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Leading With Intent



As a leader, it is important to explicitly communicate what you expect from your team. One of the ways we do so effectively is by setting goals. Overly simplified, goals align mission, vision, resources, and personnel. When talking goals you will generally be taught good ones include an objective, a quantifying metric, and a timeframe. This framework allows management to organize and plan, while also providing explicit tasks to employees. But something is missing because this framework does not address the volatility of the world in which we operate. The forces that shaped the landscape you crafted your strategy in are likely to change. So how do your employees address change while also executing your strategy as intended? Simple, include a new element in your goal framework: Your intent.


Traditional Goal Setting

Let’s look at goal setting through the lens of something more relaxed in a home setting. You are having company over for dinner to celebrate a birthday. Between cleaning, work, and many other tasks that require your attention you are spread thin so you delegate the shopping to your son and daughter. Their goal:

Purchase enough food to cook for a group of 10 by 3pm.

This is a good goal. You gave them an objective (purchase food to cook), a quantifying metric (enough for a group of 10), and a timeframe to complete the goal (by 3pm). With this information, your children can go off to the store while you manage other areas of interest with the assumption that you will be able to begin cooking at 3pm. So you think.

The world is a volatile place where change is the only constant and anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Well today is no different and a truck crashed into the only grocery store in town, closing it for the rest of the day. As one would expect, your son and daughter come back to you so you may solve the problem for them. Now some task must suffer while you determine how you will feed your guests. If only there was a way they could have solved this problem on their own.


Goal Setting With Intent

Let’s revisit that goal we made earlier and add our intent:

Purchase enough food to cook for a group of 10 by 3pm. The intent is for our guests to be full no later than 7pm.

Now, when your children arrive at the grocery store and see it will be closed for the day they are not hung up on finding food to cook. Instead, they make a detour to a local restaurant and place an order for catering to be delivered to the house at 6pm. Knowing the intent of their goal has equipped them with the information needed to take individual actions that solve the problem. All without ever having to bother you.

Adding intent to a goal is not a new concept; the military uses it all the time. Yet I do not see it included in nearly enough business strategies. Employees who know what to do are great, but employees who know why they’re doing what they’re doing are infinitely more valuable. Next time you are assigning goals, include your intended end-state and watch the decision making capabilities of your team increase exponentially.

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