Check Intent For Career Success

March 7, 2021

Accomplished leaders have many traits and tools in their leadership toolkits. One of the leadership tools we all possess, but frequently overlook, is Intent. Intent is a power-tool in the toolkit of anyone building a leadership career. Intent charges up our energy and points us in the direction of our future. However, Intent can also be illusive. When we feel we are losing the traction in our careers, it may be that our career Intent has slipped into idle. Many accomplished leaders include a check on their Career Intent annually to ensure they focussed and injecting energy into the ongoing development of their leadership career.


In my conversations with leaders, I am listening for the power tools they applied on their way to success.

The leaders featured on WLK reveal many insights for those on their own leadership journey.  

These insights and takeaways are gold, however you may hear them as you are driving, walking the dog, preparing lunches or any of the myriad of activities you enjoy as you tune into the podcast.

I will distil the key takeaways from these leaders, and drop the occasional episode featuring the trait or behaviour that supported their success.

I will also add a couple of coaching prompts, and actions for listeners who find some resonance for their own journey.

In today’s podcast, our focus is on career INTENT. We can hear the intent in each of the conversations I have with successful and accomplished leaders.  

INTENT is a power tool, freely available to each of us - yet it often sits unnoticed, and on idle, in our career toolboxes.

Before I share insights into what triggered the INTENT of some of my guests, I want you to think about where you are in your leadership journey now, and where you want to take your career.

How are you travelling?
What is working for you?  

We have ridden the first year of the pandemic. 

What has been the impact on your career building mindset?

Has it taken a hit in the face of the enormous disruptions to the way we live, work and play?

Today’s focus on INTENT is designed to shift you into leadership career reflection mode.
INTENT is an essential ingredient for a successful career.

And our intent can run on automatic until it is triggered unexpectedly by an event in our lives.  

Listen for the event that triggered his INTENT to be highly successful in my conversation with

INTENT IN ACTION: Professor Robert van Barneveld in Season 1, Episode 5 of What Leaders Know:

The powerful insight that Rob articulates was pivotal to sharpening his career intent.

With Rob’s intent to achieve success triggered - he went on to become a highly accomplished and successful scientist, and business leader.

INTENT is a career power tool that is often hiding in plain sight. 

We each have access to it, however, the essential role INTENT plays in a successful career may not be understood.

When we are starting out on our careers, our intent is often focused and energised.

But as our careers gain momentum, life introduces other layers of complexity. 

THE RISK: Unless we are already focussed on our career INTENT, it can drop into idle.

A pattern of progressive incremental shifts up the career ladder begins to look a lot like marking time. 

When we unpack the issue, there are many variants, and every situation is unique.

As we build our careers, life events arise that compete for the demands on our attention and focus.

Those who raise or support families know the complex and multi-layered demands on emotions, energy, focus and intent as we seek to balance life and work.

Some of us may have settled into a role early in our career that doesn’t stretch us, but we got comfortable, and our career intent is running on idle.

So many of life’s events can dilute our career INTENT, and successful and accomplished leaders find ways to balance and nourish life and their career INTENT.

This is not to say everyone has to be intent on career building, or building a leadership career.  Wherever you land that gives you a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction is great.

This episode and its takeaways is aiming at people whose career INTENT could do with a bit of a recharge.

Reflect for a moment:

Is your career intent currently active or idle?  Or is it somewhere in between?

It’s a common practice for accomplished leaders to end each year with a reflection session that reviews not just the past year, but their vision and goals for the coming year.  

They check their career intent, and recharge it as they refine their vision.

But we don't have to wait for the end of year to check our intent.

Anytime you feel your career slipping into idle, check your intent.  

To help you I will put a link to a simple Career Intent Checklist in the show notes. 

This is a “Go To” Tool from my What Leaders Know Leadership Career Toolkit. 

