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Put Your Intentions to Work (Intentional Leadership, Part 3 of 3)

Man In The Labyrinth, The Search For The Exit. Labyrinth Of Colorful Wooden Blocks, Tetris. The Man In The Maze. The Concept Of A Business Strategy, Analytics, Search For Solutions, The Search Output.

You’ve seen it…maybe you’ve even experienced it.

You’re granted time on the agenda to give a very important presentation. You and your team have worked for weeks gathering data, making charts, and preparing slides.

The big day comes and you feel SO ready. You make it through the entire presentation without any major mishaps or challenges. And later, with a sigh of relief and a smile, you tell your colleagues that it “went very well.”

And then…



You finally realize that you don’t have any more support than you had before your presentation. You don’t get the resources you had hoped for. The company isn’t buzzing about your great idea.

What happened?

You may have failed to put your intentions to work.

Ah, Mom! I don’t want to do my homework!

Very quick recap (See full articles for Clarity of Intention here and Lay of the Land here)…

When putting your intentions to work, there is critical pre-work to be done. And that pre-work goes far beyond the usual data, charts, and slide preparation.

At minimum, you need to get very clear (with yourself) about your intentions and the outcomes you hope to achieve. Gaining clarity of your intentions is key before you even start to think about crafting your approach to any engagement (presentation, meeting, negotiation, or discussion).

Without clarity of your intentions, you’ll end up somewhere, but likely not the place you intended to go.

What do you hope to achieve from this engagement? Know this. Know this deeply.

You also need to be very familiar with the lay of the land. This goes beyond knowing the facts, figures, and content that you want to share. This is about knowing what you are walking into.

Who is your audience? What are the political dynamics? What is the current business situation? What are the goals of your audience? What are their hot buttons?

OK, good start, but now we have to get busy putting intention to work…

What Does Success Look Like?

In doing your pre-work you must also be sure to precisely define your success. How will you know that you have achieved your desired outcome? What exactly will your intended success look like?

Is success from your engagement getting approval for more resources? Is it getting budget to start your new program (exactly how much)? Is it getting support for a major project (what exactly does that support entail)?

Success is not people around the table just nodding their heads.

Success: Actual Outcome = Desired Result

Not defining success in advance is a major factor in engagement failures. If you don’t understand what success looks like, you are open to two major mistakes.

On the one hand, you may fail to effectively make the “ask.” What do you want to see as a result of this engagement? Did you provide the right information to influence people to give you what you want? Did you provide a clear call to action?

On the other hand, you could over-sell your idea to the point of turning people against it. As an axiom of selling goes, “Once your prospect agrees to buy, stop selling!” If you do not know that you have already reached your desired outcome, you might continue to talk people right out of it!

Guarantee Your Success

Now that you know your desired outcome, you know what your successful end result will look like, and you know the lay of the land, it’s time to get your plan in place.

Beware: This is where people get lazy. They figure they can “wing it.” Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. If your results don’t matter to you, then go ahead and wing it. But if the stakes are high, why take the chance?

In your planning, you’ll want to anticipate what things could get in the way of manifesting your intention (and how to deal with them if/when they arise) and what things can help you achieve your desired outcome (and how to use those to your advantage).

For example, what is the current business climate? Obviously, pitching for more resources when the company is pushing to reduce costs is not only difficult, but can also make you look naïve (aka clueless) or extremely self-serving. The usual approach won’t work…you need a better plan.

What are your audience’s hot buttons? We usually think of people’s Red Buttons: the things that immediately cause them to spontaneously explode in their seats. And just for the sake of clarity, people exploding in their seats is a bad thing. Avoid linking your proposal or pitch to these red buttons at all cost.

But we also need to consider our audience’s Green Buttons: their pet projects, the things that bring a sparkle to their eyes. Can you connect (in a non-contortionist way!) your desired outcome to their green buttons? If so, it may take you far in getting to your desired outcome.

Finally, get ready to negotiate. You may not be able to get everything you want, so you need to know your “must haves”, your potential concessions, and your “walk away” point. You are just plain smart to plan for a successful negotiation in advance.

It should be noted that planning is NOT about developing an inflexible, stringent pitch to memorize and regurgitate. It is just the opposite. Good planning enables you to be more responsive and agile in the moment because you have already thought through the different possible scenarios, and you have a portfolio of information and approaches to use as needed.

You likely will use only a fraction of everything you prepared in advance, but having the right information and approaches on hand when you need them can be the difference between making and breaking a deal.

Pay Attention to Your Intention

It’s GO TIME…time for the meeting, presentation, or discussion. This is where the rubber meets the road.

The important thing to remember at this stage is that everything you say and everything you do either get you closer to your desired results or further away.

So, the agenda you design should be done with your intention in mind. Every slide you present should have a point, and those points should ultimately deliver your desired results. How you say things, not just what you say, should support your intention.

Intention provides direction for our actions. Actions lead to outcomes.

As you proceed with your meeting or presentation, keep your intention in mind AND stay aware in the current moment. Specifically, be aware of the reactions you are getting (verbal and non-verbal) and the progress you are or are not making. With your arsenal of pre-work at hand, you can and should pivot as needed.

Ideally, you are well prepared and agile.

Finally, don’t join the loooooong history of meetings, discussions, and presentations that just peter out at the end, leaving people with the feeling that the meeting was fine, but what was the point? Make sure you have a clear call to action to get to your desired results.

Want to keep moving forward on the path to your desired future? Want your team to reach your organizational goals?

Act with intention. Lead with intention.

P.S. Thank you so much for following my work. If you found this article to be helpful, please feel free to pass it on to a friend. Thanks again!!!

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