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Having An Outcome Focus

Outcome Focus:
My top 3 shortcuts to individual success and great team dynamics

If there’s one thing that makes the most difference between individual success and failure, or between great team dynamics and anarchy, it’s having an Outcome Focus.

That is, knowing clearly and distinctly what is wanted in any given situation.

If you don’t know what outcome you want, as a leader, an individual or as a team, it’s almost impossible to agree on how to proceed or to focus on where to put your efforts. As Lewis Carroll wrote:

If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.

So it’s frequently a great source of surprise to me to discover how often people don’t really know what outcomes they want. Or to find out that nobody in a team has had a chance to talk together about what they’re trying to achieve. As a leader, if you were to do absolutely nothing but talk about the top three or four outcomes you want people to focus on, I’m convinced you’d be providing more leadership support for your teams than 60-70% of the leaders I know!


But how do you have more of an Outcome Focus? How do you get clear yourself about what you want in any situation? And how do you help the people around you to have the same clarity?

If you’re ready to have more of an Outcome Focus, I’ve set out my top 3 tips below.
But before you get into those, it’s always worth checking – do you already know what outcomes you want?

Perhaps you know but haven’t said it out loud or written it down. If that’s the case, do that now.

And if that’s not the case, or if you find yourself very well able to say what you don’t want, or if you find that you know you want less of something, but aren’t sure what outcome you actually do want, read on…


1. Visit the Future – and look back

This is one of my favourite techniques, because it’s a chance to raise your head from the everyday pressures and take stock of a much bigger picture. Pick a time-frame (it doesn’t matter what: an hour, a day, a week, a decade, will all work); use your imagination to transport yourself forwards in time; take a look back to the present-day, and answer these questions:

  • What do you want to be different in future?
  • Where do you want to have got to?
  • How do you want to be feeling?

2. Listen to Yourself Complaining

How often do you hear yourself or other people complaining about something, in this kind of way: “He said/she said…” “She did this or that…” “They don’t understand/ care/ appreciate…”?

Us coaches like to hear this kind of complaint because it’s usually a good springboard for action – after you’ve done some work with it. Here’s why it’s so useful…

Take this (edited) real example of a complaint, given to me by a client just last week:

“I’m so sick of having last-minute tasks dumped on me and my team, only to find out later that some vital piece of information was left-out so that we wasted our time responding.”

A complaint is really two different things that have understandably got mixed-up together:

  1. A complaint is an expression of some hurt or injury you’re feeling;
  2. A complaint is a hidden or buried or unclear desire for something to change.
    That is, it’s an Outcome!

First, you have to deal with the hurt or injury that you’re feeling.

Take the example above, and imagine that you’d had those last-minute tasks dumped on you. You might be feeling annoyed, disrespected, resentful of the time you gave-up over the weekend, or any of a number of emotions. And of course, emotions are useful, once we see them clearly, because they’re nature’s way of proving the energy and impetus for us to take action.

Second, you have to get really clear about the outcome that’s hidden away inside your complaint. You have to make that outcome conscious, instead of unconscious, and to turn it into some kind of request.

Using that same example again; once you’d stopped hurting about the way you were treated and were able to think rationally, what is it you’d actually want? Is there a request you might need to make? Is there a change you would want to have happen?

3. Ask Each Other Why

Young kids are great with the “Why?” questions when they’re trying to make sense of the world. But somewhere along the way, we seem to learn that asking too many “why” questions just annoys people – so we stop. But how can you have a great Outcome Focus if you don’t know why you’re doing something?

As a team member, how many times have you felt that you’re all doing something because somebody else, at some other point in time decided it was the thing to be doing? And you don’t really know why. Or you feel like maybe you were off that day, when everybody else talked about why this particular course of action was such a great idea.

As leaders or as team members, make sure you can answer these questions:

  • Why are we doing this?
    • Yeah, but really why are we doing it?
    • What do we actually want to get?
  • Why are we behaving the way we are? Will that get us what we actually, really want? Is there a Complaint that we haven’t really expressed or explored and which might be driving our behaviour?
  • Why don’t we want something else instead?

 

Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.

Carl Jung

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Helping People to be Team Players

The top four reasons why people don’t always act as part of your team

Lots has been written about why people might want to be part of a team or group. But the issues behind why people don’t always behave like team players even when they could are much less well known. Even more unfamiliar are the steps you can take to get them back on-board, provided you know a little about what’s driving them.

I’ve set out below the top four reasons why people don’t always act as a fully-paid-up member of your team, and what you can do about it. There are more reasons than these, but these four are the ones you’re most likely to encounter at work. Let me know if you’ve got a different type on your team, and I’ll try to help!

Here are the four situations we’ll be looking at:

  1. The erratic shooting-star
  2. The defender of the status quo
  3. The detached daydreamer
  4. The toxic specialist

1. The erratic shooting-star

You may have someone on your team who is usually initially enthusiastic about new initiatives. Or who is always finding something interesting or shiny “over there”, slightly off the path of where you’re trying to get to. You may have seen that this person’s enthusiasm can often be enough to distract the rest of the team (and my experience is that they’re great at parties too). You’ll probably also have seen that they often run out of steam before actually delivering anything good.

