“Intention” Doesn’t Mean “Agenda”

We’re inundated daily by tons of information and data, and it can feel like our most important job is to pass along our own content and information to others.

I notice this frequently when I ask a client what their intention is for the meeting they are preparing to lead. I’ll say, “Think about the outcome you’re trying to achieve. What do you want the people there to feel, think, or do as a result of what you say?”

Their answer, often, is a run-down of the agenda of the meeting. “My intention for this meeting is to tell everyone exactly where we stand in our budget year-to-date, to get through the committee reports, and then if we have time to try to brainstorm the new onboarding process.”


This isn’t an intention. It’s a recap of what someone wants to get done, but it does not serve the function of engaging others in a way that will lead to action. 

In order to get to a powerful intention, we have to move beyond tasks and checklists and grapple with the “why” of the agenda. Imagine the ten minutes after the meeting. What are each of these people doing? Are they thinking about a vibrant discussion that took place? Are they making notes about their next steps? Are they getting in touch with someone who wasn’t there to fill them in because they’re excited about the new direction?


Your intention isn’t to get through the agenda. (Well, it might be, but let’s shoot for something more productive.) Your intention might be to unite the group, to make room for more voices, to get the ball rolling on a new project, to empower new people at the table.

Whatever you choose, make sure it has the staying power to lead to action after the meeting is over.

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