INTENT IN ACTION: Zane Ali from Season 2 Episode 2 of What Leaders Know

At the time I interviewed Zane, he had just completed a 12 month contract as interim CEO of MS Queensland.  Zane’s entry into C-Suite coincided perfectly with the announcement of COVID19 on our landscape. Now there’s a baptism of fire.

In this excerpt, I share an insight into Zane’s career intent, its genesis and focus. Zane identified and shares an early trigger for his INTENT to succeed.

It’s very clear that Zane’s intent was triggered by the moment in his career that he shared with us.   


A catalyst to Rob and Zane's intent to strive harder to succeed was their peers' successes in winning high performance awards in their chosen fields.

For Rob and Zane, they acknowledged and respected their respective peers for winning their awards.

However, they each took time to reflect on what they could change about their own performance to achieve a higher level of success.

Their intent was triggered. Their reflections became actions which became career success.

We hear the genesis of intent and honed focus on achieving success in both Rob and Zane’s conversations.


When our careers feel like they are stalling,  it is worth revisiting the genesis of our intent to build a successful career.

Often this process will take us back to the very beginning.

What was our earliest trigger to succeed?  What was the intent?  

Intent is not static. It changes over the course of our career, as our experiences and circumstances evolve.

At the core of accomplished and successful leaders, you will find somewhere along their journey their intent became about making a difference.

INTENT IN ACTION: DR Lisa Griffiths,  Season 1 Episode 2 of What Leaders Know.  

You will hear  the moment in Lisa's life where her INTENT shifted from being an elite athlete and winning medals at the Commonwealth Games to her INTENT to  make a difference in the lives of vulnerable children and families. 

INTENT is powerful when maintained. 

Lisa recognised early in her new career as a Teacher of kids with special needs, that to truly change lives, she would need to be in a position of influence. 

Lisa's INTENT ramped up, she grew a leadership career over many years and is now CEO of OzChild, a National, For Purpose organisation supporting vulnerable children and their families.

The What Leaders Know Career Intent Checklist is a good tool, however it is the power of reflection that you bring to this process that will see you re-engage with your original intent.

We can be impacted by internal or external influences when we find ourselves marking time.  The internal influences, when identified, acknowledged and addressed, will often clear away any of the external influences.

For instance, if we identify our career has stalled due to a restructure at work, we identify an external influence.  

So many of us have been impacted over the course of our leadership journeys by influences out of our control.

While we have no control over the external influence, we do control our response.

Our intent is to build a successful career, and in the face of external influences, we need to revisit our intent. 

If our career intent is no longer fit for purpose, quarantine time for reflection.

INTENT is really about bringing your mind, attention and will to wholeheartedly focus on your goal.

This process of re-engaging with our intent in the face of external barriers gives us access to a power tool we already possess.

The checklist is not onerous, and it lets you check green for ‘on track’, orange for ‘review’ and red for ‘priority’.

It provides an easy traffic light to check the health of your career Intent.

What Leaders Know - Career Intent Checklist

Green if you are satisfied with where your career is this year.

Orange if you are uncertain about your career vision for the future

It’s time to review your career goal - is it still fit for purpose?

Red if you are experiencing frustration with your career momentum.

Seek objective feedback from colleagues and mentors

A deep dive can act as a gap analysis to spur you to reset your career goal and power up your intent.

That rounds out this special episode of What Leaders Know.

I want to thank each of my guests for their generosity in sharing deep insights into the catalyst for their intent to become the highly accomplished leaders they are today.

Rob, Zane and Lisa are unique leaders who are highly successful in their chosen fields.  What they share in common is their conscious intent to succeed, and their careers stand testament to their achievements.

You can hear the full conversation with my guests on What Leaders Know in the following Episodes:  

Professor  Season 1 Episode 5

Zane Ali, Season 2 Episode 3

Dr Lisa Griffiths,  Season 1 Episode 2

Note: for a copy of the What Leaders Know Career Intent Checklist - if you cannot access on the site - please email me at for a copy.