief system, you know, I’ll give that as an example does belief, you know, I’m going to mess up the wording but does belief is really about making women feel comfortable in their skin, their own skin. It’s about social pressures, anxieties, you know about body issues, and things like that, not about selling flogging soap and creams. I mean, that may be how they end up doing it. But, you know, so if if you’re not someone that’s that believes in that or believe that that’s a very real thing that people are dealing with, if you’re not someone who really strongly has a feeling that that should change, you’re not likely ever going to be an incredible employee for that company. So how do you screen for those qualities in the beginning? And how do you prioritize those qualities over maybe some of the more technical qualities. So first leaders job is to set a clear picture of what’s really important next leaders job is to really screen and hire people that are aligned to that overall, the other qualifications, the next things leaders job is to do is to provide great training and support tools that again, aligned to that, you know, and then great measurements that align to that measuring the right things. And so often the measurements conflict with the goals of the company, which just blows my mind, imagine the tension and friction that creates in the employee, hey, this was so excited, I was really looking forward to working for this company. I love what they stand for, oh my god, the interviewer was amazing. They really dug in on how I feel about that the training really supported that. Cool. Now I’m being measured, and I’m being measured against things that are actually preventing me from accomplishing that. Right. So what are the right measures? What are we actually celebrating and recognizing, how do we actually include, include everybody in how the company, if you’ve got people who are aligned to that, and you look at them and say, Oh, they’re in this position, so we’re gonna we’re not going to include them, or they’re in that department. So they don’t need to know. But I mean, you have to drop titles and hierarchies and levels and remember that if you have somebody who’s aligned to what your really your real purpose is, then tap them. You know, it’s not a it’s not a commitment that you have to use 1,000 employees ideas, particularly when they’re in conflict. It’s a commitment that you want those ideas, you want to hear them, you want to think about them and consider them and make them part of the solution. So how do you include them? How do you listen? How do you act on that? What do you cherish in your company? What do you celebrate? Like going back to the contact center if you’re if your value is to make women feel comfortable in their own skin, and you have a customer service agent who spent a long time on a call with someone who is really suffering, and maybe you even have to, you know, help refer them to even the guests get extreme hair, even psychological health, and you were sort of guiding them through that, and given them some, you know, some some some resources. I mean, to me, you should be celebrated by the CEO in that moment, but in some operations, you might actually have your job at jeopardy. What are all the places as leadership that we create mis communication, mixed signals, friction, effort, work, strain and stress on employees. Because at the end of the day, the P thing that people could go to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, things that people really want most is that high level of self actualization, which is where we’re really aligned. You know, our work allows us to act on our beliefs, and we have the ability to be creative and doing that we’re getting celebrated for doing that. We’re feeling that great sense of accomplishment for doing that. What are all the ways in which leaders will actually, you know, put the opposite friction and tension and stress and confusion until an employee is actually anxious and worried and concerned, to act on those things that you hired them for? So long, long answer. Leadership has a lot of responsibilities as an entire employee journey, go to has, you know, lots of steps, but each step has to have continuity and connection back to purpose. And the filter is, is anything we’re doing in conflict with preventing with obstructing confusing, or is everything we’re doing enabling, supporting, developing, recognizing those things? And if you can use that filter, always and answer those questions. And as a leader, you’re probably doing a pretty good job at honing and channeling that great intent from start to finish.

Russel Lolacher
It’s funny how I mean, the topic of this podcast being intent and action, when a lot of people will think “Well, Oh, those are completely aligned.” But as you so beautifully said, a lot of intent is never delivered in the action. Just because the words are on a poster in the office doesn’t mean you actually are doing or doing the actions that support those things. Case in point, if the intent of an organization is delivered excellent customer service, but you have to be off a call center call in three minutes or less, that’s not serving the customer that’s serving the process of the organization. So the intent is misaligned. Or at least it’s not showing up in action. So what are the ramifications of that you mentioned anxiety, what happens when intent doesn’t meet action?

