Acting with Intent

Everything you do should be deliberate, even the things you choose NOT to do.

I learned how to drive a car in New England where they still think roundabouts are a intentgood idea and nobody has any patience. Where it’s not all that out of the norm to hear a horn angrily honking within seconds of a light turning green because the car at the front of the line didn’t step on it fast enough. Where aggressive driving is the norm. It’s go with the flow or get run over.

It was quite an adjustment for me coming to Virginia. Everything moves a lot more slowly in the South. Nobody is in a hurry to get anywhere, and sitting through a few iterations of a red light before you get your turn is not a big deal down here.

I don’t know if it was because of the lazy September weather we were having, but as I commuted home on the throughways of our fair City of Richmond a few weeks ago I felt besieged by drivers simply floating from one lane into the other without so much as a turn signal or a flip of the head to check their blind spot. Very lackadaisical, even by Southern standards. And it seemed to be happening a lot more than normal.

It got me to thinking about the importance of acting with intent.

Failure to drive your car with intent is obviously dangerous. Best case result is that you’re still moving in the direction you were originally headed but aren’t in the same lane. Worst case is you’ve got a 10 car pileup.

Failing to act with intent is also dangerous (albeit less deadly) when running a project or team. Here are a few of the biggest pitfalls to look out for:

The Non-decision Decision
An IT manager I worked with was fantastic at creating strategies and seeing the path forward, but was less than stellar when it came to handling things that popped up out of the blue. When something unexpected happened he would say “Hmmm, I need some time to think about that.” Typically weeks would then go by without anything being done, at which point it was generally too late to solve the problem.

Taking time to think about a decision is a really smart thing to do. Taking too much time is like flipping a coin – the choice will make itself without you. If you can’t make decisions in time, start to involve others in the thought process. Don’t rely too much on your own instinct or experience. Try also: scouring the Internet for advice and read up on best practices.

The Lone Wolf
They say that those who want success should surround themselves with people smarter than you. Ineffective leaders tend to do the opposite. As a result, they tend to make all of their decisions on their own, because they wouldn’t have anyone worthwhile to counsel if they wanted to. Some of these people view themselves as Generals, thinking that asking for advice is a sign of weakness. Others are control freaks, needing to make every decision personally.

Asking for input from your people not only gives you access to their vast experience but also creates engagement within your team. Nobody wants to feel left out; everyone wants to be involved. Make it clear that the final decision is your own, but a true leader is never afraid to show that they don’t always have the answer to everything.

Only doing what is Familiar
Put a developer in charge of a software project, and you will not get comprehensive business analysis, testing, or training. I can say this, I’m a developer. What you will see is some really solid development methodology and cool system architecture. People tend to do what they know, eschewing that with which they aren’t familiar.

If you decide not to include something in your project (like Organizational Change Management, for example), make sure you get an expert’s opinion on whether it’s OK to skip that piece of the puzzle. Just because you may not think it is important doesn’t mean that it isn’t.

Making deliberate decisions when running your project is as important as when driving a car. Nobody is likely to get injured at work. But failing to make a decision on time, making decisions on your own, or leaving stuff out that you think may not be important can cost you big in time and money.

Have you made your decisions with Conscious Consideration™?  Use Maple and take the time to consider all the pieces of your decision at

Originally published on October 10, 2013

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