089. Angie Flynn-McIver: Intention, communication, and storytelling

Episode summary

Angie Flynn-McIver LINK (250)
Angie Flynn-McIver

Although she is officially an ‘expert’ in communication, Angie Flynn-McIver simply considers herself constantly fascinated by it. Angie Flynn-McIver discusses intention; What it is, coaching it, and practicing it. She shares her own stories of intention, coaching, and travel, and gives advice on finding your guiding stars. Angie unpacks her thoughts on the power of storytelling and how to use your intention to chart your course.

Angie Flynn-McIver is a communication expert, theater director, and business woman based in North Carolina. As the founder of Ignite CSP, she uses her theater experience to coach others in effective and intentional communication. Angie and her husband are also the founders of the North Carolina Stage Company, an award winning theater in it’s 19th season.

Highlight [0:00]

Angie: Things that I love and that I get so excited about is that between two people, I come with my stuff and you come with your stuff, and we have whatever, however many years of experiences, and thoughts, and assumptions, and stuff we’ve done. Then we come together and we start to talk and we are creating a thing that has never been there before, which is like, am I allowed to cuss? That is fucking magical.

Introduction [0:32]

Intention [2:17]

  • Chapter transcript…
  • Definition of intention colored by theater experience
  • creating authentic communication
  • How do I get what I need in this moment - where intention lives
  • Ways to convey that intention, active impact or outcome you’re trying to achieve
  • Consistent intention in acting, summoning the same need, feeling like something’s at stake
  • Something is always at stake in our lives, we are constantly invested in our needs

Coaching intention [7:14]

  • Chapter transcript…
  • Hard to shut off coaching lens… happens with kids. Kids are intention gurus, very self reflective for age.
  • Deliberate vs default intentions; we all have intentions always, just whether they’re conscious or reactive.
  • Intention in movement practice, noticing default intentions, choosing deliberate intention
  • Finds coaching younger people easier to coach; less rigid patterns than older people.
  • Intention practice as deep work; personal digging through fears, motivations, etc to discover intentions.
  • Younger people have fewer defenses around choosing a deliberate intention, examining their defaults.

Craig: I think the question in my mind is I started, so like seven or eight years ago, I began my personal rediscovery of movement. Like I just had gotten to a point in my life at like 40 something that I wasn’t moving very much anymore, you get to a place where you don’t have to move and you don’t have to carve your way through life as much. Then I kind of rediscovered movement. That’s a great long story. Anybody listening to the podcast is like, “Please don’t tell this story again.” I didn’t come back to movement thinking about intention or even thinking about having a coherent story that I was trying to craft or myself. I was just like, “Wow, this is cool. I’m going that way.”

Craig: I think that looking back, I was like, “Oh, I realize now that I have found a line.” I don’t want to say I found my intention, but I feel like I’ve found an intention and then things got easier. What I’m thinking is it seems to me like people who are probably further along in a movement journey than me, but a lot less further along in age might not have thought about this. I’m wondering what your experience has been. When you’re coaching people, it sounds like you generally coach people our age cohort and people who are in professional capacities, but have you ever tried to coach intention to people who are much younger?

Angie: Oh, interesting. Yes. I have. It’s interesting, when you’re a coach, it’s hard to shut that lens off. It comes up a lot, whether I’m on the clock specifically or not. I will tell you, I have two kids, both teenagers and they’re intention gurus. Not because, I think it’s really osmosis and so much more self-reflective than I certainly was at that age or for years afterwards. I think, the thing I haven’t really touched on, but that you alluded to here is that we are always operating with some kind of intention. I think what you’re describing is what I would call a deliberate intention. It is I have found this thing that is propelling me, that I feel positive about. I’m putting words in your mouth. That’s what I got a little bit from what you’re say.

Continue reading…

Craig: Yeah. Like the default, because I know you’ve talked, you and I have, I don’t know if we’ve talked about it, or if I’ve heard you talk about it, about the difference between deliberate and default intention, I’m like, oh yeah, good point. I missed that because obviously everybody has an intention, I think, but anyway, sorry.

Angie: Yeah.

Craig: Keep going. Keep stuffing words in my mouth.

Angie: Well, but because I think for me the biggest piece of the, like, we can all kind of go, “Oh yeah, I’m going to set a good intention for myself.” Or, “I’m going to motivate myself. I’m going to find an inspiration. I’m going to put that quote up on the wall from fill in the blank.” What’s harder work, I think, and messier work, is identifying where our intentions lead us when we’re not being so deliberate when we’re not being so intentional, frankly. What’s that more reflexive, that more reactive place that we can be.

Angie: It’s interesting to me that you, I’ve been thinking about the intersection between intention and movement a lot, because like you I really found an intentional movement practice, I mean really within the last eight years or so. It shows up, intention shows up so much in that for me. Am I going to, is my default intention going to kick in because we’re doing something I don’t really enjoy and so my intention is going to be to get this over with, or to get through it. Or, am I going to find that moment, that inner, that little crux of a moment and go, oops, okay, I caught myself, I have an opportunity here to choose something different, to choose a deliberate intention of working on one specific thing I want to get better at, or the intention could just be I’m just going to stay fully present for this.

