oke with a client who wanted me to do a workshop at an upcoming conference. I offer a number of different talks, so I asked her what the focus of the meeting was in order to be able to suggest a relevant topic. She said that although the committee members had already picked several programs, they had not yet identified a focus for the conference. My first thought in response to this was, If you don't know what you want, then how are you going to get it? However, I am savvy enough not to insult people, so we spoke a little longer and we came up with a program that she wanted me to present.
It never ceases to amaze me that people do not identify outcomes they wish to achieve. While the above example is related to a conference, it is by no means limited to that area. Many people engage in activities in their careers and businesses, but they haven't defined what they want to attain. They are completing tasks, but they aren't focused on accomplishing clear-cut results.
When I was a human resources executive, I often worked with people to determine the appropriate jobs that were needed in their groups. Many department heads would complete job descriptions for key jobs, which described all of the tasks that the employees would be required to do. It took a great deal of effort for me to get these individuals to realize that employees in key positions are not paid to perform tasks, they are paid to produce results. Through much coaching on my part, we were able to identify the outcomes that the individuals were expected to achieve in the various positions.
Why is it so critical to determine outcomes for a job, a meeting, a department, or any other situation? Because if you don't know what your outcome is, the odds are that you will spend a lot of unnecessary time and money trying to reach a fuzzy target. And there is a very strong chance that the target will not even be reached. Outcomes let you know where you are going. They give you important information about how to use your resources, time, money, and employees. When you know your outcome, you can continually make important decisions is this going to help me reach my goal or will this take me further away from my objective?
Clearly defined outcomes can also be very motivating. I worked with a coaching client who had an idea about a new business that she wanted to start. When she first got the idea, she was very excited about it, however, she never took action to get the business moving. She continually came up with excuses about why she wasn't doing anything to make the business a reality. I finally got her to sit down and write a detailed description of what the outcome was that she wanted to achieve with the business. That was the missing key. As soon as she wrote down the detailed outcome, she began to do the things that were necessary to get the business started. For her, defining the outcome spurred the action that is required in any business. Five years later, she has a very successful business that she absolutely loves.
Some people have a great deal of difficulty in trying to determine outcomes. It is because they are looking into a future that isn't certain and they can't identify what it is they want. An easy way to get around this is to imagine that the outcome has already been achieved and then to describe what it looks like. Going back to the situation with the meeting planner, the question that I asked her was, Let's assume it is six months after the conference and you know that it was a huge success. What would have happened to let you know that it was successful? People are much more able to describe the past then they are to identify an unknown future. By asking the question this way, I was able to find out that according to the planner, the criterion for a successful meeting was that the attendees would have the tools they needed to be able to more easily and effectively handle the many changes that were going on in their industry. When I discovered this outcome, I was able to suggest a program that would help the organization achieve this desired result.
Before you take action (small or large), you need to identify what your outcome is what do you want to achieve? When you do that, you will cut down your time, streamline your efforts, accelerate your progress, and reach your desired goal. When you know where you are going, there is a good chance that you will end up getting there.