Aleta Maxwell

State Your Intentions

You’ve got a lot going on.

On any given day, you are juggling a thousand things. Managing projects, people, and planning takes a lot of time and energy.  

So often, those in leadership and management roles think they only need to communicate the absolute crucial information to their team. Some do this on purpose to create a power gap, others feel they don’t have time for anything more, and many just don’t think about it.  
We assume that our intentions are obvious in our communication. Or if they aren’t, we think others will give us the benefit of the doubt. This is NOT the case.

I’ve seen the downfall of these assumptions time and again.  

Stating your intentions outright will allow your conversation partner to see what you are trying to accomplish and understand better what your end goal is. Stating your intentions will allow you to focus on the topic at hand, rather than spend time undoing assumptions and defensive posturing.

Taking the time to state intentions on the front end will save you so much down the line.

Let me share an example of when I learned the impact of not stating intentions. During my time as head of HR for an organization, I was often brought into an email conversation late in the game. One such experience I remember clearly, as I was brought in after many emails were exchanged, which left me very confused when trying to figure out the exact issue I was to help with. When I asked questions to help understand, my curiosity was received as criticism. A specific manager got so upset that I was “criticizing without knowing the full story”, that he threatened to quit.  

Don’t assume people will give you the benefit of the doubt that your intentions are well-meaning. By stating your intentions clearly, you can skip over misunderstandings and get to the heart of the matter quickly.  

I learned through this experience that had I stated my intentions on the outset, I could have bypassed the manager’s defensiveness and dealt with the issue at hand. If I stated that I was confused and hoped to be brought up to speed so I could be as helpful as possible, I believe this manager would have been very responsive and open to giving me the information needed. Since I didn’t, I had to backtrack and have an additional conversation stating my intentions and thought process in an attempt to turn his attitude and mindset from negative to positive. This was a lot more work and took us on a detour from the original purpose.  

When we state our intentions, we can use it as a touchstone throughout a difficult conversation.  

I find that people sometimes default to defensiveness, especially if they are a bit insecure in their role or abilities. By stating your intentions on the outset, you don’t have to then undo the defensive posture, but rather, can be on the same page from the get-go. This is key to having successful conversations!

This tip is extremely helpful when having a conversation with a team member about an area that needs attention. When you state that your intention is to help find solutions (or whatever your constructive intention is), you can continually refer back to this when your conversation partner becomes agitated, defensive, or deflective. Returning back to your intention helps you to stay on topic and focus on the primary issue.  

Do you see how taking a few seconds to explain your intention at the beginning of your conversation can save so much time and hard feelings during it?  

Some examples of intentions you might have are:  
  • To seek more information 
  • Clear up confusion     
  • To clarify the backstory and attain facts   
  • To support and help
  • To find a solution
  • To help develop
  • To find out the why
  • To problem solve

Take a moment before entering into conversations, especially difficult ones or ones that you might receive pushback on and think about what assumptions your conversation partner might make. Speak directly to those fears

When defensive posturing starts to appear, this is a great opportunity to take note of any fears and speak to those yet again. 

Stating your intentions allows others to understand where your mind is at so they can drop their self-preservation instincts and work with you rather than against.  

Start practicing this tip and you will find that you start having a lot more successful conversations in which your team feels valued and encouraged. This will help you to feel confident as a leader knowing you can enter into conversations and begin by assuaging any defensiveness and negative energy.     

Communication is the most critical skill for a leader to develop. Once you have developed your communication skills, your confidence as a leader will soar, and your team will be motivated and grateful for your leadership.

I LOVE developing communication skills in leaders. If you need help honing this skill or maybe some guidance on specific hard conversations and situations that keep coming up for you, let me know! We can talk through solutions and get you on track for success!
Aleta Maxwell is a certified executive coach, best-selling author, leadership development content creator, as well as CEO & Founder of Uplifting Leadership.

Aleta has held multiple senior-level leadership roles over the past 25 years in the hospitality industry and non-profit companies.

While partnering with leaders at all levels of management, Aleta utilizes techniques like curiosity, compassion, and courage to help clients become more aligned with their purpose and values. Using these techniques, Aleta collaborates with her clients to uplift their specific leadership skill set and hone the tools needed to develop brand ambassadors in their employees. Find her here.