Why a Growth Mindset is a Competitive Advantage for Any Leader

From Losing to Learning: Why a Growth Mindset is a Competitive Advantage for Any Leader

“I never lose. I either win or learn.” – Nelson Mandela 

Failure …or learning opportunity? 

The number of people with whom I start working who equate not getting it right the first time as a “failure” surprises me. Surprises me because these already-worthy individuals seem quick – too quick – to (falsely) label themselves as not good enough. Surprises me also because by inaccurately categorizing their results, they not only waste time and energy entertaining a concept which I would argue doesn’t exist anyway, but they also create a missed opportunity to do even better next time. 

What would it look like if the word “failure” were forever banished from our vocabularies and the only viable alternative would be “learning opportunity”? I bet there would be many more people being kinder to themselves, many more innovative solutions found and, overall, a much happier world. 

Because the thing is, we don’t know what we don’t know until we know it. Might seem obvious, but how many of us expect ourselves to know what we don’t yet know and then get irritated with ourselves for not yet knowing it?  

How High Achievers Fall Prey to Shame 

Like the (many) times I shied away from learning German because I was afraid to – you guessed it – not get it right (read: sound stupid). But how, pray tell, could I have expected myself to ever learn that language if I don’t allow myself to just get started where I am – with all the mistakes that might entail?  

And I’m sure I’m not alone. Many of us – especially High Achievers – are great at keeping our bars very high. Most of us would argue that this is exactly how we have gotten so far in our lives and careers in the first place. 

 Well, yes – and no. “Yes” because maintaining a focus on excellence is a noble goal and has indeed served us and our leadership. “No” when we take our drive for excellence to the extreme of demanding perfection (an illusion) from ourselves. In this extreme case where mistakes are forbidden, we can fall prey to shame (Should Have Already Mastered Everything) and that is just plain and simply not ok. 

What to do?  

“The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
― Dr. Seuss 

A Growth Mindset is for Real Leaders 

That’s where a growth mindset comes in. 

Learning offers both long- and short-term benefits to us as leaders and to the organization. The results are both impactful and lasting:  

  • We gain an opportunity to get new info and develop skills that can help solve stressful dilemmas – or even to fend off future stressors.  
  • Reflecting on what we’ve learned can increase our feelings of competence, confidence, and capability.  
  • Through learning, we connect to a greater purpose of continual growth and improvement, which fosters resilience 
  • We learn to focus on solutions rather than problems, a mindset which can itself lighten our load and help attract better circumstances our way. 

While not always an easy task, when we can see every situation – both those which work in our favor and those which don’t – as opportunities for learning, we are not only catching on to the gist of life, but we are also laying a firmer foundation for our leadership.  

After all, real leaders, the ones who truly inspire, inspire others precisely because they know how to turn circumstances around to work for them and their teams. They have chutzpah. 

So how do we get to this shift toward a growth mindset?  

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”
― Pablo Picasso 

The Stages of Learning: A Real-Life Example 

First, it starts with understanding what it means to learn. 

Consider the Stages of Learning below: 

Copyright:  Mindwerx International

Starting in the top-left box, first (as mentioned above) we don’t know what we don’t know. And why don’t we know it? Probably because we had never been exposed to or heard about this “new” subject.   

As with my earlier example, having grown up in Kentucky, USA, I had no use for the German language and had not regularly been exposed to German speakers. So, I was completely unaware of how much I didn’t know when it came to speaking German. 

Moving down to the bottom-left box of Conscious Incompetence, it can become painful when we become aware that we don’t know something. This is the stage where the rubber meets the road in learning. This is where I imagine many of us give up and/or start shaming (what a horrible “S” word!) ourselves for not already mastering something of which we just became aware.  

Once I started practicing speaking German, I felt like a fool: there I was a grownup and probably sounding like a three-year-old in my sentences…To say this experience was humbling was putting it mildly. But here’s the thing: how in the world could any of us possibly learn German – or any other language – without first taking the necessary steps (like putting strings of basic words together)? 

Practice, Stumble, Learn…and Practice Again 

So, we practice these new skills, and we stumble and learn and practice again. And we continue in this way until we come to the bottom-right stage: that of Conscious Competence. Here, we are aware that, thanks to our efforts, we are getting better in this area. However, the fact we still need to exert effort here also indicates that we have not yet fully embodied the learning.  

