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 dictionary.com 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.


Are you still using leadership methods, thinking and books from a previous generation? I think many of us probably are and I wonder if they are still serving us. I went to George Washington University for my Master’s in Adult and Leadership Development. We learned that it generally takes about 20-25 years for a concept to move from academia to accepted practice in the workplace. If that is the case and still true, then we are just now adopting the best practices from the late 80’s to mid 90’s.  Wow, let’s think about how much has changed since then. I started my professional career after graduating college in 1990. 

Here are a few things I remember about this time period:

1.      Inter-office envelopes

2.      Smoking allowed at each work station

3.      Wet bars in the leader’s offices; drinks offered to me at meetings starting after 4pm

4.      Coat and tie were expected every day

5.      No email

6.      Internet not used yet

7.      Videoconferencing barely available but not really used

8.      Leaders were expected to make all the decisions and held all the information

9.      I would describe the workplace as a command and control structure with lots of hierarchy; middle managers and not much transparency.


These were the formative years for a lot of the leaders in today’s workplace. Many of us learned how to be managers by watching what we were seeing and being trained in the classroom on the trends of this time period.


When was the last time you critically thought about leadership style, leadership brand and the behaviors you use to lead your team? Is it time for a check-up?


I see different things in the workplace today. Here are some of the best practices I see working with our clients:

1.      Set clear expectations and then give plenty of room for the person to perform. Employees need to understand where they are going but do not need to micro-managed each step of the way.

2.      Command and Control can be effective but cannot be your only style. If I am bleeding and coming into the emergency room, then I want someone to take charge and lead the situation. However, I also want that team to take time at the end of the shift to do an after action review and ask: Did we achieve our desired outcomes? What went well today? What could we have done better? Thus, a leader must be open to feedback to achieve optimal results.

3.      Purpose maters!!! People have a desire to understand the why behind their work. If you want engagement from your team members, tell them the purpose. Sure, we all have things that are delegated to us that we do not really want to do. However, if we understand why our work matters and who our works serves, it is much easier to do our best work and stay engaged.

4.      Feedback is a gift! Many leaders I work with are stuck in the old days—they say things like, “If I do not say anything to you, then you are doing a good job.” Or they think, “Nobody gave me feedback or cared about my development so why should I.” I say, “Too Bad!” Stop with the whining and instead think about what you wish you had received. Today’s workforce will have choices about where to work and they will stay where they have a chance to grow, develop, be engaged, recognized and succeed.


Good luck on your leadership style audit. Here are a couple of resources that I like to share with leaders to help them—Drive by Daniel Pink; Deep Work by Cal Newport and The Next Level by Scott Eblin. Let me know what you discover about your leadership style!


In the last blog post we talked about delivering feedback. Delivering is full of stress—worrying about getting your words right and striking a balance between directness and compassion. Now, it is time to address being on the receiving end.  Many people say that delivering a speech is the most nerve racking thing they do in their professional lives.  I think a close second place is receiving feedback. We often feel like we are going to the principal’s office and we are in trouble.  However, the top performers I work with have been able to overcome this fear and embrace receiving feedback.  How do they do this?  Practice, practice and more practice!

First, understand the intent of the feedback. 

Generally speaking, people are giving you feedback for one of three purposes:

1.      Appreciation:  Yes, we did a great job.  We may blush and get flustered during this but it is a good feeling overall!

2.      Coaching:  The other person has seen something that we are doing and they either want to reinforce a behavior we are doing well or they want to offer feedback on ways to improve.

3.      Evaluation:  This feedback is an assessment of our performance and how we stack up against a standard.

One tip:  when someone asks to give you feedback, ask them what type of feedback they are providing.  This will help you to know how best to listen and what ways you want to clarify the feedback you received.

One of the traps that I see people fall into when they receive feedback is that they believe it is the truth.  You are receiving feedback and it is a gift, but that does not mean it is the truth.  This is another person’s perspective and it is valuable to listen, clarify and understand the intent of the feedback provider.  

The next step is to take a deep breath, thank the other person for their feedback and recap what you heard to make sure what you heard and what was said match. 

After this, you decide what you want the next step to be.  I personally get defensive when I first get feedback and try to explain my point of view.  On my best days, I take the breath, thank them and recap their feedback before seeking clarity.  On my normal days, I start my comebacks and rationalizations about 30 seconds into the feedback. However, with practice I have learned to breathe and know that the feedback will make me stronger.  The strategy that works best for me is to process overnight and so I ask if we can discuss the feedback again in a day or two.

I find that taking the time to really hear the feedback and then come up with an action plan later has allowed me to be more present when receiving the feedback.

One final thought is that you do not have to do anything with the feedback you receive.  There have been times that I have been given feedback and I just saw the situation differently than the other person. I still thank them for the feedback and appreciate their taking the time to give me feedback.  However, I sometimes choose to hear the feedback and still continue the same action.  The feedback does help me think about how to approach a future situation and see if there is a better way to handle the situation.

I also appreciate all the people who take time to offer positive feedback to me and others.  The optimal level of positive to negative feedback is about 4-5 positive comments for every 1 negative.  I appreciate leaders that understand this and take time out of their busy days to acknowledge their team members.  You can see employees walk with a bounce in their step after getting authentic, positive feedback.

What can you do to better prepare for receiving feedback?  Who can you recognize this week for a job well done?  If you would like more information about giving and receiving feedback, I would encourage you to read Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Hahn. 


“Hey, Jill, you got a minute?” Amy asks.

Jill wearily glances up from her email and turns to see Amy, her superstar employee, in her doorway.  “Sure, I guess.  I am a bit busy with the latest fire drill for senior management.  What do you need?”

“Well, there is no easy way to say this, but I am resigning.  I am going down the road to work for Greener Fields USA.”

Jill, now fully engaged with Amy, says, “I am shocked!  What made you want to do this?  We love you here and your future is so bright.”

Amy says, “Well, it just seemed Greener Fields might offer more development and the work is interesting and exciting to me.”

Has this ever happened to you?  I know it has happened to me and there is nothing worse than losing a superstar.  The worst part is that, when I reflect back, there was so much more I could have done to keep this person with our team.  What about you?  Were there signs?  What would you do differently?

Let’s chat about some ways to retain and engage our superstars.  First, we have to know they are superstars.  Many of us are scrambling through our tasks fighting fires and we do not even notice outstanding performance.  Additionally, we spend an enormous amount of time on our bottom 20% performers; fixing their mistakes, corralling their underperformance, or living in their drama.  Thus, the first question is:  “Do you know who your superstars are?”

Daniel Pink outlined key ways to motivate your team in his book, Drive.  Here are 3 keys:

·       Purpose.  Can you connect your superstar’s work to the company’s core purpose?  If not, why are they working on what they are working on?  When you recognize their performance, connect it to making a difference for the organization, the customer etc.

·       Autonomy.  Are you giving your superstar the room to create their own solutions?  Superstars need some guidance, but they also love room for their creativity so they can grow and develop.

·       Mastery.  Are you allowing your superstars to master what they are working on?   Many times we move our superstars from project to project and burn them out without allowing them time to get great at something.

The biggest complaints I hear from superstars that I coach are that they do not feel recognized for their efforts and that there is not a focus on their development.  The literature suggests that we recognize our team at a rate of five compliments for every one piece of corrective feedback.  Most superstars report about a 1:1 ratio of positive to negative feedback.  Put time on your calendar to recognize all team members, but concentrate some time for your superstars.

The last thought for today is dedicate time on your calendar to provide feedback, coaching, and development for your superstars.  They are doing great work and they want to do even better.  However, we tend to cancel their 1:1s or never quite seem to have enough time to spend with them.  Take time to mentor your superstars and see what happens!


How many times in getting a New Year underway do we run into the proverbial wall and ask, “How did we get here and how do we get unstuck and get going?”

We might be stuck implementing change, leading a project team, writing, or with some other key initiative.  Executives, managers, teams, and individuals can minimize the frustration associated with being stuck in nonproductive time and get going by applying these Voltage principles to Get Unstuck:

·       Get Clear

·       Get Real

·       Get Good

·       Get Going

·       Get on with It.

GET CLEAR – Clarity Is the Greatest Time Saver

Have the right people meet at the right time to define the current state and to get clarity about exactly where things are stuck and how to get going to where we need to be.

Leaders lead.  They answer the imperative question, “Why do we do what we do?”

Without clarity of purpose, participants may become resistant.  Without a common language and understanding of the current situation, participants become reluctant to take chances and, perhaps, may even come to resent the leadership team that placed them in this position.  The position of knowing the clock is ticking, knowing that they will have accountabilities, but not having clarity about what the accountabilities are is most uncomfortable.

GET REAL – What Is the Plan?

Leaders lead.  They identify SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) for the plan and determine SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely).  They track and measure the goals as work on the plan progresses.

GET GOOD – What Does Our Best Look Like?

Leaders lead. They repeatedly communicate vision to the organization, clarifying what the best looks like.  They are a walking example of aligning behavior with goals.

Leaders adjust their style to become citizens of the future state.  They live in a different space.  They forgo passivity and negativity in favor of rational (not emotional) accountability.

GET GOING – Get Over the Hurdle

Leaders lead the Journey.  They take steps to overcome cultural resistance to change by formally communicating the plan and the rationale for the decisions that have been made.  Team members may not agree or even like the decisions made, but they cannot fairly say they were uninformed.  Leaders make changes to their approach when necessary.  They make themselves available to keep communication flowing. 

GET ON WITH IT – Owning a Culture of Success

Leaders lead.  They share success and success stories.  This, in turn, adds positive momentum and cultural buy-in which promotes a culture of success.

Using these tools to Get Unstuck and Get Going will help minimize frustration and make 2016 a successful New Year!