Included in intention are elements of purpose, legacy, and motivation. Purpose is what you want to accomplish in your life, or in the case of leadership what you want to accomplish in the organization or the team or the project for which you have been given responsibility; or the idea, even. Many people don’t lead teams of more than one, but are thought leaders and can provide tremendous contributions to fields and influence many by their thinking and how they communicate their thinking to others.
Chances are if you reading this post or purchased our book, you have the intention of being a better leader, and we applaud you for that. Both Kathy and I are lifelong learners. We sit in training sessions and are never known to say that we have heard this before or that the content is a retread. We find that it is incumbent on us as learners to find new ways to implement the information that the presenter has taken the time to organize for us. If your bias or your intention is to criticize or to somehow dismiss the content because it is too familiar, then you are missing out and may not have the intention for improvement.
Can you train people to have intention? People lacking intention typically don’t show up at our door for coaching, although they may show up in a group leader development process. Often the best we can do is to help that person who might have been recruited against their will to be in a leader development program or to receive executive coaching is to help them be placed in a situation where there’s more alignment with what their skills are and their interests are and their ultimate purpose is. If there isn’t positive intention to grow then it is an awkward process to try to guide that person’s development.
Here are a few questions to ask about your leadership Intention:
- What drives me to do this work?
- How did I become involved in this work? Did I deliberately choose it or did circumstance dictate it? What do I want to accomplish in my role?
- How much am I willing to invest in my success in this role in comparison to other competing priorities in my life?
- What do I want to be able to say to others about what I do for a living and how I do it?
- What do I want my staff or customers to say about my leadership approach?
- What impact do I want to leave in the role that I am in or the one that I aspire to be in?
By reflecting on these questions you can begin to refine your intention. You may find that the questions will reinforce decisions you’ve made almost intuitively or subconsciously. This is a powerful moment when you see that you have connected and aligned your intention and your career aspirations with your current role. For many, however, this is the place where the first disconnects are often observed. By focusing on these questions and finding that they are difficult, this is often a clue that there’s misalignment.
What to do if intention is not connected with your current role? Typically what we do in our coaching, we recommend that for people who come to the awareness that they are not operating from a place where intention is aligned with either opportunity or to reality of how they find themselves spending their time, we direct them to opportunities where there might be a greater alignment. In one case, a participant of a year-long multi-event leader development program came to us and said, about three sessions into the program, that he did not believe that he was called to be a leader. In fact, he had taken jobs of increasing responsibility in an academic setting because he was willing and less aggressive about his rejection of those offers than his peers, yet he continued to believe that his life purpose, his intention, was to be the best teacher of literature and to help expose young learners to powerful ideas and concepts. He did not intend to be a leader, and he, through the course of the program, began to realize that it was something that he needed to change in his life, sooner than later.
Intention can be fostered by reflective practices that include journaling, but can also include structured conversations with trusted advisors, mentors, and coaches where there’s an environment of expressing apprehension, confusion, or even frustration in order to work through the problems without affecting perceptions about your role while you remain in position. Talking through the misalignment can often lead to renewed intention in the job that the person finds themselves in and does not require a transition or significant shift in activity or focus. At other times it might become obvious and reinforced through the feedback of those trusted advisors that a change is needed. And in those circumstances, having a person to bounce options off of and to create a new pathway is critical.