Coaching your own team [14:58]

  • Chapter transcript…
  • Intention nerds… lens of intention changes your whole perspective, constant discussion around it.
  • Primary tool for their work, deliberate utilization of intention - changing the way you show up and communicate with others
  • Competing tensions; immediate goal vs long term toolkit. Understanding your own intentions
  • Ignite CSP, how people view her work. Misconception is public speaking coach, but truly communication skills coach.
  • Clients often misunderstand, but people now understanding what she does through better messaging.

Finding your 'why' [21:35]

  • Chapter transcript…
  • Doesn’t consider herself an expert; Just constantly thinking about it. Reading, discussing…
  • Taxi cab blog post
  • Initial life plans all changed completely over the years, save for some important ‘dots’
  • Constant threads for her, others stories, sharing, collaborative work.
  • Finding your own ‘guiding stars’ - visceral feeling of what is important, embodied

Interview style [30:10]

  • Chapter transcript…
  • Interview style, creating a conversation vs an interview.
  • The collaborative aspect is the amazing part
  • Allowing the conversation to go where it will, allowing the magic to happen
  • Letting go, trusting your conversational partner to catch you… vulnerable and present
  • Listening to refute vs listening to understand, the types of spaces we create

Travel [36:53]

  • Chapter transcript…
  • Returning to somewhere she’s been, or going somewhere new
  • Going back somewhere with her family, experiencing it together
  • Take a solo trip to Spain, or France. Arrive and see what happens, no plans.
  • Diane Wyzga, podcast: Stories from Women who Walk
  • Walking or moving to sort out thoughts… meaning to put that concept into practice
  • Spotting walking thinkers

Storytime [41:41]

  • Chapter transcript…
  • Play she was directing: True West by Sam Shepard
  • story of two brothers, rogue and upstanding citizen… House sitting for mother during a cruise
  • Design decisions, what will it look like, sound like… what are we creating
  • Toaster scene: stolen toasters EVERYWHERE, spitting out toast
  • Limited electricity in the theater… lights or toasters.
  • Solving the problem by running through light board… ability to choreograph the whole scene for maximum comedic effect
  • Pushing through and problem solving to stay true to intention

Storytelling and coaching [48:37]

  • Chapter transcript…
  • Both help people bridge the gap between where they are and where they want to be
  • Unconditional support, but with listening, challenging, pushing
  • Using storytelling as a coach, connecting with people, showing empathy
  • Storytelling Animal , Jonathan Gottschal. Anti-library aside
  • Narrative and how our mind perceives it, powerful and deeply imbedded into how we view the world
  • Storytelling to make sense of the world, connecting data points

Craig: Why … I’m torn between digging further into coaching, because I think a lot of people who are interested in movement are interested in becoming movement coaches, right? Literally, I would like to get paid to teach people how to jump or run or yoga or whatever. I’m torn between going more into things that you might have that would help people who are starting out to find their way. I’m torn between going there, and going further into the storytelling itself as a tool direction.

Craig: I often say, on the mic and off, that this is like strolling down a very large avenue. Maybe Fifth? Which, if you don’t know the story, I’ve walked from 89th down Broadway to Battery Park, but there’s a lot of side streets. Two side streets I see, one is talk more about helping people find their way coaching, and helping people use storytelling as a tool. Your choice.

Angie: I don’t know that those are mutually exclusive, actually. I think, well, at least for me, story and metaphor and example and illustration are a foundational part of coaching because it helps people see how they can bridge the gap between where they are now and where they want to go. For me, that is what coaching is, right? Coaching is, “I’m going to meet you right here, right now, wherever you are. I am going to provide you with unconditional positive regard, I am going to let you know in every way possible that I am on your team, and I am going to help you get to your goal.”


Angie: Along that way, I am going to use all of the tools that I have to encourage you, to listen to you, and to challenge you, because that’s what a coach does. Right? I’m not just here to be your cheerleader and your buddy, the coach is there to say, “Okay, but you told me you wanted your outcome to be this, and I feel like we’ve kind of been stalled over here. Do you want to reassess your outcomes?”

Angie: That’s where, at any point along that path, I do think storytelling is important. Both eliciting stories from the person that you’re coaching, how does this feel to you, what is a time that you’ve maybe experienced something like this before, where you either gave up or you persevered? You can learn from either one of those things.

Angie: I do think, and I’m obviously way back when we were talking about my four points of pointillism, I said that storytelling and stories were a big part of this for me. Other coaches may not share that same viewpoint, but for me, it is a means of connection and a means of empathy and showing, “I’m here with you, and I want to help you get where you want to go.”

Advice for intention [58:52]

  • Chapter transcript…
  • Going inward, intention is constant
  • Practice choosing deliberate intentions for regular everyday things, like the grocery store
  • Default intention often becomes a self fulfilling prophecy
  • Moment of practice, mindfulness, reflection to build the muscle memory of shifting to deliberate intention
  • Article by David Cain, from Raptitude: How to walk across a parking lot
  • Intention requires constant practice; reflexive reactions to the people closest to you
  • Need extreme honesty with yourself about what you’re trying to do, then decide if that’s actually what you want to do

Craig: If you’re interested in learning more about how to use intention, or how to figure out what your intention is, what would you recommend people start with?

