Setting Your Intent for Effective Collaboration

If you could go back in time to replay some of your most difficult interactions that didn’t go so well, you might notice that although you may have been behaving skillfully—making good eye contact, active listening, using respectful words, etc., your 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 in those interactions may have been unclear or conflicted.


That’s what Gabe, a senior VP, discovered in a workshop I led in Manila a while back. He recounted the conversation he’d had with a colleague, describing how focused he’d been on applying the new techniques he’d recently learned in a communications seminar. But despite his newfound “skills,” the conversation fell apart, and the relationship remained strained.


Gabe continued, “I desperately wanted this colleague’s team to help my team with an important initiative. But this desperation to get my way may have overshadowed all of those communication techniques I’d been applying. I was doing the right things but coming from the wrong place, and my colleague felt it.”

We all want to get our way—that’s not the problem. Problems arise when that’s the only thing we want.

When we become hyper-focused on getting our own way, we forget that our colleagues also want to get their way. And just as importantly, they want to be treated well—to be engaged with sincerely, listened to well, and treated with respect and fairness—like us. When we forget this or just pay lip service to it (like applying rote communication techniques), collaborations and relationships suffer.

At this point, I could argue that treating your colleagues well is the best long-term strategy for getting your way, and I’d be sincere, because that’s what I’ve seen over many years as an executive and team coach, and leadership educator. But that’s not the only, or the most important, reason.

What matters more is that you’ll be happier. You’ll feel better about yourself when you fully engage with your colleagues and treat them with genuine respect. Even those folks you don’t like… and regardless of the outcome.

We’re talking about intention here, about “where we’re coming from,” which is more central to our well-being than getting our way in any particular encounter. That’s why 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 is one of the core principles of Full Contact Performance.

We can maintain a small, self-oriented intention that is only concerned with what we want. Or we can deliberately expand our intention to include the well-being of the people we work with.

This comes easily for the people we care about, but to extend our positive intention and full engagement to the folks who challenge us, oppose us, or even mistreat us?

Not as easy, but we can learn how to set this intention and get better at coming from this place. I can’t always pull it off myself. But I keep working on it because I feel better about myself when I do—and because that’s the kind of world I want to be living in.

June 29, 2023 by Grayson James

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