What’s Your Intention?

Posted 06.16.2010

A Leavespond s I often do, I spent yesterday with a  group of high potential executives in an orientation program. The point of the program was to give these newly promoted leaders an inside look at what’s expected of them and to give them some opportunities to learn and think about what’s going to be different now that they’re in executive level roles. It’s a great thing to do and these leaders are fortunate that their company creates some time for them to go off line and learn from senior executives, each other and a few outside speakers.

I was part of that last group – the outside speakers. My goal was to share some tools and frameworks that would be useful to them for leading at the next level. I had that coveted 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm slot when everyone’s energy level is at its highest (not). In spite of the time of day, we had some really lively conversations. One of them was around the value of visualizing the outcome you’re trying to create in different events and meetings and how you need to show up to make that outcome likely. I asked everyone to identify an important event on their calendar next week and then spend four minutes coaching each other in pairs around three basic questions:

  • What’s the event?
  • What would complete success look like at the end of that event?
  • How do you need to show up to make that successful outcome likely?

I share this process in a lot of the presentations I do and it’s always great to see how quickly people get engaged in the coaching sessions. They’re getting real work done in those four minute sessions because they’re giving each other the opportunity to clarify their intentions and how they need to act on those intentions.

In debriefing the impact of these mini-coaching sessions, most people are surprised by how much clarity they developed and how much better prepared they feel for that event they were talking about. That’s the point. The pace of the environment that most leaders work in these days discourages taking even a few minutes of reflective thinking about intentions.
There’s an interesting story in today’s New York Times that relates to this dynamic. Wes Davis tells the story of a group of 16 young executives at the old Bell Telephone system who were asked to participate in a 10 month intensive study of the liberal arts. The goal was to get them to think more broadly and more intentionally. It was a lot of intellectual heavy lifting which culminated in 24 hours of discussion and analysis of James Joyce’s epic and very challenging novel Ulysses. Not your typical executive training course. One participant said that before the program, he had been “like a straw floating with the current down the stream. The stream was the Bell Telephone Company. I don’t think I will ever be that straw again.”

I’m not suggesting that you need to go offline and read James Joyce for 10 months to be more intentional about how you’re showing up as a leader. I am curious, though, what routines do you follow that enable you to be thoughtful and intentional about what you’re doing and how you’re showing up?