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  • Writer's pictureSubha

The Power of Intention: Unlocking Your Career Growth

Updated: Apr 22

In the Great Office Comeback, we find ourselves at the crossroads of choice and chance, with one burning question - how do we unlock our full career growth potential?

office meeting

We believe the answer lies within the concept of 'intentionality'.

Remember the '90s? A time when watching the latest "Friends" episode was a weekly ritual, and ‘The World This Week’ defined the frequency at which news was consumed. More importantly, it was a period when communication was slower, yet somehow, more intentional. You would wait a whole week to find out what happened next with Ross, Rachel, and the gang.

Fast forward to now, with our binge-watching culture and instant streaming services. Somewhere amidst this fast-paced consumption, we've lost that sense of anticipation, that intentionality, haven't we?

You see, intentionality in communication isn't just about the act of speaking or listening. It's about being present in the conversation, about understanding and absorbing the essence of what's being communicated.

When we bring this intentionality to our career, it can manifest in various forms - setting clear professional goals, taking proactive steps towards learning new skills or investing time in nurturing professional relationships.

Take, for instance, our professional emails. A simple change in how we write them, making sure we articulate our thoughts clearly and meaningfully, could be a step towards better communication. (Pro-tip: Put down all the information for anticipated questions so that you don’t get a reply to the email!)

And better communication is often synonymous with better relationships at work, leading to a more harmonious work environment and better career growth.

In teams, intentionality can mean understanding and appreciating the diverse experiences and perspectives of your colleagues. This openness can lead to the emergence of innovative solutions and a more inclusive work culture.

But intentionality needs space and time. And that's where the current hybrid work model can come in handy. Those few in-office days can be a perfect opportunity for intentional conversations - conversations that don't just revolve around work but also around experiences, ideas, and aspirations.

Maybe, this is the way to unlock our career growth potential - not by being physically present in the office every day, but by being emotionally and mentally present whenever we interact.

Missed Opportunities

In the rush to have everyone back in the office, one important aspect often gets overlooked: a meaningful conversation that challenges our current understanding or view. Unfortunately, amidst the flood of emails and rushed meetings, the important discussions needed to drive the business forward often fall flat.

Tim Ferriss recently piloted a podcast episode format titled Heresies. Tim Ferriss and Kevin Kelly are experimenting with a conversational format aimed at uncovering 'heresies' - unconventional beliefs held by individuals which might shock their respected peers. The purpose of this exercise is to encourage independent thinking and to scrutinize these contrarian ideas, thereby fostering a deeper understanding of belief systems and challenging the status quo.

How often do we do this today? Just a couple of colleagues taking two sides of an idea and talking, exploring, arguing, defending, listening, learning and once in a while, maybe moving to the other side. It’s tough to schedule a Teams call for this.

Much as we’d like them to be, most of our workplace conversations are more than just ways to complete a transaction- they are a means for our fulfilment and growth and give us a sense of accomplishment as well. How do we do this when the only means of communication is a Slack channel? Sure, we’d all like better boundaries between work and life, but where is the sense in needing workplace fulfilment but reaching for it elsewhere?

It is fair to assume that managers who are asking their team members to come back have an intuitive grasp of why they are doing this, even if it isn’t always possible to put it into words. For example, tough conversations are easier to have in person. We have also had instances where employees have reported ‘not knowing what their role in the organization is any more’. These situations are an indicator that what we’re probably reaching for is resonance with each other.

This is why we’ll split this piece into two- one as a guidebook for companies wanting people back but not knowing how to articulate it, and one for employees who, if done on their own terms, would love to come back.

Managers, dig deeper with these questions:

  • "What unique opportunities does in-person work provide that can't be replicated virtually?" We often acknowledge the value of serendipitous hallway conversations or brainstorming sessions on a whiteboard and the 'water-cooler effect', but that's hard to replicate when the water cooler is your fridge, and the only person to bump into is your cat. Pinpoint these intangibles and articulate their value to your team. This also means that on days at work, you need to roam the hallways and make time for conversations. Let go of the cabin life for a few hours.

  • "How can we balance the demand for workplace flexibility with the need for in-person collaboration?" By identifying the work that benefits most from face-to-face interaction, you can create a hybrid model that maximizes the advantages of both. Avoid discussions and status update meetings that can be an email. Come prepared to talk about the actionables on that email, perhaps. Demonstrate the value of the in-person interaction.

  • "What training or support can we provide to make this transition smoother?" Think about ways to reduce stress during the transition. This might include offering workshops on stress management or effective communication in a hybrid environment. Also, make the transition personal. If you have a small team, let folks voice their constraints and preferences and find the two days in the office that works closest to best for all.

  • "What measures can we take to maintain the positive aspects of our culture during this transition?" Understand what makes your organization's culture unique and plan activities that reinforce these elements, whether regular team-building exercises or open dialogue sessions. Who knows, your team might be the next Avengers in the making!

Employees, you can make a difference:

This change requires managers and employees to work together to create a thriving workplace. Employees should seize this opportunity to shape their work experience actively.

How can you make this transition worthwhile and create an engaging workplace that avoids monotony?

  • Questioning for Breakthroughs

Being curious often leads to new ideas. Instead of accepting the transition as it is, ask questions. Challenge your assumptions, your managers, and the way things are done with the intent of discovering more. Suggest team activities or recommend workspace improvements. Think The Office but maybe fewer Jell-O pranks and more productive initiatives.

  • Encouraging Dialogue

In times of change and uncertainty, effective communication is powerful. Take the initiative to communicate more frequently, clearly, and proactively. This sets a strong example. Go the extra mile to share your ideas, concerns, and feedback with your managers and colleagues.

Break down barriers, remove assumptions, and foster transparency and teamwork. Remember, it's better to ask too many questions than to assume incorrectly.

  • Embrace Adaptability

Adapting is key to thriving in unfamiliar situations. Be ready to adjust and stretch your abilities to meet the changing needs of your organization. The project you were hired for may have changed shape and form, and this is a good time to ask your manager where they see you in a year’s time.

  • Follow-Up Proactively

No question should go unanswered, and assumptions can lead to trouble. Keep asking politely, explore different perspectives, and encourage diverse opinions. This enriches decision-making, helps us learn, and pushes managers to reevaluate their assumptions, leading to better leadership.

Now, are these things only possible in-person? Maybe not. Managing change is always a bit of a tricky conundrum, and evaluating options helps. Perhaps, going back to work once a week isn’t bad as long as everyone’s expectations around ‘why’ are aligned.

Tell us how you are making the hybrid world work.

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