The way a leader shows up to the office every day can have up to a 50-percent impact on the performance of their team’s outcomes. This effect, according to research conducted by the University of Denver, is intensified when factoring in the 50-percent productivity output of a disengaged employee. Leaders underestimate the value their behavior plays on the performance of their organization. It is critical as a leader of a high-performance organization to be in tune with your behavior and the impact on results.

The simple act of walking into the office has a huge impact on the surrounding environment. Think of your routine or the routine of your leader. Do they enter the office and make a beeline straight to the office with the important title? Is their head in the clouds or glued to the phone? Is their face intense, with the day’s issues and struggles in front of their mind? Perhaps they even take a route that completely eludes the need to interact with employees until they consume enough coffee to “do the people thing.”

While the intentions of a leader deep in thought may have nothing to do with the employees, that is not the feeling they channel and receive. Employees ask questions internally (or, worse, out loud!): “Why are they mad? What did I do? Are we selling the company? Did we lose a client?” As a leader, do you know how others believe you show up to the office each day?

Intention versus Perception

Intention versus Perception is a coaching technique to test the way leaders believe they come across versus how they are perceived by their staff. The easiest way to gather data is for the leader to simply ask the folks around them to describe their attitude and behaviors over the last month or two. The leader’s intention may have had nothing to do with the staff; in fact, that is most often the case. The intention may have been to plan the day, prep for a call, re-live a family discussion, etc. The perception, on the other hand, may consist of words such as focused, intense, distracted, angry, busy, too good for us, clueless, etc. Employees tend to use more gentle words when first seeing a behavior; however, repeated behavior results in much more negative descriptors.

Employees who are worried about what is going on with their leaders are not working at full capacity. They themselves become distracted or concerned. Gather the data, and determine how wide the gap is between your intention and the perception of the office.

If there is a gap, owning it is the best resolution. Acknowledging and thanking employees for their insights allows them to be part of the process for improvement. Leaders should recognize and, where appropriate, verbalize that the perceptions were not aligned to their intentions.

The next steps are easy: Now that leaders are aware that their attitude and behaviors can be perceived quite differently than how they intended, they can make a conscious effort to show up every day with positivity and energy.

Deciding to have a positive attitude each day is something each leader can control. Understanding their impact on employees frames their responsibility to ensure that positive intentions and perceptions are aligned.