Have the Courage and Clarity to State Intentions!

Communication Organizational leadership Respect


Key Point: An important part of being intentional includes knowing what you want, why you want it and stating it with absolute clarity. At a broader level, I like the definition of intentional living from this “Learn to be Intentional” article. It “involves taking responsibility for our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical well-being as well as freeing ourselves from self-limiting conditioning… It requires gaining clarity about what we want, who we are, owning what we say, choosing how we “show up” in all situations, and for how we want to contribute… Truly being intentional requires understanding that our attitudes, feelings, thoughts and actions (conscious and unconscious) directly impact every single one of our experiences.” 

Frankly, I think it is seductive to fall into traps of vagueness and generalities that often lead to less understanding and more disappointment. I’ve watched and facilitated groups over many years and when the real hard work involves the challenging grind of finding specificity, it is too easy to fall back on vague words that mean “everything” and therefore nothing. How often have you been in a group discussion, and the conclusion is “let’s agree to COMMUNICATE better?” What the heck does that even mean? 

I see this in business all the time. We throw around words or phrases like “customer satisfaction,” “empowerment,” “engagement,” etc. We expect that people know what to do with them. Providing “good customer service” is a common example. Any organization with customers probably declares that intent. So why are our service experiences so unpredictable and varied? Even in the same work setting. Have you been on a plane and received different service experiences during the very same flight? It is likely each person on that flight was self-defining what “good customer service” meant. One flight attendant might think he’s there only for your safety. Another may relish the idea of giving you a great flight experience. They both think they are giving you a customer service performance (unless their organization is very specific and intentional about behavior that is clearly expected). There is a very clear reason and stated expectation why everyone at Umpqua Bank answers the phone, “world’s greatest bank.” Or why a Zappos customer service rep arranges to have pizza delivered for customers. 

Character Moves: 

  1. Examine whether you are clear enough in stating what you want and expect from others. I’m not suggesting we should run around ordering people to “lick the stamps” before mailing letters. That would be dumb and condescending. However, it is very helpful when we can be clear and specific about what we want. The degree of detail is related to the importance and urgency. Putting on and wearing a Hazmat suit when treating an Ebola patient can not be left to using vague directions like, “take it off carefully.”
  2. Practice being more clear and specific with people around you. Care enough about them to state with intention exactly what you want and expect. This can be done in a respectful and thoughtful way. And of course the other person may have views and even the responsibility to also have specific wants and expectations on the same matter. That’s all the better. When we are all stating with the appropriate specificity what we want and expect, the chances for a good outcome increase.
  3. If you are not sure what you want, state that too. The worse situation is to have people try and blindly satisfy your intentions. How often has someone been “mad” at you and expected you to be a mind reader? I’ve worked for bosses that kept sending me out for a “brick” and when I bring them one back, they say, “no… Wrong brick… Go get another.” Huh!? That’s when I have to stop and ask, “Ok, let’s get into more granularity. What exactly do you want?”

Intentionally stating it in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: People need to remember that it shouldn’t be considered insulting to give direct, detailed orders about what they specifically want. There seem to be two common traps… 1. You don’t want to assume someone doesn’t know what to do, so you let him or her wing it. 2. You think, “well they’ve been hired here, they know what the deal is.” Thanks, but you know what’s worse than being specifically told what to do? A giant, misguided waste of time that results in frustration for both parties… I WANT to do what you want, so give me a game plan, coach.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis