Leading With Intentionality: The Key To Effective Communication And Teamwork

Dan Sullivan
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If I had to focus on just one skill that makes successful entrepreneurs more successful, it would have to be intentionality. Being intentional means having the ability to see results in the future that, if you achieve them, will make things bigger and better for the entrepreneurial company and for the entrepreneur.

I’m very guilty of brainstorming in the open, where I’m playing with an idea. What I noticed more and more was that my talking out loud before I was really sure of something or even committed led to my ideas landing differently and oftentimes in a very confused way with my team members. They would hear my idea and think, “Dan must think this is really important. Now, where does this fit with all the other important things he has told us he wants to achieve?” I was causing a lot of confusion, complexity, and conflict.

So I decided for the sake of effective communication that I wouldn’t open my mouth until I was sold on something, and I would only communicate to the team ideas and projects that I’m really committed to and have thought through.

Sell yourself first.

I made the decision that I wouldn’t try to sell anyone else on an idea, neither my team members nor clients, until I had sold myself on it first. It can be tempting to think out loud, to even try to convince someone else of your new idea while you’re still working it out. But no one is going to buy in to an idea that you’re not personally sold on.

First, spend 30 minutes doing your own thinking—determine the purpose, importance, ideal outcome, success criteria, best possible result if you do take action on the project, and worst result if you don’t—before sharing your idea with someone else. You might find after doing this thinking that you’re not sold on your idea, after all, and by doing the thinking first, you haven’t wasted anybody else’s time or any more of your own. Or you might be completely sold on the idea, which will help you sell the idea to others.

Context vs. content.

Once you’re sold on the idea, make sure you communicate it clearly to those who will be part of implementing it. Part of effective communication and intentionality is conveying the context for your idea, not just the content of it. If your team members aren’t clear on the purpose and importance of the project, it makes it harder for them to implement it successfully. Knowing the “why” helps them to make decisions on their own, and knowing your success criteria in advance will help them to execute the project to your satisfaction.

Be specific.

To that end, make sure your success criteria are specific rather than vague. Provide numbers and deadlines. Paint a picture of what the completed project should look like when it’s done. Having high intentionality means aiming for a very specific result. Again, the more specific your success criteria are, the more successfully you’ll be able to get the outcome you’re looking for.

Your success criteria should be measurable so that it’s clear when they’ve been achieved. It leaves the guesswork out of it for everyone involved and ensures that the end result is what you had in mind.

Being intentional in this way gives you confidence that things will be done right and gives your team confidence that they’re clear on your vision and the end goal. You’ll feel good about delegating important projects and tasks when you know your communication is as clear as it can be. And it can only be clear when you’re completely clear on and sold on the idea yourself. Effective communication is impossible if the idea is still vague to you or you’re not totally committed to it.

Take the time to focus and get clear in your own mind before communicating with others, and this intentionality will lead to successful teamwork and exponential results.