Leading with Intention
When you meet someone, it doesn’t take long to know if they are living a life with intention, with purpose, with a design. Many people float through life waiting to see what will happen, going with the flow, and allowing others to decide the future. It’s the people who shape the future that stand out.
Living life with intention requires you to choose your actions and discipline your life in every moment. Mindy Hall, Ph.D. is the President and CEO of Peak Development Consulting, LLC. She has worked with clients around the world to strengthen leaders and help them live with intention. I had the opportunity to talk with her about her experience, her research, and her new book, Leading With Intention: Every Moment is a Choice.
The Importance of Being Intentional
Leading With Intention is a challenge for today’s leaders. Why is intention critical to leading today?
Let me illustrate with a story from the book. A vice president of human resources worked in a company where the corporate offices were set up with two entrances: the front door from the lobby, which visitors were encouraged to use, and a side entrance marked “Employees Only,” which staff were required to use. The company’s senior-most executives could choose either door, and it was about the same distance from their parking spaces to their offices no matter which route they chose. Going through the side door took them past many other offices and common areas, allowing them to interact with other people in the company. Many of the executives, however, used the front door of the building, as they felt it provided quicker access to their offices, and therefore made better use of their time. What they failed to realize, however, was the gap between their intent and their impact.
The perception the executives created among employees was that they thought of themselves as separate—that they didn’t care to interact with the employees and did not have to follow the same rules. This behavior, although seemingly innocent, contributed to an “us-versus-them” feeling that began to impact the organization in very real ways—lack of belief in the espoused values of the company, lack of trust in the executives, and lack of engagement—all of which impact performance: Unintended consequences, but ones that show how easily actions send messages and how small behaviors can have a tangible impact.
These kinds of stories play out thousands of times a day at companies around the world. So much of our organizations’ potential is tied to a completely controllable variable: a leader’s awareness of their impact and their ability to choose behavior that intentionally shapes that impact.
How Others Perceive You Depends on How Present You Are
Compare and contrast with me two executives. One is leading with intention and the other clearly isn’t. What would you observe immediately that distinguishes the two?
You can see it most easily in how aware they are of their impact: the tone they set and how they are “showing up” to the organization. The most tangible dimension of this awareness takes shape in their communication skills—how present they are with others. What verbal and non-verbal cues are they sending to signal their engagement or lack thereof? Are they able to connect with their audiences in both informal and formal communications?
A leader’s currency is in his interactions, so the ability to inspire everyone from front line employees to senior executives and board members shouldn’t be taken for granted.
“Every action has an impact; choose wisely the impact you want to have.” –Mindy Hall