By this time, I was able to greet people and ask basic questions and order meals in restaurants in German. But it took some pre-thought each time (bits of sweat on my forehead were clear indicators). 

Unconscious Competence: The Realm of Mastery 

In practicing even more, we come upon Unconscious Competence. Here, we’re at mastery. In fact, the learning has become so much a part of us that we don’t have to think at all about acting upon what we have learned. We just do it. It’s who we are now. 

While I cannot say that I have mastered German (yet), I can say that I have experienced the pain of seeing the gap between my current skills and what I wanted them to be, practicing like crazy (with all the mistakes and hard learnings that are a natural part of that process) and coming out the other side to Unconscious Incompetence.  

And it feels like heaven. Truly “owning” those once-coveted-now-embodied skills makes all the seeming “losses” worth it. Because now we can see what the reason for them was:  to learn, to get better so we can attain mastery.    

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”
― Albert Einstein 

What it Means to Live a Growth Mindset 

We’ve seen why focusing on learning can be important, we’ve even looked at what the stages of learning are. But how, exactly, can one live out a continuous learning mindset? 

Here are some ways. 

#1. Stretch your strengths. 

We all have strengths, of course. But when we use them in the same way every day, we risk stifling our development. Think of skilled athletes – they don’t hone in on one specific muscle to build 24/7, but rather, they typically make strength-building a whole-body approach.  

Likewise, we might consider how we can use our strengths in as many ways possible. Think outside of the box here – literally. Instead of imagining strength building as a strictly inside-the-office activity, we can expand into a concept HBR calls strength solving:  basically, relearning how to apply our unique strengths to support others and problem-solve outside of our daily grind.  

Have leadership skills gained from years of on-the-job expertise? What if those skills were re-channeled into mentoring emerging women leaders, or offering professional advice to an up-and-coming non-profit? Get creative with this and see where the adventure leads… 

#2. Shake up how you see “learning.”  

What if I said that “unlearning” is just as important as “learning”? Say what?! Indeed: Unlearning is about releasing what is familiar and swapping it for something fresh and unknown. Discard that useless mantra “It’s always been done this way.” It’s nearly the exact opposite of the Growth Mindset we are touting here – especially when the very level of learning that got us to where we are can also keep us from soaring higher.  

For instance, early in our careers, we might have become accustomed to saying “yes” to everything. As we all know, that can’t last forever! So, we may need to unlearn agreeing to everything and develop new strategies for setting boundaries.  

Think about life during these last few years, when virtually all of us had to unlearn significant aspects of our lives to adapt to the new and unknown. It wasn’t always easy or pleasant, but it did show us the amazing resilience of the human experience.   

Today, consider identifying a few of your skills and common behaviors to determine if it might be worthwhile to “unlearn” them as you make way to meet a greater good.  

#3. The world is your classroom – show up and learn 😊 

Not a single one of us needs to wait for a formal learning opportunity to engage in. Our life, our daily work is our classroom.  

That team meeting scheduled for today? Use it as a chance to sharpen communication skills.  

Facing a dilemma figuring out how to meet a critical deadline? Leverage the moment to develop problem-solving skills, in real time.  

Have a tough decision to make? Consider it a confidence-building exercise.  

So often, we think of learning as a stand-alone practice. Yet, as HBR’s Liane Davey reminds us, we can learn and get work done at the same time. A win-win. 

#4 Practice makes progress. 

Please throw the words “failure” and “perfection” out the window and focus on “practice” and “progress” instead – however small it may appear at a time. Just like Mr. Miyagi had the Karate Kid do, the more we consistently practice, the more we progress.  

“An organization’s ability to learn, and to translate that learning into action rapidly, 
is the ultimate competitive advantage.” – Jack Welch 

A Growth Mindset – it’s for Organizations, too! 

And, on a larger scale, when many leaders within a company can heed the recommendations above, they are creating a learning culture. This is the only one which can help them navigate the roller-coaster ride which today’s world creates for any organization looking to thrive.  

And it all starts and ends with fostering a Growth Mindset. 

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Humble Leadership

Why Humble Leadership Is More Important Than Ever Before 

Higher performing teams.  Stronger teamwork and collaboration.  Higher levels of flexibility that lead to more innovation and creative problem-solving.  