Neal Dlin
Well, I’m going to actually first say to you that that intent isn’t always, you know, the intention in that example you gave may not actually be the intention, you know, putting values on a wall, doesn’t mean the values are your intention, that could very much well be a situation where your intention was, we have to have a set of values and your actual intention, if you become a detective, is that you don’t do don’t even believe in those values. And that’s why they sit on a wall and don’t get acted on that’s, that’s a great example, right? Because there was action, the action was, we put them up on the wall, we put them in the onboarding package, they’re on our website, those are actions, but they don’t actually mean the intention was that we believe in these things. Because if you believed in those things, you know, other things would happen. So, you know, the biggest ramification I mean, in that particular example of a company who, you know, isn’t living to their values or their purpose or says one thing and does another, you know, is is that strain, I mean, there’s there’s big ramifications on how that ultimately plays out with customers, the business revenue, loss, all that kind of stuff. But the first stages are as employees. You know, it’s incredibly stressful. You know, hey, I want you to drive to, you know, point A on this thing, but you keep steering me off in this other direction, I’m never going to get there. That’s really, you know, psychologically difficult. And it’s disheartening, particularly if you came to that organization based on those things. Look, we are in a time of the employee and if any company doesn’t get that, they’re going to lose. The great resignation, by the way wasn’t pandemic driven. It started happening long before the pandemic and like I said, the solution to that isn’t just simply Okay, everyone can work from home that’s just one facet. of what’s happening, what’s happening is employees are realizing that, and the pandemic may be accelerated this, that they need to feel good about the work that they do. And so first that starts with, you know, a company that has something that they believe in. But the second thing is, is that the work is rewarding, that the they have relationships with people, they like to have a boss who supports them, that they’re challenged to be creative. So, you know, when you say one thing and don’t do it, you know, it’s it’s just incredibly disheartening. And employees, you know, thankfully are at a time where talent is hard to come by. They’re not in the, here’s what happened 10 years ago, 10 years ago, that employee would become apathetic, which is terrible, they would do you have presenteeism, which is like, it’s not absenteeism, you’re at work, but you’re not really there. You know, there’s massive cost to it. Because not only is absenteeism insurance costly, but it leads to mental health issues, which leads to the use of benefits, which is very costly and organization. So it’s a massive cost and ramification of that, but to so that was 10 years ago, they would show up, they would stick around, they need to pay the bills, they didn’t want to lose their job, but they certainly weren’t doing a great job for you or your company. Today, they’re just going to leave. Because they can they can get a job somewhere else. And more and more companies are going to be in tune to what they need. And try to deliver employee experience that aligns to, you know, what they say they actually believe in and actually deliver on it. So massive ramifications. I know companies right now that are just struggling to get to fill fill roles. And it’s and it’s hurting them, you know, they can execute projects, they’re things that painful points for customers that they’re taking a lot longer to resolve. Or even if you look at a bandaid to a pain point for a customer, which is customer support, is is shouldn’t have to be that but they often are. They’re they’re strapped for resources, and then you’re waiting forever on hold to even get support for that other problem that they can’t get around to fix it because they don’t have talent in that side of the organization. So these are big ramifications. And today, in particular, it means you’re going to lose your talent.

Russel Lolacher
So you mentioned being a good detective. So you get hired, you’re in an organization. The intent is not aligning with the action here. And you say it’s probably best to be a detective and dig into that. How would you go about doing that? And so you can make that understanding of alignment of whether it’s it’s your you align with the intention of the organization, you work for it better understanding it, how how would you be a better detective Neal?

