One of the most important things you can do to be a great leader and manager is to be intentional

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Growing up or as parents did you ever meet the “why kid”? The kid that always responds to someone’s answer with a “why?”. It can drive people to madness. I was, and still am that “why kid” and it is still causing me trouble today! However, the reason I am always asking why is that I am obsessed with being intentional. I do everything I do for a specific reason. Intention means it is planned, it is thought through and it has reason and purpose standing behind the decision to act in a particular way. Decisions and choices without intention can lead to lack of commitment, reliance on chance and poor strategic thinking.

“Nobody finishes well by accident.”

John C. Maxwell, Intentional Living: Choosing a Life That Matters

You can probably already guess how being intentional can help you when you are leading and managing projects, programs, people and processes. Having intention means you do something very deliberately. Being intentional means everything is done with an underlying purpose and has a strong foundation to the work. As a project manager would you start a project without a plan? Would you plan without speaking to relevant stakeholders and getting the right pieces together? For some reason, when we talk about creating something we know that we need to be intentional to succeed and do well but when it comes to managing and leading people we usually just wing it.

When there is a lack of intention in the way we manage, lead and work with people, it can cause friction in our teams and the organisation. When there is a lack of intention there is lack of control.

So let’s take a look at some ways we can put some intention back into our management and leadership.

Ask questions

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“The art of proposing a question must be held of higher value than solving it.”

Georg Cantor

The very foundation of ones ability to be intentional is to be able to and willing to ask questions. Don’t accept things as they are just because – question them, question the intention behind them – is this still the right way or is there a better way?

Not only do you need to ask questions but you need to build the culture of questioning in your teams. Don’t shut people down when they ask something – a question is a powerful thing that can be used to test intention – whether it is there or whether it is right.

To read more about the importance of asking and support the asking of questions as a manager or leader check these blog posts out:

1. Why you need to be doing more coaching as a leader and how it can help your team succeed

2. How to be a master decision maker and get better outcomes and results

Be intentional about your growth

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To be an effective leader, manager – anything really – you need to be learning, stretching yourself and growing. It is the only way that anyone of any profession can keep up in this world of constant change.

OK, so if our learning and development is so important why do we spend so little time being intentional with it? How often do we direct our own learning? When was the last time you sat down, identified specific and intentional learning-oriented goals and created yourself a plan? Is there a skill you want to learn or a job role you want to move into? Have you asked yourself what learning you need to do and what experiences you need to have to be a better manager or leader? If not, now is your chance.

To be intentional in learning and growth you need to direct your learning and growing experiences so they are targeted towards your goals. Taking this approach means that you will use your spare time learning, the courses you do, the projects you work on, the people you work with and the jobs you apply for to accomplish your goals and purposes.

It sounds like a lot of work – and it is. It takes effort. Intention is nothing without the action that follows. It is empty and void of value. Make time for learning and make sure the time you spend learning is directed, put intention behind your growth.

“no matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.”

Carol S. Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success

Be intentional about your team

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Your team are value creators. They are the ones who will be creating, building, supporting, testing, sustaining and working with clients and stakeholders to produce real and tangible value. Often we are handed a project and a team and we just run with it. We use our usual processes and frameworks without a moments thought or hesitation. However, when we do this we forget that a team is made up of unique individuals that work in different ways, have different skills, have different preferences and different motivations. As managers and leaders, we need to recognise this and adapt and tailor what we do to enable our teams to be at their very best.

Here are some specific questions you should be asking:

  1. What are the goals of the team? How do I support them in achieving their goals?
  2. What are the goals of the individuals in the team? How do I support them in achieving their goals?
  3. What framework/processes will support the team best?
  4. What frameworks/processes will hinder the team?
  5. What meeting formats work best with this team? What communication formats work best with this team?
  6. What motivates each team member?

In light of the answers to the questions above, the final question you should ask yourself is how do you now effectively lead and manage this team.

Be intentional about making time in your diary to be intentional

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Yes, seriously. Being intentional actually takes time. You need to sit and think things through and then you need to plan out how you are going to execute. I used to make the mistake of not having time in my diary to do this and in my case, it wasn’t until I specifically blocked time out in my diary (only around 10 minutes a day) did I start doing this properly. Being intentional doesn’t just happen – it needs your effort and time, but believe me, it is worth it!

Summary

If you want to lead and manage effectively you need to be intentional – you need to make time to sit and think to ensure that your actions have the right direction and produce optimal value in all you do.

So as a recap here is how you do it:

  1. Ask questions. Seek out the intentions behind actions and decisions and validate them.
  2. Be intentional about your growth. Direct your learning and development efforts in order to achieve your goals.
  3. Be intentional about your team. Spend time and effort understanding and implementing tailored ways of working and communicating to ensure they have the right conditions to be at their very best.
  4. Be intentional about making time in your diary to be intentional. Think, reflect, analyse and implement – block out time for it every day.

For more on intentional leadership I would recommend this book from our recommended reading section: Welcome To Management

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