Everything we do starts with an intent. An intent is a purpose or a goal that you want to achieve. Think of even the most mundane action that you take such as brushing your teeth. There is an intent behind it. The intent is to have clean teeth which will hopefully lead to less painful visits at the dentist. Everything that we do whether big or small starts with an intention.
More often than not, intentions are biased towards good or positive outcomes. For example, no one intents to fail at an exam or at work. No one intents to be the worst employee of an organisation. Intentions are usually aimed at achieving good results, being the best, you can be and living out a life of impact.
However, intention in itself is not enough. For example, I intent to be fit and to run 5k. If I never action on that intent, no number of intentions will help me to achieve the goal of being fit and to be able to run 5k. Intention needs to be coupled with actions.
The other way intent is received is how it is perceived. How does someone else perceive or receive your intentions. For example, you might intent to give someone positive feedback. However, the delivery or the how you communicate the feedback is harsh and direct which leaves the person hurt and confused with your intentions. This is a simple example of how an intention does not line up with the outcome. I am sure that you have had experienced this before whether you are the person having the good intention but somehow misses the mark with the execution or you have been on the receiving end of a badly delivered but well-intentioned person.
What can we do to help us minimise the gap between intentions and outcomes?
I think that there are 3 ways that can help you minimise the gap and they are:
1. Start with Clear and Simple Intent.
2. Prepare how you would action and communicate your intent.
3. Be alert and watch for response.
Start with Clear and Simple Intent.
This might seem like an obvious first step, however, because it is so obvious, we often miss or skip it. Be clear with yourself first as to your intent. Be honest with yourself on your intention. You can’t fake intention; you might fool some people some of the time but not all people all the time.
- What is my intention?
- What is the outcome that I am hoping for?
- Why am I doing this? Is there any other reason?
Clarity and honesty around your intent is critical because that is what people will perceive. Don’t forget, we all have a spidey sense that is able to sense danger or when someone is not being honest.
For example, when you congratulate someone for a job well done, you could use the most encouraging praiseworthy words but if your intention is not sincere, the tone and manner of your delivery will let on your intention. However, if your intention is sincere, even with the least number of words, you might be able to communicate and achieve the outcome that you had planned. I am sure that we have all experienced that when someone tells you good job, but you don’t think much of it because either you weren’t sure of their intentions or because of how it was delivered.
Therefore, start with clear and simple intentions. Be honest about your intention. State your intentions upfront.
Prepare the action and communication plan.
During more formal settings such as a feedback session, being prepared is critical. Just having great intentions will not help you get the outcome that you want. This step is the most critical in ensuring that the gap between your intention and the outcome is at its minimum.
For example, if you are going to have a tough feedback session with an employee because of performance gaps, you will need to be clear on your intention and then prepare a plan to communicate that in the most respectful, clear and supportive manner. If your intention is to help the employee close the performance gap, then you will need to clearly communicate the gaps while providing guidelines or support framework to help the person develop or build up skills that are required to perform well. How you communicate the intent is crucial.
This is usually the area where intention to help is usually received negatively. The execution or the delivery is where we usually fall short. Either it’s the words that are used or the tone and manner in the delivery. However, I think that most of the communication shortfall can be overcome if we have built enough trust in the relationship. For most of us, we know that no one is perfect and communication gaps exist and therefore we know to automatically compensate accordingly, knowing and trusting the person because people will know your intention if you have been authentic consistently. For example, if it is someone that you do not trust, no amount of great delivery or right words would give the person 100% confidence that the intent and execution lines up.
Be alert and just listen.
Just like any communication, be alert or watchful for responses and then you will have to be flexible and adapt accordingly. The reality is that you will never know how you actions are being perceived and the only ways are to listen and observe. Pay full attention and focus on listening to what is being said, do not be distracted by thinking about your response but give it all your focus to listen. You will be surprised just how difficult “real listening” is. I remember when I was going through a coaching course, the hardest skill that I had to learn was listening. To listen with no other intent but to seek to learn and understand. You will be surprised to what you might learn when you are able to learn without being distracted by your thoughts on how to counter what the person is saying.
You will be able to then gauge whether you are achieving the outcome that you had intended by now taking your time to listen to the person’s response and observe their reaction. Ask them follow-up questions if you want to seek clarification or to further understand their perspective. Do not leave a conversation hanging or without seeking their feedback. You will only truly know if your intentions are communicated accurately through the person’s response and feedback. So, take the time to listen.
Intentions only are not enough to give you the outcome that you want. The gap between intention and outcome lies in the execution. Be clear and simple with your intentions. What and how you execute on your intention will determine the outcome. Take your time to prepare how you would execute your intention. Take time to listen to the response. Be intentional and you will be able to minimise the gap between intentions and outcomes.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I hope that you have learned at least one thing that you are able to apply into your everyday life. Let’s step into the everyday with purpose. As always, please subscribe, follow and share this blog with your friends. Take care and step into the everyday with purpose.