I spent some time over the weekend thinking about motives. I’ll admit that I fall into the camp of people who tend to ascribe malevolent intent to many of the seemingly innocent things that happen to each of us each day. I also admit that it’s misguided to do so. As I wrote a few months back, people tend to be more stupid than they are evil. Add oblivious to that list. That, however, isn’t really today’s thought.
My thinking led me to this. What is important is that people do question why we do what we do as businesses and businesspeople. They look at two things – actions and motives. When our actions are tone-deaf or out of sync with someone’s desires, they let us know. Maybe it’s by lack of purchase; maybe it’s via social media. In those cases we can usually apologize, explain that we recognize the error of our previous course of action, acknowledge bad decision-making, and promise to do better.
Where we run into issues is when the consumer, partner, or employee looks at our motives. Yes, they will do that in the course of receiving the aforementioned apology. That’s where we can’t screw up. I’ve found that people are very willing to forgive if your intentions were good even if your actions were wrong. We get into much deeper and hotter water when our motives were as wrong as our actions.
It’s not about rationalization. In many cases where we screw up, our actions can be rationalized but not justified. In fact, almost any action can be rationalized, but justification requires something more. I think that something more is the underlying intentions – our motives.
I get that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” and it’s important to act on those intentions. When we screw up in so doing, the inevitable examination of those intentions needs to check out. If we don’t pass that exam, we can’t possibly succeed at business. You agree?