How can leaders achieve those benefits, even in today’s ever-evolving, volatile times?  

One secret ingredient to more impactful leadership: humility 

While Merriam-Webster defines humility as: 

“freedom from pride or arrogance,”  

my preferred notion of this word is: 

“right-sizing ourselves.” 

In this light, we humans get the chance to evaluate where we are shining – and where we might want to improve. That’s it.  

It’s never about humiliation (as I falsely understood from the church of my childhood) for being less than perfect. Because no one – no matter what role, organizational level or salary they might have – ever is.  That’s at least one thing we all definitely have in common: having things to work on. 

If fact, have you noticed that the first three letters of “humility” and “human” are the same? My take is that it’s because humility brings to light both sides of what it means to be human: to be both great at certain things and not so much on others all at the same time. 

As the great philosopher Socrates said, 

“True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.” 

The important thing is remembering both are there: none of us is all good, and none of us is certainly all bad, either. 

While humility may not always be the first trait that comes to mind as we contemplate great leaders, it has long been known that the ability to be humble – what scientists call “intellectual humility” – has far-reaching gains in leadership and in everyday life.  

Millennials: A Driving Force in Humble Leadership? 

While scientists verify the importance of humility, we may have millennials to thank for putting the concept into action – so much so that leadership trends are changing (yippee!):  

Studies show that millennials often embrace a servant leadership style – one that emphasizes humility and collaboration. They tend to value the greater good of the organization (and beyond) versus a narrow vision that is self-driven.  

What’s more, asserts a recent article in Fast Company, “As millennials are more inclined to leave jobs when they’re not feeling fulfilled, many organizations are paying attention to the type of leadership these workers thrive under, as well.” 

Humility in Leaders: A Sought-After Trait 

Today, humble leaders are increasingly sought after – and justifiably so – as more and more organizations are recognizing just how crucial the trait is in today’s workplace.  

Why is that, exactly? The answers are obvious.  

Through role-modeling vulnerability and their acceptance of both their own limitations and strengths, humble leaders: 

  • Promote a culture of inclusion, where a sense of belonging and respect are highly valued.  
  • Cultivate collaboration, so employees are more likely to bring their “full selves” to work. 
  • Set the standard for positive traits like integrity, trust, accountability & respect for others. 

Deeply ingrained stereotypes often portray the “best” leaders as charismatic, overpowering, and yes – even obnoxious. But even in reading that line, many of us might be rolling our eyes – so fed up we are with such personalities who seem to be only out for themselves. 

Indeed, research and real-life leadership experience tell a vastly different story: some of the most impactful leaders represent a powerful synergy of humility and deep resolve. “They are modest, self-effacing, understated, and fanatically driven by results,” write the authors in a Fast Company article highlighting why we need more humble leaders.  

Moreover, humble leaders know how to inspire people to follow them because they attract through sincere care and an emphasis on collective excellence rather than through pushing their will on others. We all know how very different these two energies feel – and which one is a no-brainer to want more of. 

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking of yourself less.”
C.S. Lewis 

5 Everyday Tips to Be a Humble Leader 

So, how can we all bring more humility into our leadership? It isn’t hard to incorporate these easy strategies into the work day:  

  1. Be a great listener. Listen with intention. Too often, distractions tug at us, pulling us away from genuine conversation. Over time, something powerful manifests when we listen loudly: in addition to drawing people toward us more easily, we are also deriving more meaning from our exchanges. 
  2. Practice empathy. Impactful leaders know the power of empathy. Empathy allows us to connect more strongly with those in our organization, which can foster a sense of loyalty and encourage a team spirit, all while inspiring others to cultivate empathy too. 
  3. Welcome feedback of all kinds. Acknowledging our shortcomings is key. But we needn’t wait to fall short in order to glean helpful feedback. Whether it’s a few simple suggestions offered by a team member – or the expression of uncomfortable feelings that cuts to the core – consider how it can be used as an opportunity for learning and growth. But we needn’t wait to fall short in order to glean helpful feedback. Whether it’s a few simple suggestions offered by a team member – or the expression of uncomfortable feelings that cut us to the core – consider how it can be used as an opportunity for learning and growth.  And, especially, remember to also celebrate what you are already doing well!
  4. Show gratitude. The ripple effects of practicing gratitude don’t stop at the workplace: Studies have long proven that gratitude improves well-being and health. People who are grateful live longer, their bodies heal more quickly, and they experience less depression. Who doesn’t want that?!
  5. Lift others up. Humble leaders almost universally emphasize the “we” – not the “me.” They don’t need to bask in the spotlight all the time. Rather, they lead from a place of openness, trust, integrity and authenticity to encourage inclusivity on teams and in the organization as a whole. 