Neal Dlin
And you know, when when I said that what I was more referring to are like the micro moments, the micro interactions. You know, someone recently that was telling me that they, you know, they were struggling, they didn’t know if they wanted to stay with the organization, they met with their boss, it’s important to note the person that I was speaking with as a woman, their boss is a man. And at one point, she started to get, you know, upset, I don’t think she was actually crying, but I think she was maybe getting close. And he says something to the effect of, you know, the atom, I’m not gonna say it right. But he certainly the fact that, you know, my, my wife has really taught me that, you know, sometimes, you know, women just need to cry, which, you know, we’re at a time and place and then 2022, where, you know, that’s an interesting thing to hear from someone because it could seem, you know, sexist or biased, or whatever the case may be. And I, I guess my conversation with her was, you know, there’s, there’s, there’s what you should and shouldn’t say, and there’s what you do and don’t feel and the question just becomes, you know, he needs to obviously work on his self awareness. How’s he projecting? What are his? What are his intentions in that moment? What was his intention? So that whole conversation what were some of the other clues earlier in the conversation and after that awkward moment, and everything that her and I talked about pointed to the fact that this guy in earnest, really valued her really wanted her to stay thought the world of her was trying in his in his way, which he needs to clearly work on, to make her feel like he’s got her back. Now. His actions and his words trigger something totally different. It shows and it validates a bias that we know exists. And he very well may even have that bias. He may not have that bias. He may just be oblivious. Who knows. But the question is, again, what are his intentions? Is this someone you can work for? Is this someone you can’t work for? Is this something that was terrible? Or was it ignorance, you know, ignorance versus bad intention? And so in that conversation, you know, she actually felt quite strong. One way that he had amazing intentions, I said, Well, maybe you can help him and coach him. Maybe you need to say back to him, Hey, listen, I really feel like you do support me, and that you’re a great person to work for, I need to tell you that when you say things like this, you know how that lands for me, you may not be aware of how what you’re saying your actions are not reflecting your intentions, your actions make it seem condescending, or belittling, or that you have a belief, you know that women are weaker than men, or any one of these many things that that action and those words can be interpreted as, and the at the end, he might say, Oh, my God, that’s not my belief at all. Like, this is literally what my wife told me. And I just thought it was the right thing to say, and I didn’t think about all the consequences of that, you know, so being a good detective. And by the way, I’m not condoning what he said, nor what I suggest anybody say things like that. But I just mean, you know, it’s never simple. And we are, we are working in a time, where we’re in canceled culture where, you know, the phones come out of film, everything. And we jump on those moments. And that’s not a bad thing, we need to there’s a lot of change that needs to happen. And that’s why we’re doing that. But at the same time, you know, you we also have to be good at understanding where people are coming from and being and being and trying to be understanding of where they’re coming from and wit and putting ourselves in their shoes. I mean, this is really empathy one on one, right? That’s the detective work that you need to do to try to understand. And then the end, you make your decision, you could say, hey, you know what, based on the intentions, I’m okay with this, or you could say I know the intentions, but the actions are still not okay. And I’m not going to I don’t want to I don’t want to continue on like this. Either way, you have more information to make that decision, right.

Russel Lolacher
So on the other side, and perfect, great story two is an example of intent, not meeting and action not sort of aligning, see, you’re the person that has this intent, but their actions aren’t aligning, how do you check in with yourself, as a leader, as a co worker to know that your intention and action are aligning? Because if they’re not, I mean, that’s a lot where relationships can break where trust can be broken? Where a culture can be poisoned? When you see that intent, not matching. So what do you do internally, either as a, I mean, as an organization, or as an individual to go, am I checking in with myself? What do I need to do?

