Ever been part of a dysfunctional meeting?  They waste time, sap energy, and kill employee engagement.  An executive coaching client and I were preparing for a meeting she was going to in two hours.  It was a high stakes meeting and she expected it to be politically charged.  Each functional group had their “wants” and the battle lines were drawn.  Sound familiar? What if there was a tool that helped us not just survive the stress but actually transform these types of situations into productive dialogues?  Read on for coaching on how to do that.

I call the tool that works “Transformational Intent” and it has the power to change our experience of any dysfunctional situation, not just meetings.  “Transformational Intent” is the act of simply setting the highest, most positive intention prior to any action or situation.  When heading to a contentious meeting we can create a conscious intention of who we are in the meeting and what outcomes we are looking for.  When faced with a situation, we let go of the need to control the situation to fit our needs and embrace the opportunity to set a clear, positive intent for the best outcome.

Why does intent work? First, setting an intent helps us to consciously direct our focus. What we focus on shapes our expectations, what we move toward,   and what we experience. Second, quantum physics is teaching us that any object that is observed is changed by the very act of observation.  Could it be possible then, that the expectations with which we observe others changes them?  It explains why in experiments, teachers’ expectations of students actually changes their performance.  Third, our own intent matters because of what neuroscience research describes as emotional contagion.  This is our ability to read others’ emotions and mirror them, even unconsciously. In layman terms it’s called empathy.  We all have mirror neurons in our brains, a fancy way of explaining why when one person yawns, the rest of us are triggered to yawn as well.  Imagine the personal power we each have to be transformational leaders, if we take 100% accountability for our intent.

Back to the battle lines of our favorite meeting.   Here are three intentions and questions we can ask ourselves on the way to a meeting or in any situation:

1)     Transformational Intent for Self – In this meeting who do I intend to be? If you have worked on your personal brand, remind yourself of your highest vision for yourself and your impact.  Stressed out and not exactly feeling like Mother Teresa? We can pause and ask ourselves, “What do I need right now to be the highest vision of myself?”  It may be a few deep breaths. It may be a mantra or affirmation. It may be a song (mine is “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor, it always gets me energized). It may be a Kit-Kat bar. Find your own reset button.

2)      Transformational Intent for Others – What is my intent in how I interact with others in this situation? We usually just listen to the folks we agree with who are “on our side” and ignore the naysayers. Is this an opportunity to discover something unique about the strengths of each person in the room? How can I genuinely engage with each person as if they were a friend, trusted colleague or favorite mentee? What is something new I can learn from others?  How can I help others feel understood, engaged, and lifted up? When we set this type of intention we listen differently and access new information vs. listening from our filters.

3)      Transformational Intent for the Situation – What is my intent for this situation? We typically want to see our specific agenda met, just like everyone else in the room who, by the way, may have an opposing agenda.  This impedes the best business outcomes. Why?  Because each of us has limited information.  Unless we listen openly, the person with the highest title wins, rather than the best ideas winning.  We can choose to ask ourselves, “How can I discover the areas of common ground? How can I contribute to a productive dialogue that brings out the best ideas?”

As we ourselves maintain a “Transformational Intent” through the situation, something magical happens. The mirror neurons start working and we are able to elevate the dialogue through our own positive (and contagious) energy.  Transformational intentions create transformational change.

As we practice setting a clear and conscious intent in every situation we face, over time we retrain our thought patterns.  Neuroscience research shows that our thought patterns literally create grooves in our brains that form habitual thinking.  We can retrain our brains for “Transformational Intent” as we repeatedly and consciously set positive intentions throughout the day.  It takes about 3,000+ thoughts moving in the same direction.  As we focus on the potential in ourselves, in others, and in situations so we can transform not just our own experience but also that of others.  We are able to achieve better collaboration, trust, engagement…and of course fewer dysfunctional meetings.  This is an important tool in developing greater personal power and finding the transformational leader within each of us.

Try this experiment at the next meeting. Be sure to journal about what you learned.  My executive coaching client reported that the dysfunctional meeting went better than she had originally expected.  Of course it would. She had reframed her own intent. I would welcome connecting with you if you would like to be coached on how to unleash the potential of this tool to transform yourself and your business.

If this resonated with you please subscribe and share with others.

Henna Inam - Professional Photo - ColorThis article was written by Henna Inam, executive coach, speaker, and consultant.  She works with women to help them realize their potential to be authentic, transformational leaders. They create organizations that drive breakthroughs in innovation, growth, and engagement. Her corporate clients include Coca Cola, UPS, Nestle, J&J, and others who know female leadership talent is good for business. To accelerate your own growth connect with her here. Connect on Twitter @hennainam.