To get this person fully on-board you’ll need to legitimise their investigations and explorations and make the most of their strengths. Find ways to have them investigate ideas, resources and opportunities. You may need to manage their expectations, so that what they are investigating are legitimate, current requirements for your unit, not stuff that is too far away from your goals. Have them present their findings to the rest of the team, and make sure that they get recognition for having done this. Do not make them responsible on their own for delivering on these ideas. But do enlist their help in keeping the people with lead responsibilities enthused and supported.

2. The defender of the status quo

You may have someone on your team who is usually responsible, committed and loyal. Yet there are times when people with these traits don’t act like complete team players. In my experience, this is particularly prevalent when forces outside your immediate team are driving changes. Or when there are on-going uncertainties in the external operating environment. In those times, this person may act like the last line of defence, holding back the barbarian hordes – when you actually need them to help with changing the existing order of things!

To get this person fully on-board you’ll need to do two things:

  1. Make sure that you (as the leader of the team) are fully committed to the changes that are taking place. You’ll need to be able to argue in their favour, both logically and emotionally. This is all about sending a clear signal of how you most need this person to direct their loyalty to you and the team;
  2. Help them see that there are practical steps you can all take to make the most of the changes or uncertainties. Boost their confidence by demonstrating that your team is not helpless.

3. The detached daydreamer

You may have someone on your team who is usually easy-going, agreeable and happy to go with the flow. But there may be times when you’ll find them saying yes to things without any real intention of doing them. Or you may notice them taking dubious short-cuts. If you’re not careful, you may not notice until it’s too late that this person has been ignoring problems or failing to deal with stuff – basically just sitting on it.

To get this person fully on-board with the team, recognise that what they really want is a sense of peace and harmony. They may have forgotten that to get to peace and harmony, we often need to work through problems with hard physical effort, not disappear into our inner worlds.

Make sure they are acutely aware of the problems or tasks that were previously being ignored. If possible, enrol others in expressing how uncomfortable or disturbed this person’s inaction has made things for them.

To the extent that you can, encourage physical exercise or assign tasks that involve physical effort to help get them out of their heads a little.

4. The toxic specialist

You may have someone on your team who has developed a deep understanding of a particular area. They may also be the “go-to” person, specialising not only in their subject, but also in their knowledge of the organisation and how to access its resources. In the bad times, you may find this person to be highly critical of others. And that there is a trail of ‘casualties’ in their wake – people who have not felt willing or able to live up to being their colleague.

The key thing to understand about this person is that, above all else, they value competence. As part of, or even leading, a team of competent, high-performing people with the independence to manage their way of doing things, they’re great! Change any one of those components and they can become extremely and unconsciously toxic.

There are three things you must do to help get this person back on-board with your team:

  1. Teach them that the abilities to get on with others of all levels of skill, and to develop their colleagues for the longer-term, are themselves competences. And that you require them to become good at these things too.
  2. Make efforts to enrol them in designing any changes to workflows (and they’ll be reluctant to ‘waste’ time on this). Do not make changes without genuinely listening to their views.
  3. Decide whether or not their value to the business, if they don’t change, is outweighed by the problems they are causing.

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Informal Team Alignment Exercise

Is your business the “winningest” team?
Fun wordplay to help your team stay aligned

This is a fun exercise to try when your team is working well together and you’d like to keep the momentum going, or for when you need to lighten to the mood a little.

My 14 year old son is mad about American Football at the moment, so we’re learning lots of new team sport strategies and techniques and the jargon that goes with them. My favourite piece of American Football jargon so far, has been the term “winningest“, which the OED defines as follows:

Winningest
adj, North American, informal:

Having achieved the most success in competition:

‘the winningest team in pro-football history’

I did a lot of my early coach training in the US and I’m a big fan of how North Americans don’t let formal grammar get in the way of clear, concise and even fun communication. So I’ve been using this approach recently in my work with top teams and boards, to help them think about what kind of team they are. It also helps with getting more creativity and risk-taking, as it’s a subtly-rule-breaking exercise.

I usually start by introducing the term winningest and then ask them to take some other words they like and make similarly informal terms out of them that help describe who they are as a team.

Start with an “…ing” word and just add “est” to play along. Don’t worry about which part of speech your word is (because that’s kind of the point here). For example:

  • Amazingest – we’re the team that makes you go wow
  • Challengingest – we just don’t back down
  • Encouragingest – every one of us is a born cheerleader
  • Energisingest – you’ll never feel tired on this team
  • Fulfillingest – simply the most rewarding team to be part of
  • Surprisingest – we really love new ideas
  • Workingest – we try harder.

If your team was an “…est”, what kind of est would it be?


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Team Alignment

Six surprisingly simple things to check if your team isn’t all pulling together


Great One-on-One Meetings for Busy Managers: booklet now available on Amazon

If you found this article useful, you might want to grab a copy of my latest short eBooklet from Amazon. Please use the buttons or image below to see a preview or buy your copy: