As leaders, we must be intentional in our decisions if we want to last. We do not have time, nor does our team have time, to waste in decisions and projects that are not leading to a better future.
This reality is something that most leaders know. We all agree that people want to follow leaders who are moving in a clear direction. Ambiguity is not a followable attribute, especially in the current world of rapid change.
But as leaders, we sometimes fear being intentional. Instead of embracing the need to be intentional with our words, decisions, and actions, we feel paralyzed by fear. Instead of connecting the dots of decisions for our team, we shy away from the work.
Why does this fear exist in us? Why are we sometimes afraid to make decisions that show a desire to be intentional in our leadership?
We are not focused on being intentional.
We mistakingly assume that intentionality simply means acting with a purpose. While that is true, it is not altogether helpful when we are making decisions. Instead, we need to ask this simple question to help us be more intentional in our decisions:
How does this decision today connect me to something better tomorrow?
This question applies to anything in life. If you want to be in better health tomorrow, then you need to workout today and eat more vegetables and fruit. If you want to have better relationships tomorrow, you need to invest time in them today.
This principle sounds simple, but we rarely do it well. As our world is increasingly full of distractions, like social networks, YouTube, email, and more, we find ourselves getting focused solely on what is right in front of us. In other words, we are too busy looking at the runway to see the horizon.
How do we change? How can we stop drowning long enough to begin swimming in a certain direction?
The answer here is short, but it is not easy: we must be disciplined to look beyond today. Instead of always focusing on the chaos in front of us, we must force ourselves to stop, think, and look beyond now.
Stephen Covey calls this dilemma the “tyranny of the urgent.” Instead of focusing on the things that are important, we focus on the things that are the most urgent. And if we focus on the things that are most urgent, we will often completely neglect the things that are important.
So if you want to be more intentional today, stop what you are doing and ask this question: “How is my work right now getting me to where I want to be tomorrow?” You can personalize the question to fit the work you are doing, whatever it is. Be willing to spend some time answering this question well. You may uncover some truths about yourself that are slightly painful, but that uncovering process is essential to growth.
Once you’ve answered the question, you are ready to get back to work. Only this time you will be more intentional about how you use your time to get the work done.
One of the ways I try to be more intentional is in having a great productivity system. Perhaps the best approach I’ve seen is in David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done.” This is a must-read for every leader.