Suzanne Bates, CEO, Bates Communications
As summer draws to a close, we are all starting to think about the fall, and the inevitable race to year end. For me, the end of the year signifies a time to ramp up focus, press the pedal down and bring my team along with me on this demanding journey.
This requires special attention and focus to motivate and inspire, while steering toward that goal. Something we call intentionality. Many people assume intentionality is synonymous with being assertive or decisive. In fact, it’s different, though related. In leadership, intentionality is sustained focus on a goal or initiative, one that has purpose and meaning for the enterprise. People experience an intentional leader as deliberate. They have a plan. It is clear. Everybody understands. We know what we’re doing and why.
Data collected from tens of thousands of leaders through our executive presence assessment shows leaders could be a lot more intentional. The cost of this is high for organizations. A lack of intentionality slows down strategic execution –time, money and talent are wasted. People get discouraged, lose momentum and often stop working on a project altogether. When people aren’t clear, things aren’t getting done. This can be the kiss of death in the year end scramble to succeed.
So what’s holding us back?
Through our analysis, we have found that intentionality ranks as one of the lower of the “style” elements of executive presence that are critical to driving execution. We have also analyzed what prevents leaders from being more intentional, and a few themes have emerged.
- One is how effective and sophisticated leaders are at meeting management. Many do not run great meetings and in many company cultures, poor meeting management practices are epidemic. It is critical for leaders to know how to create an agenda, set expectations, orchestrate a healthy discussion while keeping it moving, and not forget to finalize with agreement on next steps and who is responsible.
- Another reason why leaders don’t show up as intentional is because they simply feel pressed for time. They may know deep down that an issue is worthy of discussion but they are traveling, called into other meetings, or pulled away on special projects. They perceive these urgent demands as more important. They end up canceling or cutting short team or project meetings.
- We can undermine intentionality with our own bad habits. Sometimes we aren’t taking time to reflect, which means we are not clear ourselves about what needs to be done and why. We need to carve out time to think and develop a viewpoint. That doesn’t mean adopting the attitude that it is “my way or the highway.” Rather, it is cultivating an informed perspective. Our outlook should be informed with all types of data, including what we learn from the team’s input.
What should you do to be more intentional as you drive to your goals this year?
Based on our work with leaders and teams, and our executive presence assessment tool, we have identified specific steps to develop intentionality, including:
- Clarify mission, goals, objectives and priorities: Create a clear picture of where you’re going and why, and give people reason to care.
- Slow down to speed up: Once you’ve identified these priorities, leave time for discussion so people can raise questions, discuss sticking points and get clarity.
- Stay attuned to the ebbs and flows: Keep lines of communication open, learn about issues, pay attention to thoughts feelings and emotions. Alignment requires sustained effort.
- Become an excellent leader of meetings: You can have the best of intentions but agenda and process trump hopes and wishes every time.
- Cultivate a discipline of intentionality: Leadership is about mindfulness, and if you’re constantly in a rush and don’t have time to think you cannot be intentional. Find quiet time to get clarity yourself about projects and priorities and set your own intentions.
When you come back to the office refreshed from summer break, step up and start with your plan to become more intentional – and see how you are able to motivate and propel your team to year end success.