Now, go out there and inspire your team as you BOLDLY lead with humility today… 

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Power of One

The Power of One: One Powerful Way to Influence the Organization

Is one really the loneliest number? Harry Nilsson may have gotten it right when it comes to writing a sad love song, but not when it comes to boldly influencing the organization. Power

What’s that? Are we saying that one person has the power to inspire the entire organization?  

Yes, we are. Here’s how. 

Leadership is the power of one harnessing the power of many.”
— John C. Maxwell 

In an HBR article aptly called, “How One Person Can Change the Conscience of an Organization,” authors Nicholas W. Eyrich, Robert E. Quinn, and David P. Fessell assert that on the deepest level, we humans need to contribute to the greater good.  

And yes, obviously, one doesn’t need to read a top business journal to know that. After all this “every person for themself” business is exactly what has gotten this world into the mess it currently is.  

Thing is, though, not everyone sees that. Calling it out therefore seems important. 

Eyrich, Quinn and Fessell go on, “When a leader [at any level], skillfully brings a voice and a vision, others will follow and surprising things can happen—even culture change on a large scale.” 

The Far-Reaching Effects of “Just” One Leader Power

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself.
When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”

—Jack Welch 

The impact that “just” a single leader can have on others is staggering. It’s this focus on the good of the collective over that of the individual, in fact, that makes Bolder leaders so inspirational. It’s also why we’ve written so often on the importance of emphasizing the “we” – not the “me.”  

When we focus on self-seeking ends (like, unfortunately, some modern-day “leaders” (quotes here because we are generous by even naming them as such lol)), the results – as we all have experienced – are often tragic. Millions of displaced people, families torn apart, basic human rights stripped are among some of the disastrous consequences of large-scale self-will-run-riot. And the list of consequences to these consequences – chain reactions as it were – goes on and on. Self-centeredness thereby becomes a (poisonous) gift that keeps on giving. 

Yet there is another path we can take. When we leverage our role and practice conscious leadership by consciously choosing to live higher-level values and to inspire others to do the same, our positive influence ripples out, touching people in meaningful ways. Take, for example, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern. Less than one month after the country’s worst peacetime shooting, she introduced swift and sweeping gun law reforms, likely saving countless lives and the broken hearts of many others. The chain reaction her choice induced is incomparable to the one described above. 

And while, yes, both examples cited here may not be directly relevant to the average reader of this article, they nonetheless show how our role-modeling as individual leaders creates a chain reaction which can either help the world – or hinder it.  

The choice of how we show up, what we focus on and what we put out in the world is always ours. 

So, how can we effectively transform our leadership to inspire our teams, our organizations? It’s quite simple: start with conscious leadership. Think of this as a deep, continual process that ultimately brings the best of our inner selves out into the world of form, so that we can create the greatest impact as we inspire those around us. 

Sounds ideal, right? But how in the world do we go about implementing it?  

Below are some practical strategies.  

5 Strategies for Any Single Leader to Have a Lasting Impact: Power

1)  Put self-care first. Having grown up in a church which taught me that thinking of myself first was selfish, that old version of me may not even have included this particular tip here. However, several bouts of burnout and of pushing good people and opportunities away all because I wasn’t grounded in my best self have shown me otherwise: the better I take care of myself, the better I can be there for others.   

We can’t give what (as we say in parts of my home state Kentucky) we ain’t got. It really is as simple as that. True transformation starts within. We can only cultivate the mental soil needed to lead transformation by stepping away to take care of ourselves. This isn’t just a luxury – it is a requirement for every BOLDER leader. 

2) Use your privilege of being a leader wisely. This means supporting and lifting up those who may have less clout or visibility. While starting with Top Teams is most often our recommendation, transformation isn’t always a singular, “top down” process. Indeed, leaders at all levels can make a conscious choice to influence positive change. When we use our position of privilege to lift others up, we inspire an entire culture of inclusivity and growth.  

