Lead with Your Intentions

January 9, 2019

Poor communication is the reason for many misunderstandings. This can be due to the person sending the message, the one receiving it, or both sender and receiver. As a leader, to send an effective message, you need to begin by making your intentions clear.

That’s because when you lead with intention, your message is immensely easier to understand. You are stating what you want. You are being direct. And you are being clear.

It’s important when speaking in any conversation to first understand what it is you want. Are you seeking to inform, persuade, disagree, motivate, entertain, or something else? By identifying what it is you want and making this immediately clear to the other person, you are more likely to gain better understanding.

Think about the importance of the words in the subject line of an email message. It can often be the difference between whether the actual message ever gets read or not.

In order to lead with your intentions, you need to alert the receiver of what’s coming. Think of it like the headline in a newspaper article. Or the old adage regarding effective presentations: 1) tell them what you are going to talk about, 2) tell them about it, and 3) tell them what you just told them. Begin with end in mind, as Stephen Covey wrote.

Leading with your intentions means you are able to develop a stronger commitment to move out of your comfort zone. And this, of course, is where the real growth and opportunities begin.

In a recent Forbes magazine article, author Alan Trivedi discusses being mechanical (machine-like, and uninfluenced by the mind or emotions) versus intentional (open-minded regarding ideas and influence) with regard to hearing/listening, seeing/observing, doing/practicing, remembering/reflecting. Intentionality is more active than passive and inevitably leads to new possibilities.

This intentionality also requires that you are in touch with yourself and with what is true for you. It is integral to showing up effectively in the workplace. And finding your inner truths and leading with them are essential to effective leadership, according to Melissa Williams-Gurian in her book How Do You Want To Show Up?

“Every step you can take toward addressing what is true for you directly, rather than indirectly, helps you gain in power and self-confidence,” writes Williams-Gurian. “And the closer you can get to doing that in the moment rather than a week or a month later, the more effective it will be.”

Authenticity is inherently a part of showing up and leading with intention. By embracing who you are and courageously stepping into the vulnerability this requires, means you are able to show up in an authentic manner.

Leading with your intentions means you are able to communicate more effectively and reduce the number of misunderstandings. You demonstrate more commitment to getting outside of your comfort zone, which enables further possibilities. And the authenticity you demonstrate creates greater trust and engagement. All of which demonstrates effective leadership.

Turn Signals and Talk Signals

May 11, 2009

In the same way not using a turn signal can frustrate other drivers, failing to use language to clearly convey your intent equally confounds listeners. This lack of clarity may lead to road rage and accidents on the road and, in workplace conversations, can result in confusion, missed opportunities, or even dismissal.

We have all experienced the driver in front of us who does not signal his or her intent by using a turn signal well before making a turn or changing lanes. In the chapter “Letting Others Know What You Are Doing” of the Washington Driver Guide, a turn signal is to be initiated at least 100 feet prior to a change in direction. In the case of changing lanes, I frequently experience a driver drifting over into my lane only to signal at the last possible moment. Why is this? What made the use of a turn signal so difficult or seem unnecessary?

A national survey conducted by an insurance company in 2005 found that 57 percent of drivers admit they do not use their turn signal. Respondents claimed they do not have enough time, are lazy, would forget to turn it off, change lanes too frequently to bother, or it is not important. Have we become less sensitive to the needs of those around us–even if it means risking the safety of ourselves and others?

Letting others know what we are doing or intending to do is perhaps just as important when trying to communicate with someone in the workplace. Think about a recent challenging relationship you had with an employee, co-worker or supervisor. When you speak with this person, how often does he or she really know your intention? Does this lack of transparency on your part lead to misunderstanding, conflict, or worse?

Much of our communication today is conveyed via email, text messaging, and clipped cell phone calls and these conversations are extremely condensed. It is easier than ever to misunderstand another person’s intent because the message delivery is more cryptic, coded, and abbreviated than ever before. Do emoticons help or only add to the confusion? The Subject line in an email message can certainly be helpful. Yet nonverbal clues are unable to assist us in decoding what has been stated. Without facial expressions, eye movements, and other body language, it is extremely easy to misunderstand or misinterpret the message being sent. So what it is to be done?

I have four suggestions that can be used and they should be conducted face-to-face whenever a communication breakdown is likely to occur.

1. State you intention clearly and directly. Ensure that the person you are delivering the message to understands why you are saying what you are saying. For example: “I’ve noticed that you’ve often been late to our staff meetings the past few months.” State specific behavioral information based on what you have observed. Next express your intent behind this. “I am concerned because this causes us to delay the start of the meetings.”

2. Look at the situation from the receiver’s perspective. The response might be: “Well, I try to get here on time, but I’m very busy these days.” Try to put yourself in his or her shoes by understanding the context from which your message is being delivered. What is this person’s mood, frame of mind, environment which could impact his or her ability to understand what is being said?

3. Use paraphrase to aid understanding. Ensure that you hear what the other person is saying by repeating back what you’ve heard. “What I hear you saying is that you are very busy and you are trying to be on time.” This will verify that you heard correctly. It will also demonstrate empathy to the other person and keep them engaged in listening to you.

4. Seek a win-win conclusion. Next you might state a personal statement as to why it matters. “It’s important to me that we are all here on time. Is there something I can do to help you make it to these meetings on time so that we don’t waste all of our time?” This makes it clear that you want to be a part of the solution.

Obviously, these four steps need not be used in every instance. However, using them when communication has gotten off-track can be the difference between clearly communicating and seriously derailing a conversation.

Mark Craemer   www.craemerconsulting.com