Neal Dlin
You know, in some ways, it’s a lot of the same skill, right? You really have to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, you know, if I was that person, knowing what I know about them, and hopefully, you’re pretty good at someone who could see the whole self and really understand the other person where they’re coming from, you know, how might this land? If I was in their shoes, and I heard this, how might this land for them? Am I really reflecting my intention? That’s one thing. Another thing is, and this is one of the hardest things truthfully, let down your guard. You know, so many times the reasons why our words and actions don’t match our intentions is because somewhere between our intention or action is a series of walls and defense mechanisms and filters that make us change what we’re really feeling and saying, because we think we know, and we want, either what the other person wants to hear or how we want to project you know, young leaders are our you know, this is a common issue with many, many young leaders is, especially because they may be suffering from impostor syndrome and think that they’re, you know, there’ll be an age bias or, or experienced biases, they like to project greater strength. They like to project project greater authority, and they like to hide weakness. And the truth is, those are surefire ways to misaligned your, your, your intentions to your actions. If you can be honest, vulnerable and authentic, you’re rarely going to have that misalignment. And by the way, people will give you so much grace with honesty. So if you’re even worried about like, in that situation, if he had said, Hey, I, I don’t think what I said landed well, and I want to check in with you, here’s what I really meant to say, is that what you took away? Or what did you take away from it? A lot of people when you’re vulnerable and honest, like that people will give you such grace. And a lot of leaders will say oh my god, and they’re gonna think I’m really weak and wobbly and, you know, confused and, and no, they’re going to think that you are strong for opening up and for checking in, they’re going to be so appreciative, because you’ve just clarified something that they’re going to be sitting with for three hours wondering what you really meant, you know, they’re going to be so appreciative that you’ve trusted them enough to include them and that’s going to build trust in reverse, right, trust begets trust. So you know, if you’re if you’re a leader, who’s concerned about intentions and actions, the best thing You can do is a really put yourself in that person’s shoes, what are they going to think and feel be? Feel free to check in with them and ask them because that’s, that’s okay and see, always just try to be your authentic self and let go of the things you the projections of what you think make you sound like a leader, a leader is someone who’s who’s authentic. So just stick with that it will, it will always serve you well.

Russel Lolacher
So I’m going to ask you to put your consultancy hat on for a second, and you’re going into an organization. And you’re seeing that the organization’s cultures, intent is not matching the actions to support employees to do their work. Where do you start?

Neal Dlin
Yeah, I mean, there’s so many reasons that happens, right? It can just simply be that they don’t have a really great framework to you know, operationalize those things, they don’t have a way of really making it clear across the board to all leaders, what they value and cherish and what’s important, and they don’t have it embedded into the culture, it could be sometimes a single toxic executive, it can be a single department that puts others on the defensive, and all of a sudden, things go awry. You know, a lot of the time when, when culture is mismatched to values, it’s usually due to that either positively or negatively, they’re just not being reinforced meaning if you live those values, you might still be being disciplined put on performance management plans being coached to for you know, something, you know, that you did, that was actually aligned to the values or on the flip side. And way more often, what happens is, other aspects of performance are recognized and celebrated, despite the fact that someone doesn’t live values. I mean, it’s an old, old model, I think it was in what book was it now not good to great. Maybe it was a, I can’t remember, there’s a model that that kind of has, if you have somebody who it’s a quadra four quadrant model of someone who it could even be the will skill model, my brain is really fuzzy right now. But it’s really that model of you know, if you have an employee who, you know, has all the right intentions, behaviors, values, desires, and not the right skill, versus someone that has a bit of both versus, versus someone that has all the right, you know, skills, but doesn’t have any of the values, you know, which is the most dangerous in an organization. And oftentimes it ends up being if your culture is this way, that one who has all the great skills and none of the values because if you’re not a company who can embed that framework, into your organization, then you end up constantly celebrating that person, they hit the numbers, right? They, if it’s a salesperson, they get the sales, if it’s a, you know, marketing person getting growth, you know, they, whatever it is they hit the numbers. And so they’re getting celebrated. And the message that sends to everybody, especially if this is a person who’s toxic is this is what matters to this company. What matters is that end result ahead of how they got there. And the problem with that is you can get end results in the short term a whole bunch of ways, but sustainably, that company is going to be in trouble if they don’t really focus on how they got there. So that’s, I mean, I didn’t really ask you a question that the consultant answer is, you know, obviously, we’d have to assess it, we’d go through and do an assessment. And we would have we have, you know, surveys and focus groups to try to get to the bottom of what is the root cause of this? Is it that they don’t have the framework? Is it a toxic culture? Is it that they have a single, you know, what is the reason and and we would assess every aspect of the journey and be able to help say, you know, what, you’ve got these elements, but not these elements. You have to, you’ve got a great screening thing, but you’re not really, you know, living up to that in your KPIs, you’ve got great KPIs, but you’re not really living up to that in how you do succession planning, or whatever the case may be. Right. So as a consultant, it would be coming in and doing an assessment. If you’re doing this from scratch, it would be building out your employee experience framework, and operationalizing it through every role. So that’s the consultant answer. It’s a bit more boring. But yeah.

