At the risk of sounding "Oprah," I am writing today about intention. I have made it a habit of late to set my intention before entering a workshop, sales situation or important phone call. I have found it enlightening and even somewhat concerning that it often takes some thought to determine what my exact intention is. It makes me wonder - what have I been doing for the past twenty-something years - being "willy-nilly"?
Through this newly embraced discipline, I have learned that a conscious intention can actually result in a different outcome. When I enter a situation without a clearly set intention, I risk allowing my subconscious to dictate the outcome.
For example, when conducting a workshop, I could have a plethora of intentions from which to choose. They could range from:
ensuring understanding of the material
connecting with each participant
impressing the client's senior management
achieving the top scores in evaluation forms
Likewise, when meeting a prospect for the first time, I could choose from a number of intentions:
to impress the client with my product
to get to know the prospect and his situation
to look good in front of someone else
to make this month's quota
Intentions seem to fall into two categories. They can be about me, or they can be about others. I believe I am more successful when I engage in intentions that are focused on others.
Similarly, when coaching a person who is nervous in a sales presentation, I often encourage her to focus on her intention. Unconsciously her intention could be no more than "to survive without making a fool of myself." This centers her focus on herself and in this case, her survival. If I can help her to shift her focus from herself to her audience, the fear often dissipates.
Another take on intention is an exercise that I conduct when coaching deal teams. I call it "The Reviews Exercise." This is when we take a few minutes to think about the conversation that we would like the client to have when we leave the room. Most often this initial discussion is not centered on content, but rather their initial impressions about the team and the presentation. These early comments often are expressed like "Wow - they seem like they would be great to work with"; or "I get the feeling they really understand us"; or "That is one enthusiastic team!". This exercise of consciously articulating the team on their intentions and capturing them on a flipchart is more powerful than you may think.
Recently, when conducting this exercise with a deal team, they decided that they wanted the buying committee to say after their presentation "Wow - we should have done this years ago" (meaning they should have looked for other alternatives to their current provider years ago). A day after the presentation, I got a call from the sales person saying "You are not going to believe this. The consultant just called me and said 'as soon as you guys left there was a big discussion centered around why they waited so long - that they should have done this years ago!' Can you believe it? Can you believe he actually said the words that we put on the flipchart?" she asked.
I could believe it - because as crazy as this may sound - I have seen the power of intention in action many times. Consciously setting an intention can have a profound impact on the outcome.
What, exactly, is your intention?