Guiding Words Anyone?

Clarity. Alignment. Intensity. Neat words, right?

Microsoft realized it was time to step it up. Re-energize how it does business. So a few years back it ushered in Satya Nadella as its new CEO. Only the third CEO since the company launched. First thing the leadership team did when Mr. Nadella took the reins? Clarify its purpose. This is what they came up with:

Our purpose is to bring Clarity, Alignment, Intensity. (NY Times, 2/21/2014)

I must confess, at first I bristled at the word alignment. Too “corporate-speak.” A near-cliché.

But then I began to ponder. Words create a framework for what we do. They carry potent energy. They become the force which we shape what happens every day, and they are a lens with which we view that which we encounter. As my Appreciative Inquiry friends so generously remind me: “Words create worlds.”

So why not Clarity, Alignment, Intensity? I propose a little experiment. Turn the Microsoft Mantra into 3 questions. Apply these questions to all that you are doing this month.

1. Where do I need more Clarity? The beauty of asking the clarity question: Merely asking the question begets more clarity. The question alone dissolves mental clouds. It helps us to let go of the unessential. It helps us look more deeply into the activities that matter most. It fosters our commitment to those activities. Clarity, in my worldview, is an exquisite and energizing thing.

2. Where do I need more Alignment? We become misaligned when we forget the purpose of our work. When we fritter away time. When we harp on the petty and inconsequential. When we don’t see the forest for the trees. When we begin to confuse our attachment to process with the reasons for creating our process, in the first place.Come to think of it, the alignment question is a rock-star question!

3. Where do I need more Intensity? When I fuel a task with intensity, I put fire behind it. I dig in. I invest. And this investment tends to create a sense of urgency which accelerates the impact of whatever it is I am doing. Beware. Intensity gone overboard fosters tunnel vision. I am suddenly no longer able to observe, and absorb, information that may require a course direction. Helpful intensity is characterized by my ability to stay focused on a task, my thoughts and feelings while engaged in the task, and the stimulation in my peripheral world.

Many of us are comfortable with habit. Too comfortable, perhaps. Many of us, like Microsoft, may benefit from more risk-taking and innovative action. The Intensity Question beautifully pinpoints the actions that will help us do just that.

If you don’t like the Microsoft Mantra, create your own. Remember – Guiding Words have inherent power. They provide focus. They channel energy. They enlighten every moment of every day. Words create worlds.

3 words. Turn them into questions. See what happens.