3) Infuse empathy into everyday interactions. Not only is it just the right thing to do, but more than ever, our world NEEDS empathy. In an age where the “new normal” feels anything but, we need to be patient and compassionate– with ourselves and others. When we approach others authentically to help them feel valued and understood, the organization as a whole benefits with improved teamwork, greater productivity, and a boost in morale. Moreover, by doing so, we also get to bring more meaning to our own lives and leadership.  With all the upheaval of today’s world, who wants to live without that? 

4) Be the executive…of your own brain. So often, we think of leadership as something external. Not so. By monitoring the impulses of our own minds, with practice we can get better at regulating our limiting reactions and choosing responses that will be more helpful to ourselves and others. Again, though, patience and compassion with ourselves are called for here: working through our triggers won’t happen overnight. But luckily, we’ll have lots of opportunities to practice as the inevitable, numerous challenges life throws our way 😉. After all, as we’ve said before, Bolder leadership is the perfect mix of art and science, of technique and practice. 

5) Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Yup, the unavoidable discomfort which comes with the constant change our world continually throws at us in one form or another. If the last few years have taught us anything (and if there is one thing we can all agree on…imagine that!) – it’s that change is everywhere nearly all the time 

Bolder, impactful leaders know that change is continual – and they welcome it as an opportunity for growth…even when it seems uncomfortable, frustrating, or downright painful. Embrace a change mindset – and watch how getting comfortable with discomfort can transform your leadership and life. And likely those of the people you influence as well. 

Finally, know this: no matter what things look like at this moment, we each have the power of choice. Be BOLDER today. Bolder choices lead to greater levels of impact and fulfillment through the rewards such moves promise. 

“Rarely are opportunities presented to you in a perfect way. In a nice little box with a yellow bow on top. ‘Here, open it, it’s perfect. You’ll love it.’ Opportunities – the good ones – are messy, confusing and hard to recognize. They’re risky. They challenge you.”
 —Susan Wojcicki, CEO of Youtube 

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Brain Rewiring: The Practical Way Anyone Can Become the Bolder Leader of Their Dreams

Brain Rewiring: The Practical Way Anyone Can Become the Bolder Leader of Their Dreams

“My brain is the key that sets me free.” – Harry Houdini

It may seem like magic, but it’s also true: the answer to great leadership may lie in rewiring our brain. This is how any one of us can become the leaders we always hoped we would be.

And it’s not hard to do.

It may take dedicated mental work, yes. But before you know it, you’ll be a witness to your own transformation:  what used to feel foreign and unattainable to you will now become part of your natural way of being and doing.

“By focusing on possibilities, you can see more than a potential light at the end of the tunnel. The light doesn’t have to be at the end of the tunnel; it can illuminate an opportunity wherever you are.”
― John B. Arden, Rewire Your Brain: Think Your Way to a Better Life

What We Resist Persists

In other words, whatever it is about ourselves that we’re not wild about as leaders or as humans (which, to us, is the exact same thing), it won’t go away by merely wishing it would.

If only! –  lol

Instead, if we really want to develop ourselves as leaders, we need to face reality: to become aware of those parts of us which are not helping our leadership vision and do something about it.

Take a moment of self-awareness to honestly evaluate your mindset and behavior as a leader.

Are there all-too-familiar areas that you know you could get better in, but push out of your mind, thinking that you’ll never overcome them?

And when (not if) these flaws present themselves in the workplace, you overreact, make excuses and bury what has happened?

We’ve all been there. But what point does that serve? It only reinforces the problem.

The old adage ‘whatever you resist – persists,’ is a valid one. Our brains simply follow the paths we’ve set for it throughout life – they’ve become familiar to it.

So instead of pausing to consider the situation, we instantly react,

like the record that automatically drops down in an old jukebox.

Until we choose a new “record” for the old jukebox, that is. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but it is oh-so-worth-it!

Science proves you can change the messages you’ve been sending your brain.

How? It’s simple.

All that’s required is a three-step process which we have already delved into in recent articles:

  1. Become aware of what you want to stand for as a leader and, importantly, .
  2. Make a choice to work with the intention of having that vision become a reality.
  3. Commit to a daily practice in small yet consistent ways.

Yes, we can all definitely teach the old dog of our brain new tricks!

