Have you ever blindly and blithely said “yeah sure” to a question that was being asked of you?

Were you really listening to the person asking the question or really just hoping they would go away?

In this conversation did you commit to deliver or do something? Did you really understand what you were being asked to do?

If you committed to something as simple as…make sure you set the alarm when you leave the building -or- can you start the meeting in the morning… then you can rest assured that your casual response of “yeah sure” was all the person needed to hear and all that you needed to commit to the conversation. In these conversations the person asking the question is looking to hear or see your Level of Intent (your LOI).

In these simple requests your Level of Intent (LOI) can be quite low, but should be committal. Your reputation depends upon it.

What if the ASK is bigger?

What if the person was asking you to write a detailed report -or- pick up an important client at the airport. What if you casually and blithely said “yeah sure” without really understanding what was being asked?

Doing so could be career suicide and can throw off your level of intent and your level of trust.

These last two factors can determine how far you will go in your current company and perhaps in your career as both your LOI and LOT are things we typically want to be quite predictable and carried along as part of our reputation.

Wait, what?

Of course, most of us will stop whatever we were doing and say “What?” when the level of seriousness in the conversations turns up a notch. I’m suggesting in this post that you need to be cognizant of the questions that are being asked of you. Note, I didn’t say cautious. Most people don’t have ill will towards their colleagues and may just be asking a question because they are overwhelmed or otherwise cannot commit to the item in question.

I’m suggesting that you be aware of the questions being asked and to make sure you thoroughly understand the ask so that you can commit the proper Level of Intent. Whether you decide (assuming you have a choice…sometimes you won’t) to decline a request or to accept a request you want to make sure you understand what is being asked.

Beware: There are some people that absolutely have ulterior motives and are seeking to dump work on you. (see The 4D’s of Time Management). These people are typically weeded out…eventually. If you are new to the organization or team you might still be sorting out who’s who in the zoo. You may get caught up with a master of the 4D’s. Just be cautious and aware with your LOI in these situations.

Your LOI may vary, but should never waver

As mentioned above there are times where your LOI can be quite low and almost an automatic response. In these cases the person asking the question still expects a response and still expects you to do whatever you committed to do. Your LOI should remain strong and steadfast in these and all cases.

There are other times where you will need to dig into the request and perhaps ask some hard questions before you can say yes. Your LOI and your LOT depend upon it.

  • Your Level of Intent determines how much time and effort you are willing to commit to something.
  • Your Level of Trust is determined by others almost as much as it is defined by you.
  • Your LOT is the comfort level someone else can have when you say you are going to do something.
  • For soft requests…a “yeah sure” is all that is needed and you’ll both know it will get done.
  • For harder requests…a deeper understanding of the request and perhaps a juggling of schedules and other commitments (which you are also on the hook to deliver) may need to be considered as they may be affected.

Being cognizant of how much you can do and when you can do it helps you set your own Level of Intent.

  • Your Level of Intent will vary by the situation.
  • It will also vary by the time of the year or even the time of day.
  • For example, during the Summer months people may want to get away from the office early to enjoy the longer days.
  • Or, if it’s the end of the month or end of the quarter some people may get very busy with other commitments.
  • Most people keep these check points in mind before asking someone to do something for them. Others, not so much.

Commit wisely

When asked to do something. Think about it and decide how much of your LOI you can commit. If the answer is NONE. That might be OK. Saying no can be hard, but if you know you cannot deliver what is being asked…Just Say No. No apologies or excuses may be necessary. In the end…Commit Wisely. Because your Level of Intent (LOI) will affect your future Level of Trust (LOT).

Remember … Your LOI may vary depending upon the situation, but should never waver.

If you have any stories where you had to make tough choices that affected your Level of Intent please share them in the comments. 


Jeff  is a veteran in the Enterprise Content Management industry. Over the past 20 years he has worked with customers and partners to design, develop and deploy solutions around the world. Jeff is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances at Winshuttle. He has worked for Microsoft, FileNet (IBM), K2, Captaris, Open Text, Kofax and Kodak. He speaks and blogs about ECM and the Intersection between Social, Mobile and Cloud Computing.