With the complexity of our changing world, the speed with which decisions are made, and the overwhelming choices available, today’s leader needs to fully understand the invisible forces that shape conversation and build relationships: Intention and alignment.
Every day, leaders make numerous decisions and take multiple actions without even thinking about intention and alignment. Yet, in my consulting work, I have discovered something interesting: Almost every conversation gone wrong was due to either failing to set the right intention at the beginning. failing to align actions with intentions or a combination of both. This article offers personal and professional examples showcasing the power of intention and alignment.
Sometimes we have hidden or competing agendas without being aware of how these hidden forces affect our personal lives.
Let’s say you need to visit or call your elderly parent. If your intention is to "check it off the list" or "get it over with" you will feel impatient and will not be present. Your parent will not receive the gift of your visit but instead will feel like a burden. If, instead, your intention is to give love and support, you will likely experience fulfillment and appreciation.
Let's say that your intention is in the right place, but your elderly parent isn't appreciative or is obstinate and difficult to be around. Your experience will be one of compassion and understanding because you have no ulterior motives.
The good feeling you have is due to the power of alignment. You took action by aligning with your highest value. Your contribution, value or measure of success was not dependent on something outside of your control. What I’ve witnessed over and over again is that when your intention is in alignment with your values, you get better results even when in the past you have had struggles.
Suppose as a leader, you need to have a difficult performance conversation with an employee. If your intention is to prove them wrong, chances are you will provoke anger. (If you feel obsessed that the conversation didn't go well, check your intention. We are often unaware of our hidden agenda to prove someone wrong, win an argument or find an excuse to let someone go. When you have a conversation that goes south, reflect and ask yourself if you had any hidden agendas you were unaware of.
But I can hear the argument: "They were also out of alignment." Or, “They are the one to blame.” It doesn't matter if they are out of alignment. Our agenda here is not to place blame. Your own intention and alignment thereof is the focus. Where we lose focus is when we start believing the problem is because of someone else's intention. When we lose clarity and focus our conversations become counterproductive.
In contrast, your experience will be different if, when you approach the conversation, your intention is to find ways to work together. You will be more curious instead of judgmental, and your employee will sense your energy.
Practicing intention and alignment
So, how do you stay aligned to your intentions? First, you have to consciously set the intention. I have a practice of setting a daily intention. When faced with a difficult or specific situation, I think consciously about how I want to show up and what outcome I want. I think about how I want the other person to experience being in my presence.
A word of caution: You may have to adjust your attitude or check yourself so that you aren’t sarcastic, defensive or putting up walls. Think about your triggers. Practice the kind of conversation that creates bridges versus barriers.
Next, stop assuming wrong intention on others who have a different point of view. The moment you assume wrong intention is the moment you contribute and to the drama. When we assume wrong intentions, we shut down and forget to be curious. We participate in the very things we say we don't want
Finally, get curious and seek understanding before nailing your point. (This is a difficult one for me.) Instead of jumping to a conclusion, take a breath and ask a good question. You can disagree without disconfirming.
Intention is a powerful force that affects the outcome, and alignment tells you when you are on-base or off-base.
Marlene Chism is a consultant, international speaker and the author of "Stop Workplace Drama" (Wiley 2011), "No-Drama Leadership" (Bibliomotion 2015) and "7 Ways to Stop Drama in Your Healthcare Organization. Visit her at MarleneChism.com and StopWorkplaceDrama.com. Connect via LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
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