The following is a guest piece by Will Wise.
Have you ever been in a meeting and wondered, “Why am I here?”
Or worse yet, have you ever lead a meeting while others quietly asked themselves, “Why am I here?”
If so, my guess is there was one thing missing that could have made a profound difference in how you or others felt about a meeting. Something that not only does away with the ambiguity of why this meeting is taking place but also increases connection, belonging and trust. With one change, you can transform meetings from having low-to-no engagement with ambiguous outcomes into fully transparent, productive collaborations.
How? Begin your next meeting with a statement of intent. It brings clarity to others about “where” you are coming from and what “game” you’re are willing to play. Sharing your intention allows for full transparency rather than leaving others guessing about what we are up to and “why we are here?”
When I suggest making a clear statement of intent, I don’t mean open your next meeting with, “Hello folks, today we are here to talk about the new product launch.” The CEO that I was coaching started a recent meeting that way. As you can guess it did little to move people to the edge of their seats.
When we explored what he was really trying to achieve he came up with, “Hello folks. My intention for today’s meeting is to discuss how we can meet the timeline of the product launch so that our customers are delighted with our new offerings, our designers know they can count on us to be fashion forward, and our competitors are blown away.”
Setting and sharing an intention that moves and uplifts all the key stakeholders, will move people closer to the edge of their seats. It creates a game that is worth playing and people can choose if that is the game they want to play.
Getting real work done during a meeting, and asking powerful questions that move the organization forward, needs the support that comes from setting a clear intention. Working on intention first allows you to begin to focus on who you are rather than what you do. An important distinction if you really want to have an impact.
The root of intent, intendere, from Latin, suggests “to stretch,” so when you make an intention, you are inviting yourself (and others) to stretch, grow and evolve toward something greater, to something purposeful.
Through my work with a number of companies, I have observed that in many cases there are cultural myths that prevent leaders from being clear about their intent. These include:
- that leaders are the keepers of information,
- knowledge is power,
- that when it comes to getting ahead in the workplace, you should only share whatever knowledge is relevant to advancing your own position within the ranks.
I now know that is a bunch of poppycock.
The most successful leaders are:
- generous with their knowledge,
- are open,
- and allow others to know what motivates them.
The astounding thing is, the clearer you are about your intention, the easier it is to accomplish what you are up to. By being clear about your intention, you allow others the opportunity to choose which game to participate in.
One huge advantage of being clear with your intent is that it crushes manipulation.
Manipulation and clear intent cannot exist in the same space.
In simple terms, manipulation is getting someone to do something without telling them what you are trying to get them to do. When you state your intent clearly and include the needs of others they have an opportunity to agree, disagree or counteroffer. They have a choice in the matter. The fact they have a choice will do wonders to increase connection, belonging and trust.
Powerful intent statements are clear, true, and complete. In order for others to understand your intention, though, you must avoid faking it by making something up that you think they would like to hear and omitting the truth, in part or in whole.
A hidden agenda will only create more space between you and others. On some level, they will know you’re holding back. Being clear opens up the possibility for the relationship to be transparent rather than opaque. Opaqueness continues the cycle of the “guessing game” and does not lead to connection.
So how do you get clear about your intent?
Getting clear with intention starts with reflection and asking yourself some questions about what you are aiming to achieve. When I cannot pinpoint my intention, or I need to do so quickly I use one of these three lenses to unlock it:
1. Future Focused Intent
How do I want the world to exist? (“I want to work in a place in which we all get along and can still challenge each other to do our best work.”)
2. Outcome Focused Intent
What result am I expecting from this meeting that would be useful for everyone involved? (“When this meeting is over, I want to understand the challenges you have been facing with this project and what we can do to make it work for all of us.”)
3. Commitment Focused Intent
What promise have I made that I want to live fully in this moment? (“I love you; I want you to know that and want to understand what is getting in the way of us having a loving relationship.”)
Powerful intentions that enliven, rejuvenate, and exhilarate those around you tend to include “we” language. Using inclusive language will encourage you to be accountable for the whole by attending not just to your own needs, but to the needs of those around you. In this way, you will discourage yourself from holding an intention based on your own fear.
For example, a fear-based intention might be: “I want to fix my financial situation at work.” Flipping it into “we” language might be: “I intend to create a workplace that is supportive of all our needs, be it related to finances, health, or wellbeing.”
Before your next meeting or conversation, spend some time discovering what your intention is. You might ask yourself:
- What are we aiming to achieve and what about that is important for everyone?
- What is the overall picture that needs to be clear for us to fully leverage our time in this meeting?
- How can I be accountable for the whole?
When you arrive at the meeting or start the conversation, state what your intention is. Destroy the assumption that they know what your intention is by simply saying it. Start the meeting by saying, “My intention for this meeting is____, so that___.”
If the focus becomes unclear, or if things get heated at any point during the meeting, pause the conversation and return to stating the intention (maybe try using different words this time). After applying these tactics in three separate meetings, reflect upon those meetings and conversations—see if you notice a difference in how they went compared to how they usually go.
Bonus Action Steps
After you have practiced the above your could start your next meeting by inviting others to share their intention. You could start by saying, “Let’s get clear about our intent of this meeting. How will we know when this meeting is over that this our time has been well spent?” Let them co-create with you the game that you are playing together and agree to the rules of the game. You will surely notice an increase in connection, belonging and trust.
Creating an Intention for the New Year
How many new year resolutions have you lost by the end of January? Another option is to create an intention for the year. Here are a few examples:
- I intend to shift my conversations so that I’m not listening to win, to interject, or to prove something but to listen to understand.
- I intend to create a peaceful community.
- I intend to live in a world where everyone belongs.
Your statement should reflect what drives you, no matter what you are doing. Create a statement that you can lean on even when you are surprised at what shows up. You’ll be able to cultivate more serendipitous moments that benefit everyone.
WiLL WiSE is the author of Amazon bestseller “Ask Powerful Questions: Create Conversations that Matter“, the co-founder and Chief Weologist at We!™.