World of Business Ideas

Focus on Intent

Published on February 11th, 2015

Disagreements happen daily. They should. It is part of business. It is how ideas are given their stress test. It is how ideas move from good to great. It is how we sell ideas to one another.

Intent isn’t always easy to see in the heat of a debate. Sometimes it is even hard to see before then, but the best working teams set a shared intent from the onset of a project. Trying to find intent during the middle of an argument is much harder. The most collaborative and successful teams know why they get up in the morning. They know why they come to work. They know what they’re charged with. And, most importantly, everyone on the team knows their role.

When people who are passionate about their beliefs disagree, bumps are part of the territory. What has to shine through in even the most heated and drawn out arguments is your intent. Regardless of what side of the argument you’re on, if you trust the intent, you can trust each other and believe in the eventual outcome – even if it takes a while to get there.

Intent doesn’t mean your process will be smooth. Traveling provides a good comparison. Just because you know the end destination, everyone has a different preferred method and route for getting there, but the goal and intent is clear.

What intent does provide is sympathy and empathy for others’ approach. It provides a shared context and a reference point.

Three ways having a shared intent helps:

1. It isn’t personal. Different points of view are hard. It can make for stressful debates. Couple that with the fact that we hold our own opinions very dear and close. The result is that when people have a different opinion from your own, it is often hard not to take it as a personal attack. Don’t. If you can trust you share the same intent, you have a shared reference point and it provides a natural sense of empathy to what they’re saying.

2. Stay on topic. Easier said than done. Conflict is uncomfortable and we quickly want to get past it. One of the most common ways to do that is to quickly move on to other topics. Another common trick people do is to bundle your real point of contention with other topics. It dilutes the real issue that needs to be addressed. If you trust the intent, it is easier to focus and stay on topic.

3. Strong beliefs held loosely. If you really believe in a shared intent, it is ok to change your mind. Of course you should always defend your point of view and stand up for what you believe in. However, the biggest sign of a successful team is the ability to recognize a superior argument to yours and then to take up that argument as your own.

Knowing or sharing the intent won’t make disagreements go away. Instead, it will make disagreements more productive. So as you wade through the sometimes murky waters of discourse, be sure you are clear on the intent before you step off shore.

View article on World of Business Ideas.

Marcus Fischer President
tower