Create Certainty in Your Leadership

And this is mostly thanks to neuroplasticity.

In layman’s terms:

Neuroplasticity is the ability of our nervous system to change its connections and structures.

Neuroscientists have long understood this fascinating phenomenon. When we incorporate a little neuroscience into our leadership, it can literally transform our whole lives. It means people can actually change the structure of their brains and form new pathways to teach the brain a new habit.

So those old thought patterns that aren’t serving us any longer? They can be overwritten. Each one of us can rewire our brain to become a more BOLDly impactful leader, and to enjoy a more deeply fulfilling life.

And speaking of BOLDER leadership…Isn’t that exactly what our world needs today?

“The brain is a muscle that can move the world.” – Stephen King

Writing in Inc., Geoffrey James notes that leadership isn’t about the carrot and stick principle (combining rewards and punishment to elicit a desired behavior).

Leadership is about creating a feeling of certainty in those you lead.

Since we mimic the behaviors we see in others, the goal is to create certainty in ourselves first.

As James writes, that’s exactly why successful leaders always appear so self-confident. They’ve created their own sense of security that affects everyone around.

Applying Neuroplasticity in the Workplace

True leadership is one of the toughest skills to find in employees, according to a Global Workforce Leadership survey.

Sometimes we’re unaware of what is holding us back. The answer might lie in our reptilian brain.

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.– Albert Einstein

Our ‘lizard brain” oftentimes stands as a roadblock to greater leadership: when our fight or flight reactions sets in, it stays with us. Our minds reflect back to past and future threats – and we end up in fits of anger, frustration and fear.

And each day, repeated triggering of limiting thoughts etches grooves in the mind – which become deeper. The result is more negativity, panic and self-criticism, in a seemingly endless cycle. Sound familiar?

So how do we avoid this continual, negative playback?

In addition to the three steps mentioned above – Awareness, Choice and Practice – we can cultivate daily practices which help raise our own feel-good level.

Step back and create space. Take time to be apart, engaging in enjoyable activities.

Whether it’s quiet time or a gentle practice like writing in a diary, science has proven that when we experience trust, joy or excitement, our brain cells soften and new, healthier pathways are created.

The practice of mindfulness helps create a space between us – and the chaos of the outside world.

By taking the time and creating the space to foster our own higher-level thinking, we are cultivating trust, joy and excitement in ourselves. And these, in turn, are absorbed by those in the workplace. Employees feel our calm confidence – and this helps to motivate and empower others.

Isn’t it amazing how even a small amount of mental work can transform our leadership from average into extraordinary?

Rewire your brain week after week, when you sign up for our free Weekly Bolder Moves right here, delivered fresh to your inbox each Tuesday. Get practical tips and easy-to-implement strategies to step into the best Bolder version of YOU – in leadership & in life.


Intentionality: The Hidden Force that Empowers Our Bolder Leadership Vision

“Our intentions create our reality.”
– Wayne Dyer

With winds that usher in a change of seasons, the month of March symbolizes a time of transformation for many people in some parts of our world.

For most of us, it seems like the fresh newness of spring and all of the hope it brings may never arrive, as distracting, gusty winds – much like the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world we live in – blow around and through us.

Likewise, the swirling winds in our own lives brought about by the many knock-on effects of Covid, the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, the heartbreaking earthquake in Turkey and Syria and a souring economy may sometimes roar about and knock us off course (or at least, distract us) from our goals.

How to remain steady and confident in the face of this chaos? It may be easier than you think: follow a simple formula which my teacher passed on to me:

Intention + Attention = Results

Start by getting clear on what you want to create.

No matter how great intentions – and their impact – might be, there is one ingredient essential to making those intentions stick:


Clarity on what it is we really want. Not what we think we want or think we should want (to get that job or be accepted by that group of people, etc.). But what we genuinely, in the depths of us, want. Because here’s the thing: intention is all about energy. So, if there is some part of us that is not fully on board with what we say we want, that intention is not really an intention. It’s a mere hope.

Take, for example, the case of Anne, VP at a tech company. Anne wanted to be a published author because she wanted to add another point to her resume. But she really didn’t like writing and saw no way being published furthered her purpose in the world. Her head was in it, but her heart wasn’t. So guess what happened? You got it. Missing the fuel of inspiration, she ran out of steam midway through and ended up unpublished.

