What are Your Intentions?


The first time I can remember being asked this question was after a sweaty, 4 mile run in July of 1995 at about 7:15 in the morning. I had just come back in from my early morning run and my girlfriend’s mother was sitting on the edge of the couch and asked, “What are your intentions with Beth”?

I was just trying to get some water and now my mouth got really dry. My face, already flushed from the run, turned even redder and my hands really started sweating. I mumbled that we were really serious. She said great and the reason that she was asking was that there might be some jewelry from Beth’s grandmother that she might like if I decided to propose. Wow, that was a memorable way to be asked the question—What are your intentions? Fast forward to 2018 and we have been married for almost 22 years and have 4 wonderful children. I am still close to my in-laws as well. I have learned to leave water outside when I run so that I do not have to answer any important questions right after a run!!!

Here is how defines intention—


1. an act or instance of determining mentally uponsome action or result.

2. the end or object intended; purpose.

3. intentions

a. purpose or attitude toward the effect of one's actions or conduct: a bungler with good intentions.

b. purpose or attitude with respect to marriage: Our friends are beginning to ask what our intentions are


We all have some great intentions—

            I will eat a salad for lunch.

            I will go back to grad school in the fall.

            I will run 3-4 miles, 4 times a week.

How will we commit to our intentions? Many of us struggle to uphold our intentions. Here is the interesting thing—we give ourselves credit when we declare an intention while others judge us on our impact. Here is a recent example—One of my clients stayed home intending to work on her book. However, at the end of the day she had barely done any work on the book. Thus, when her husband got home he was surprised to see only a few lines written.  What happened?

Probably the same thing that happens to most of us. She got sidetracked by emails, a couple of “urgent” calls from work, doing research on YouTube which ended in watching funny cat videos, etc. We are often waylaid by shiny bright objects that might appear urgent but are often not as important as the work we set out to do.

What intentions do you have for 2018?

How can you ensure that your intentions match the impact that others will see?

I encourage you to block off time on your calendar to work on your intentions—Ex. Writing time for your blog; Block off time for your 1:1’s with employees; block off time for your run or walk. I know this sounds like a lot of structure but if you do not do this, I fear at the end of 2018 you will have had a lot of good intentions but not many results to show for your efforts.

Also, think about who can help hold you accountable for intentions. In my case, there was not any jewelry that was a good match for Beth. However, my mother-in-law did know a good jeweler. This spurred me to action and with the blessing of Beth’s parents, I proposed on September 16th, 1995 at the kissing rock on the JMU quad. Maybe we all need a good coach to hold us to our intentions. Good luck on your intentions and let us know how we can help you hit your intentions.


 “We judge ourselves by our intention and others by their impact.” The moment I heard those words I knew they were true. The simple implication is this: we are judged by how we land on other people, not how we meant to come across. Our reputation has everything to do with how we leave people feeling and what we leave people thinking, not what we actually said and did, let alone what we meant to say and do.

Successful leaders learn this early on and plan accordingly.

Here are two habits you can adopt to become a more successful leader:

1.       Cultivate your “Other Awareness”

Stop and think about the other people in the room. Imagine the world through their eyes.

  •  What are their top concerns every day?
  • What are their fears?
  • What do they value and appreciate?
  • How do they like to be treated?

2.       Assess your “Impact Zone”

Take the time to follow up and ask creative questions. The sort of questions that will prompt people to give you candid information. Avoid asking, “How did I do?” or “Can I ask you for some feedback?”

The goal is to be more specific and ask for more nuanced reflections:

“What part of my talk is sticking with you still?” and “Did I have a habit of speech or gesture that got in the way of your listening?” will likely offer a speaker better information than, “How did I do?”

Here are some questions that can get you started on your own Creative Question list:

  • If you could erase one of my habits, what would it be?
  • What have I said or done in the last few [days/weeks/months] that helped you most?
  • What have I said or done in the last few [days/weeks/months] that got in your way?
  • This week, what opportunity did I miss to connect with someone? What do you think it cost me?
  • If I were to choose one thing to work on improving when I am with people, what would it be?
  • Who would you cast to play me in the movie about our lives?

You get the picture! Have some fun with this. Ask creative questions with curiosity and see what you learn. In the process of asking these questions, and then listening to how people respond, you will learn about both yourself and others.

Our success and our satisfaction grow when we close the gap between our intentions and our impact.

Why? Because when our intentions and our impact are aligned, we are, quite simply, getting the response we intend. It is a lot easier to leave a room when you are aware of the actual impact you had while you were there.  


You may be thinking, “Oh no! This sounds complex.”  However, this is not going to be a deep philosophical debate.  I learned this exercise while I was attending my coaching program at Georgetown University.  Take out a piece of paper.  In the left column, write By Saying Yes To…  In the right column, write I am Saying No to…

 Here are some samples from me and from one of my clients:


By Saying Yes to….                                     I am Saying No to…

Coaching Philip’s Basketball Team                 Free time on Tue, Thur, and Sat

                                                                    Dinners with the rest of family

                                                                    Missing an opportunity to connect with Philip


Leaving X Company                                       Stability


                                                                     Short commute

                                                                     Dead end job at X company

                                                                      My frustrating boss


I love to do this activity with people I coach as it helps them go beyond just the pros and cons list.  We rarely consider the opportunity costs of our Yeses.  Instead, we just tend to say, “Yes” and then one of several things occurs: we break commitments, we miss deadlines, we become overwhelmed, we resent that we said yes to the person, etc.  I think this exercise helps leaders start to clarify what they really want to be working on and what are their top priorities.

I was coaching a CEO recently who was overwhelmed and who could not remember when she last had fun.  When I asked her to do this exercise, I began to see that she kept stacking more and more on her plate.  This helped her understand that she needed to be more intentional in what she said yes to and what the consequences of her Yeses were.

This exercise helps people become more mindful.  Mindfulness is a buzz work right now and so let me provide a definition for you:

Mindfulness = Awareness + Intention

Scott Eblin shared this formula in his outstanding book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative.  Thus, we first have to become aware of our challenges and then take intentional actions.

 I am curious about:

·       What intentions do you have?

·       How do you honor them?

Scott gives lots of ideas and I highly recommend the book. If you want to learn about how to use this content in your workplace or life, please reach out to me.  

Thanks and create a great day!