Russel Lolacher
Yeah, it’s funny too, because self awareness is such a big part of this. Because as you said, the intent might be to do “X” and the think that their actions are aligning, but not realizing just putting a poster on the wall is not living values. It’s communicating values, but it’s not living them. It’s two very, very different things. And that comes from the actions in which you present yourself.

Neal Dlin
Yeah I mean there’s a company I know that has values that say hey you know we are challengers of the you know we we value you know people who challenge and each other but then in a meeting if you challenge a certain executive you get quashed. Right. So the question is, which is wrong is the is the action just not reflecting that executives intention? In the sense that the executive really means I do want you to challenge me, but I’m not projecting properly or is it the other way around the action of them creating that value never reflected their real intention? His intention or is was never to never wanted you to challenge just wanted the Yes Man, Yes Women around them to say you’re so smart. Whatever you say is right. How can I serve you?

Russel Lolacher
But putting “challenge” on a poster looks so cool, Neal. It just It looks cool. Whether you do it or not?

Neal Dlin
It does. But uh, you better not put that on a poster if you’re an egotistical, insecure person who can handle being challenged. Right. And sadly, a lot of people are right now and some of them want to change. If I try to say they’re bad people. It’s just you know, that’s a hard thing to get over for a lot of people. But don’t do it until you’re ready.

Russel Lolacher
Any resources you’d recommend to somebody that’s trying to understand a little bit more about alignment between intent and action?

Neal Dlin
That’s a good question. To be honest with you. Most of the you know, my own, you know, work in this area is on the psychology side. And a lot of what we’re talking about today are embedded in most EQ resources. I’m also a big fan of Psychology Today, I read a ton of their, their articles and posts because I think so much of what psychologists, psychotherapists, social workers to is actually key to leadership skills. So I would recommend digging into psychology.

Russel Lolacher
Thank you so much for your time and your brain on this I love where the conversation kind of went, it was very much about how the organization’s intent but also the individuals as well, which they’re linked people. It’s the workplace culture we’re talking about. Yeah. So to wrap up with the last question, what is one simple action people can do right now to improve their relationships at work?

Neal Dlin
Approach everything really like a clean slate. Try to be aware of those biases you have. And just be that detective look for clues. Look for signs, ask questions. If you’re not sure, get clarity. Hey, I feel like you’re saying, by the way, that’s a totally okay thing to say, hey, you seem like really passionate for me. It’s landing like you’re upset that I’m doing this. You know, what is what are you actually feeling I don’t I don’t want to miss I don’t want to miss mess this up. So you know, even just that you just walked away with every time you are not sure about someone’s intentions that you just ask them. You can do that. By the way, you have permission. You’re not gonna you know, people are like, Oh, I can’t do that. No, you can. Hey, Neil, when you just told us that it was really important that we all did this. Did you mean you want me to work 60 hours a week? Because you said it was really important that we work hard? No, not at all. I’m so glad you asked me that question. Because work life balance is critical. I mean, that when you’re here, let’s keep our minds focused here. But then I want you to leave and I do want you to stop working and forget about it and go home. You know, so ask, you can ask the question. But yeah, remember people are all humans are all the same. We all have the same feelings and needs and when unsure ask, I would say those are two actions you can take away.

Russel Lolacher
Thank you very much, Neil, for your time. I really appreciate you being on the podcast. Thank you.

Neal Dlin
Oh, my pleasure.

 

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