[Intentionality.] If we don’t purposefully choose how we spend our limited time and energy, those choices will be made for us. In essence, we just let life happen, passively. ~ Jay Pathak & Dave Runyon
Intentionality. I recently delivered a report to a client with that theme. The group of individuals charged with leading that organization was essentially just letting things happen. They were not making choices or decisions using reason, rationale, or judgment. Default, not design was their mode of operation; they passively let choices be made for them.
Before you think I’m being overly critical of this group. I believe we all periodically let ourselves slip into a state of passively letting things happen. It’s easy to stumble into default mode, both personally and organizationally. Which is why I think a critical question every leader and every leadership team needs to pause and ask, frequently, is “Where have we been truly intentional in the past 30 days”?
What does intentionality look like?
Here are just a few synonyms for intentionality: deliberate, design, forethought, foresight, planning, purpose, determination, reflection, aim.
Zig Ziglar said, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”
Another analogy I use periodically is to think about what kind of picture you have created for your organization. Is it something akin to a stick figure, very basic and simple? Most everyone can draw a stick figure. So like Zig Ziglar’s quote, it’s almost like aiming at nothing and not incredibly motivating to attempt. A stick figure doesn’t require a great deal of planning, determination, reflection, or for that matter even aim to hit the target.
Or, does your picture have color, dimension, and context? To create this picture it’s going to require far more intentionality than simply drawing a stick figure. It’s going to require both foresight and forethought, purpose, and design.
Now, I’m not suggesting that every leader should become a type-A personality with a degree of intensity that triggers people to run the other way. However, if the thing you’re aiming for is especially basic, bland, and maybe even boring, you’re more likely to just keep making decisions and choices the same way you’ve been making them for months, years, or dare I say, even decades.
However, if you are being truly intentional, you will find yourself naturally thinking in more detail. You will strive to paint a picture with dimension and vibrant colors, borne out of reflection. When you become more intentional, even as an organization, decision-making moves far more closely to something that feels effortless because you have such a clear picture of what you are attempting to paint. You have a guide, a blueprint, a manual.
To be intentional is to be bold, and should not be confused with being rigid. Being intentional takes courage; it may feel risky. Without intentionality you are left with a default. Where have you been truly intentional in the past 30 days? Act with intentionality and lead with bold grace.