Have you ever had incorrect intent ascribed to your actions? Why did that happen?
Many think of leadership as a war of political gamesmanship and cutthroat advancement. Such outdated Machiavellian attitudes have evolved into the desire to build cultures of high transparency, collaboration, and trust.
Today, few people want to work in environments of concealment and one-upmanship. Declaring our intent in conversations, especially in adversarial or high-stakes conversations, is crucial to creating mutual understanding, if not mutual agreement. When we declare our intent, we become a trustworthy and credible source.
According to Dr. Blaine Lee, author of The Power Principle: Influence With Honor, “Nearly all, if not all conflict arises from mismatched or unfulfilled expectations.” Make sure that what you intend people to hear and see is what they actually hear and see. The less clear you are, the more you are responsible for their lack of clarity.
How to Declare Your Intent:
- Take stock of how often you begin conversations by declaring your intent — are you clear about your goals, or are you leaving people to guess?
- Early on, ask others to confirm they are clear on your intent.
- Consider how you make it safe (or unsafe) for others to declare their intent. What should you stop doing, do more of, or do differently?
- Think of a cordial relationship where you have mutual respect but suspect the other person has read you wrong or doesn’t fully understand where you’re coming from. Try meeting them informally (like for coffee), and see if you can work a declaration of intent into the conversation.
- Ensure when you declare your intent that it’s truthful and congruent with your actions.
- Expressing your intent may well take a level of courage that might not be natural to you. Better to summon that skill than face the consequences that follow from not doing so.