Intentional literally means, “done deliberately”. In preparation for the last post of the month, I had the most time of all the Luminaries to consider what to write about. I was actually able to deliberate, to observe my behaviors and patterns, and to consider the contexts in which I am more or less effective being intentional. The common denominator of me being intentional?? Time.
For me, time meant a variety of things this month:
- 4 weeks to prepare my blog post,
- at least 5-10 minutes of prep before each meeting so that I could recall the details and be ready to answer questions, provide input, or make decisions (particularly on days when I was switching my attention between several projects), or even
- A couple of seconds when I found myself in a conflictual situation and wanted to make sure that what came out of my mouth was something that would move us toward resolution, not gridlock.
Because the amount of time I actually had varied on the situation, context, and topic, it seemed that it was more the presence of, rather than quantity of, time that actually contributed to my being able to be intentional.
Interestingly, this is related to something we train on a lot in our leadership development programs – the difference between REACTING and RESPONDING. Reacting happens when we reflexively engage – that is we speak or act before we think – and is often driven by emotion or experience. Responding, on the other hand, is a more intentional and measured engagement. It is often something we do after we’ve allowed ourselves some time to think – whether that’s a couple of seconds, minutes, days, weeks, or months – and to consider how what we are about to do will be perceived by others, whether it will bring us closer to (or further from) the goal, etc. So, the key to being able to be more intentional, for me, was figuring out how to inhibit my instantaneous reactions. How to allow myself some time to actually think about whether what I’m about to say or do is consistent with my goals in the situation or useful in moving me closer to the outcomes I seek.
Here are a few tips that have helped me to be more intentional:
- Make your goals visual. On my monitor and in my pad folio (so I can always see them even if I’m away from my desk), I have my own professional development goals, my top leadership strengths, and our company’s mission statement and values displayed on an aesthetically pleasing piece of paper. This strategy is very different than just knowing you have a professional development plan in a filing cabinet or cloud somewhere and/or that your company’s values are hanging in the lobby or a conference room. This method makes all of these things personal, accessible, and most of all – consistently visual. I see them when I check email, answer a webcam or phone call, or just generally move through my day. Essentially, I can’t get away from it – and that’s the point. J
- Build in checks and balances. In addition to the things above, I have two questions on that piece of paper that I ask myself at least twice a day:
- Is this the most important thing for me to doing right now?
- How is what I’m doing contributing to the success of my business, our team, or my development?
If the answers are “No” and “I’m not sure”, I know I need to take a step back and reprioritize.
- Make time to think. Do you find yourself frequently saying, “That came out wrong” or “That’s not what I meant – I’m sorry” or maybe even asking yourself at the end of the day, “Why did I DO/SAY that?” Those may be some signs that you are reacting more than you are responding. When this is happening to me, it is a sign that I need to make more time to think. Now, this is the hard one because we probably all feel like we never really have enough of it to begin with…But for me, even taking 5-10 minutes before a meeting to think about what I need/want to contribute, how I want to engage, and what obstacles to my patience/clarity/ general attempt to be consistent in my communication may get in the way, or just simply taking a deep breath when I feel my hackles rising, is often enough to regain my center and move through my day feeling effective, efficient, and most of all INTENTIONAL. When we think we don’t have time, we rush, and when we rush we are more at risk for reacting. Just think about the time sponges that we can create if aren’t intentional in how we are communicating, interacting, or approaching our goals…increased conflict (which means more time managing the conflict), needing to rebuild people’s trust in or respect for you, fixing errors, correcting bad decisions, etc.
We hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about each Luminary’s (what we call our Lumin team members) drive toward a more intentional personal and/or professional life. We strive to be in balance with our colleagues, our clients, and ourselves. Being intentional is not just a practice of ours – it’s a value. We know that when we think and act intentionally, we are more able to bring the best of ourselves to our friends, families, and clients.
Good luck on your own journey toward intentionality! We’re here working right along with you and are happy to support you along the way.