Angie: The place I like to start is really going inward. Right? The great thing about intention is that it is operating literally all the time. All you need, not all you need to do, because [crosstalk 00:59:54]-

Craig: For the purpose of this conversation, right?

Angie: Right, right. Easier said than done. But, find yourself. I like to do this at the grocery store. Right? Any kind of task like that, where it feels pretty transactional to you. You’re not navigating a bunch of new stimuli, and you’re likely to be in a default intention. Another good place to do this is your commute, if you’re somebody who is driving frequently.

Angie: We will often fall into default intention. I do this at the grocery store, I write about this in my blog all the time because I don’t like to grocery shop, and I am going to get irritated. That is my default intention, is that I want to get this over with.


Craig: We apparently were separated at birth.

Angie: I just, you know. Something is going to go wrong, something is going to. That’s all default intention, right?

Craig: Right.

Angie: If I get into this place of let me, I get into this line, I know I’ve chosen the wrong line. It doesn’t matter that there’s only one person in front of me and there are 15 people in every other line. This is going to be the wrong line. You know, it’s all that stuff, right?

Craig: Yeah.

Angie: In some ways, default intention becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Right? If all I can do is be anxious to get out of here, I’m going to get in my own way. The time is going to go slower.

Craig: Right.

Angie: I’m going to be more likely to be irritated by something that happens than I would be if I sat for five seconds in my car before I go in, and say, “Okay. This is a great chance to practice. This is a really good chance to practice. What can my delivered intention be? All right, I’m just going to be here.”

Craig: Yeah.

Angie: “I’m just going to be present, I am just going to do this errand with the minimum of irritation and frustration with other human beings who are actually not obstacles, but human beings in their own right.”

Craig: Yep.

Angie: You know?

Craig: I’m interrupting.

Angie: I think that is, to me, that’s the place to start, is to start to see, ooh, gosh. This is where I can really get into a default intention. This is a set of circumstances that I will often behave in this way. Let me try to use this as a moment of practice, as a moment of self-reflection, as a moment of mindfulness to start to build up the muscle memory of shifting to default intention.

Craig: Sorry. I’m torn by, I think you meant to say shifting away from default intention.

Angie: Yes. To deliberate intention. Yes, yes, thank you.

Craig: Everything you said was so awesome, I’m like, “Yes, exactly,” and I heard the right thing, but I’m like, no actually I think you said default. Default is what we want to notice when we are stuck in. Sorry.

Mission, Vision, and intention [1:06:52]

  • Chapter transcript…
  • Long history in non-profits (theater in America)
  • Suffer from two things: workshopped to death, or become something that isn’t truly a guiding principle
  • Theater example: Super objective, overarching intention. But each scene has it’s own intention
  • Large goal, guiding star is important, but also need smaller steps, intentions for different moments
  • Vision is the guide, are we on course
  • Getting Things Done , David Allen; the goal of getting things done is to be able to follow your goal
  • Intentionally changing the levels you’re working or focusing at, balancing
  • Big picture vs details; reading and writing integral for her inspiration, ideating, best use of time, but also has to deal with day to day running a business
  • Bananagrams blog post and analogy; boxing yourself into a corner, completely resetting to see a different perspective

Book recommendations [1:18:58]

Podcasting [1:22:06]

  • Chapter transcript…
  • Serial taker of Seth Godin classes…
  • Podcasting was the natural outgrowth of her work
  • No podcast yet; still working on crystallizing an idea for it

Creativity and intention [1:23:29]

  • Chapter transcript…
  • Human need to be creative, intention behind it? - Steven Pressfield, War of Art
  • Stephane Vigroux, breaking the jump. Hearing the call, going through the process… similar to creativity
  • People’s beliefs about their own creativity. Everyone is creative, it’s human nature
  • Creating a pinch pot; intensely un-crafty, but loved making it.
  • interacting with creativity to examine the stories you tell yourself

Three words [1:28:21]

Craig: Yeah. As much as I hate to do it, I’m watching the clock. I want to be respectful of your time. So I will just say, and of course, the final question, three words to describe your practice.

Angie: I alluded to this earlier, the approach that I use with my clients on that, I really do genuinely think about all the time is intention. What am I trying to … What’s the outcome I’m looking for? What impact do I want to have? That’s intention. Alignment. How is what I’m doing in service of that intention? And again, that can be everything from, how is my body and my voice showing up in this keynote that I’m giving to? How is the choice I’m making to say yes or no to this opportunity right now in service of my big intention? And then the third one is practice. It is what am I doing on a daily basis to engender self-awareness and self knowledge to push myself a little bit further maybe than I really want to, and to reflect on how all of this process is working. So intention, alignment, and practice.

Craig: Thank you very much, Angie. It was a pleasure to finally get a chance to chat in a just open playfield framework. So I hope you had as much fun as I did. And I’m sure we will talk again. Thanks.

Angie: I loved it. Thanks.