It’s important to note here that even if she had pushed herself beyond her limits and gotten published, it still would not have fulfilled her because her heart was not in it. Any of us who has achieved a lot of “things” in our lives and yet still find ourselves dissatisfied can surely relate to that.

Knowing Your Why

That’s why knowing our why – and living accordingly- is so important to our joy, our productivity and our impact.

The good news is that Anne could take the opportunity of this upset to understand what her heart really did care about – and then begin setting intentions toward that.

For our intention to have the full force of landing us on our vision, we need to be fully behind it. We need to understand the helicopter view for ourselves, how that fulfilled intention fits into our values, our purpose, our overall vision. How that fulfilled intention fits into our Why. And for many of us, that takes a fairly high level of self-awareness.

What does this mean? It means we need to shed the layers of protection many of us try to protect ourselves with and get in touch with our truer selves.

“There’s little doubt that clarity of intent sheds light on the path ahead even if it isn’t clearly visible,” writes Vineet Nayar in an HBR article fittingly titled, “The Power of Intent.”

Then leverage the power of choice…

“When people have the capacity to choose, they have the capacity to change.”
-Madeleine Albright

Sometimes we feel as if we have no choices in life.

And with the sad and scary events named above (among many others) plaguing our world and affecting our daily lives, who could blame us?

But the truth is, we do have the power to choose some things – like our mindsets, how we take care of ourselves and how we treat other people. So, we get to have an impact on relationships – no matter what is going on. And given that Relationships precede Results (one my favorite leadership tenets), that’s already quite a lot after all.

Indeed, we always have the power to choose our attitudes and our behavior. That’s what makes self-awareness – and the clarity that comes from it – so powerful: it allows us to understand who and how we are now so we can choose how we want to be. Intentionality – and our attention on what we want to create – is what bridges the two.

So, what is it you choose to manifest? In other words, what is your intention?

This can be answered for each relationship or conversation or our career as a whole, or just a meeting. Anything. The main thing is that we are aware and can choose what it is we want to create – and why.

And then that we go about giving attention to our intention.

Intention and Attention: A Foundation for Success

Pay attention to your intention:

“Choose your intention carefully and then practice holding your consciousness to it,
so it becomes the guiding light in your life.”
– Roger Delano Hinkins

It would be a wonderful world indeed if all we had to do was wish for something and then wait in lotus position for it to arrive. Well, of course, we can always wait for it to arrive, but without attention to what it is we want to create, we might very well be waiting a long, long time – lol.

We might have an intention to get promoted, for example. But if we don’t up our game by expanding our network, building a new client or becoming more of an expert in our field, our promotion ambitions may likely go up in smoke.

But not so when we meet our intention with attention to help it come true.

HealthyPsych highlights the relationship of intention and attention. Our own personal traits play a role in intention, too, noting that our built-in negativity bias requires us to make a more concerted effort to set our intentions and pay attention.

Intention, the author notes, is not about rubbing a genie bottle and making a wish:

“Intention is about choosing, over and over again, where to direct your precious attention.”

Attention gives movement and direction to our intention so that it doesn’t stay stuck on a metaphorical shelf somewhere, but actually begins happening for us and our leadership.

“Attention is … powerful: it generates thinking. It is an act of creation.”
– Nancy Klein

And, we gotta admit, that’s kinda cool – right? I mean, with all the multitude of things we are powerless over in this crazy world, here’s one sure bet of something we can definitely influence.

So why not go for it?

During the sometimes (maybe always?!) crazy, frenzied day, where we literally run from task to task, all it takes is a moment to…

Set an intention and give it your attention.

The rewards are momentous. In addition to actually helping us get what we really want, it also creates a sense of empowerment, ownership, and inspiration for us.

In business – and in life – we may not have the answers in front of us, but by sticking to our intentions and giving our attention to them, it creates a powerhouse to build upon.

A simple act with a ripple effect of positivity

What seems like such a simple act of choice is even so much more: it is a positive act for us, and it can ripple outward to impact others around us, too.

Just imagine the times when you have felt happy, how much did your optimism impact the mood of those around you? That’s what we’re talking about here. You can do it. You can give yourself the solid hope and the brighter future that comes from setting intentions and giving those intentions your attention.

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