Helen is a hard-working, driven, highly motivated senior manager working for a FTSE 100 global insurance specialist.
HELEN's starting point for working with intention
Her starting point for working with intention was her work related goals:
To enhance her communication skills
To become better at motivating her team
To support and manage change better
To improve staff retention within her division
step 1: Initiate intention
When I (Juliet Adams) met up with Helen for a coaching session, I asked her what her intentions were.
Helen listed a number of work-related goals.
I questioned why she really want to achieve these. She looked at me in disbelief and told me with some force that these were perfectly logical goals – and these things were things she intended to achieve.
I smiled inwardly and re-phrased the question; asking “why are these important to you”? Helen paused, then after some thought replied:
I want to make my company, and especially my division a really great place to work
I want to support, empower, and develop my staff
I want to be recognised as a great leader, gaining promotion, and access to new and exciting challenges at work
Helen had a strong belief in her ability to achieve her core intention, a belief that I shared. Helen's starting point in the process was her work-related goals, from which she identified some initial intentions.
step 2: Distil, test and refine
After identifying some initial intentions in a coaching session, Helen was tasked with spending some time to consider her core intent for her life and career – what was important, what she really wanted in life if there were no constraints.
Several weeks later we met up again. Helen said that she had found this to be a valuable exercise. When she stripped away the layers what she really wanted – her Core Intentions were to:
Become the best leader it was possible to be
Earn a sufficient income to live comfortably in her house, and do the things in life she loved to do.
Helen had a strong belief in her ability to achieve her core intention, a belief that I shared. So for Helen, the easiest way to identify her Core Intention was to start with Goals, then identify her Nested intentions, which helped her to identify her Core intention.
Step 3: Embody and embed
Helen’s Core Intention was to become the best leader she could be and to earn a sufficient income to live comfortably in her house and do the things in life she loved to do.
Her Nested intentions included the desire to be recognised as a great leader, and move onto greater challenges.
Her goals to improve communication, motivate her team, managing change better, and improve staff retention. It all seemed so clear and yet she felt stuck and did not know what do next.
Helen decided to give her intentions a readiness check. She asked herself “What’s important now and “Where do I want to put my energy”? She found herself thinking about her house, the kitchen she loved to cook in, her open plan living spaces and outdoor terrace she loved to entertain on, her friends visiting who lived nearby. The answer became clear. She wanted to continue living there into old age. She had six years left to pay on the mortgage and decided she wanted to pay it off as soon as possible.
Over the next few weeks, she reviewed her finances and increased her mortgage payments.
She also set a new nested intention to apply for the Directors vacancy she had been dithering about. She reasoned that gaining this promotion would increase her earnings so she could pay off her mortgage two years earlier. In addition, it would provide greater opportunities for her to develop her leadership capability.
She imagined herself working as a Director, and found herself experiencing a sense of happiness, calm and competence.
She pictured the day that her mortgage was fully paid off.
She visualised her savings growing. She chuckled to herself as an image of a jaunty fat piggy bank overflowing with money appeared in her mind, trotting around her garden contentedly snuffling and grunting. She pictured the changes she would make in the company, expansion and engaged, happy employees.
step 4: Take Action and grab opportunities
Helen was shortlisted for the Directors role. She invested all her free time and energy into preparing for her interview. She applied the principles she had learnt from Amy Cuddy on the impact of body language on performance and others perceptions of your capability. She studied the requirements of the role, and what had worked, and more importantly not worked for the previous Director in the role. She studied the power dynamics at play within the boardroom. She drafted a strategy and vision for the company moving forward. Helen was delighted to be offered the role.
In her first few months, she remembered the neurological importance of noticing and celebrating success along the way. Things were moving in the right direction. Each month she paid a little more off the mortgage, working towards being mortgage free in four years. Her understanding of the politics at play in the board helped her to unite and strengthen the board as a whole.
Her achievements as a board member surpassed her wildest dreams. Then, unexpectedly, the Chairman of the board died very suddenly, and the board was plunged into turmoil. A new Chairman has hastily appointed who did not see eye to eye with Helen. Helen's pleasure and sense of mastery in her new role started to dissolve and her confidence was eroded day by day.
After a few weeks of deep discomfort and disillusionment, she revisited her intention to become the best leader she could be and to earn a sufficient income to live comfortably in her house and do the things in life she loved to do. She recognised that she now only had three and a half years left to pay off her mortgage. This job wasn’t forever, just for a few short years. She felt as if a weight had been lifted from her shoulders as she recognised that it was simply a small obstacle to be overcome in pursuit of a greater personal and organisational goal.
She helped the board recognise the need for some external help. A consultant worked with the board to help them assess the psychological sense of safety within the group and look at the dynamics from a brain-based perspective so they could work together more effectively.
HELEN's OUTCOME OF INTENTION
Three years later Helen’s mortgage was fully paid off. Her work in transforming employee motivation and organisational effectiveness via the introduction of purpose-driven leadership gained her international recognition and a fair amount of press coverage. As interest grew in her approach and experiences in purpose-based leadership, she spent an increasing amount of time helping other organisations to transform – something she loved to do. Originally when she first set her intentions, Helen anticipated working less so she would have more time to do the things she loved. She realised that she now loved her job so much – she did not want to work less. She was already ‘doing the things she loved’. Helen’s newly found financial freedom allowed her to make choices based on her wants rather than needs.
Helen had achieved her intentions. Her intentions had unfolded in a way she couldn’t have anticipated, and wouldn’t have achieved with goals alone. This demonstrates the importance of Identifying and distilling goals, then holding them lightly allowing them to embed and unfold in unexpected ways. It also demonstrates the importance of taking action when opportunities arise rather than simply waiting for the intention to magically materialise.