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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:
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:
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:
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.
As I write this, it’s December and the run-up to Christmas is getting into full swing here. If you get a chance, turn your thoughts to what kind of year you want next year. And don’t worry if you’re reading this and it isn’t anywhere near Christmas, a new year starts any day you want.
What’s it going to be about, this coming year?
Maybe there’s a theme that would work for you. Is this going to be an adventurous year, or is it going to be a year of discovery or of consolidation or of renewal or something else? What’s your theme for your next year?
Or maybe a theme isn’t the right way to approach it.
Try this instead – what is it for, this coming year?
What is it now time to achieve, to build, to throw yourself into?
Or it could be that this coming year isn’t the time to achieve anything at all – maybe this is the year to stop. We all need to call a halt to something, to step away from what isn’t working. Confucius said: “Even a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, which is true.
But most journeys also begin by closing the front door behind you.
What is it time for you to close the door on?
And then again, some of my best years have been those when I don’t look at the big-picture or even the details of what I want at all, but when I’ve mostly been just in the moment. Perhaps this coming year is going to be more about ‘being’ than doing.
What would an in-the-moment year be like for you?
Maybe for you, it’d be like the Zen saying, where one just chops the wood and carries the water; just quietly doing what needs to be done and being content with that.
Or maybe in-the-moment for you is a real flow-state experience, fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus and enjoying being completely absorbed in what you do.
Whichever way of looking at it works, I’d love to know what you want for your next year? Drop me a line or leave me a comment if you get a chance to consider it.