We all know the importance of setting goals to achieve what we want in life. If you are unspecific about what has to be achieved or too general or lack a clear time frame, you will not be able to successfully achieve your most cherished goals. Be it at an individual, organisational or professional level, to be successful in your endeavours is to know what you want and should have a good idea about how to get there and also have to pay close attention to how you are getting there. In other words, your goal-setting process should be broader than just merely mentioning your aspirations or wishes. They should be clearly defined outcomes upon which you can focus to translate them into reality. For instance, “I want to be happy,” or “I want a new job” “I want to be fit” are all valid goals but they are far too vague and so, it is difficult for you to plan and put such goals into practice because they are too loosely framed.
Because the whole point of goal-setting is to achieve the desired outcome or result, the goals you set should give you clear direction and guide you to your purpose. Goal-setting is a conscious process and often denotes a destination. But setting your goals in the form of clearly defined outcomes helps in organising your everyday choices without conscious thought. For instance, you might set an outcome of an improved and a healthy lifestyle which you may never reach as a goal, but as an outcome, you can make healthy choices everyday in the form of healthy diet, physical activity or balancing your work and personal time towards achieving your outcome.
Why you need to have well defined outcomes and not just goals?
Having clearly defined outcomes is a valuable personal quality that can help you progress in your professional endeavours irrespective of your job title or role. Outcomes are the positive changes that happen as a consequence of an activity or doing something. So, if you know your desired outcomes or intended consequences, you can make evidence-based decisions to address any problem or an obstacle you face in the process of attaining your goal.
Well defined outcomes lets you focus on relevant tasks in order to achieve planned objectives to be more result-driven. You can focus on results to get more done and as you achieve one result, it acts as a motivation to achieve more or look for better ways to reach your goals. You can plan and organise your tasks/daily activities in a more logical order and gather resources you need so they are easily accessible when it comes to your personal goals. Well-defined outcomes lead to an optimistic perspective to focus on solutions over problems where you can adopt a productive mindset while working towards your gaols.
Well defined outcomes foster outcome-focused mindset
Having clearly defined outcomes requires intention and persistence and helps in developing an outcome-based mindset which is an important leadership quality. As a leader, you are measured on the results you deliver. So, it is important to have well defined outcomes while leading or managing people so that everyone’s individual goals are aligned with overall outcome or big picture goals. If you are able to set and communicate clearly defined outcomes, parameters and guidelines, you can make everyone focus more on outcomes rather than obstacles. Being outcome-focused means valuing results over busyness. Instead of strictly laying out the process to be followed, outcome based culture of workplaces provides individual flexibility and ensures that right people are engaged in right places. When you define what your desired outcome is, you can set measurable gaols, track progress, and hold yourself accountable when it comes to your personal goals.
Pros of being outcome-focused
All too often, when we are not outcome-focused, we tend to get entangled into excessive processes or find ourselves in control of too many aspects that are not relevant to our end goal. The busyness leaves you with little or no motivating factor driving you to do anything differently than what you did the day before. Also, when there is a stumbling block or an obstacle, it takes your mind off your goal where you like to be a victim of negative thoughts that cloud your judgment. But when you are outcome-focused, you tend to think of potential obstacles you can face and positive actions you can come up with to reach your desired outcome. Here are some more positive aspects of being outcome-focused.
- Being-outcome focused lets you identify your strengths and areas where you can improve. Helps in deciding tasks that are more important to your objectives and which ones to complete and in what order. You set priorities and plan your next action steps that take you closer to the outcomes you want.
- With the clearly defined outcome, you can eliminate additional or time-consuming steps and optimise your resources by scheduling timelines and milestones while pursuing your long-term goals.
- Encouraging outcome-focused mindset in workplaces boosts people’s performance and gives them freedom to find the best way to get to their final outcome. With end in mind, they make the best of their time and resources. Knowing all the work they put in is directly related to the end goal motivates them to perform better.
- When you are outcome-focused, instead of micromanaging or communicating in terms of tasks or activities in your discussion, you can communicate in terms of vision, outputs, deliverables, deadlines and milestones which makes workplaces more result-driven.
- Workplaces or organisations that encourage outcome-focused mindset make their people more engaging, innovative and efficient where they make most of their time and resources. They become more engaged, take initiatives, devise new methods or apply their ideas.
- It improves teamwork, trust and collaboration. When people on your team are trusted to think for themselves, they embrace responsibility and decision-making on how to achieve their tasks with increased motivation.
- Bringing outcome mindset to every thing you do improves creativity, achievement and responsibility where you can make empowered decisions.
- We all have limited resources like time, money or energy. An outcome-based approach ensures that such limited resources are not wasted and are spent on those areas that are likely to lead to your desired outcomes.
Cons of being outcome-focused
Focusing only on outcomes and ignoring the ways you achieve them proves unproductive. Being outcome-focused doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t focus on the process to reach your goal. But when you are too focused on the end goal, you may tend to neglect the process, methods or ways in getting there.
With little or no process in place,
- You may avoid the best ways to get things done that not only reduce your efficiency, but also keep you stuck.
- There is no or less room for improvement.
- You may lose out on constructive feedback as to what worked and what did not.
- Too much focus on outcome leads to ethical issues in workplaces where one cannot enforce best practices that can be followed.
- You might lose sight of risks, hurdles or obstacles that may arise in reaching the end goa.
- Processes or methods provide structure. They provide road map in a way to get to your outcome. Focusing on the process helps you measure your obstacles, set backs, errors or what worked and what didn’t. Process is equally important as much as clearly defined outcomes to avoid wrong turns and to improve. So, It is also equally important to learn the ability to explore right process to get to your outcome by reviewing your progress and revising your strategy from time to time.
How to arrive at well defined outcomes to be outcome-focused
To have clearly defined outcomes, consider the following checks based on NLP model of well-formed outcomes.
Is your outcome stated in a positive way?
It is important to state your goals in positive terms. We often end up focusing more on what we don’t want in life than what we actually want as negative experiences dominate our thoughts. Your outcomes must be specific words and pictures about what has to be achieved, positive statements about what will be achieved and should have clear milestones and a measurable end point. For instance, ‘I want to get fit’ is a vague outcome, even though stated in positive. “I want to lose ten kilos in next three months” is specific and stated in a more positive.
Stating your goals positively gives you an upward direction of what you want. Ask yourself, What’s the outcome?Write down the broad area where you want to make a change or your most desired goal you want to achieve.
What is the do? state each goal in positive. What does the outcome look like, sound like or feel like once you achieve it? use vision boards to show and understand the scope of your larger or long-term goals. Consider how your outcome makes you feel as you imagine yourself having achieved the desired outcome?
Is your outcome self-initiated and is it within your own control?
Sometimes your goals are driven by external factors or people which can limit your ability to make the change you want. For instance, “I want others to understand what i want” is not directly within your control, but “I want to be more assertive in my communication” makes the outcome more within your control. In order for outcomes to remain congruent and motivating, they must be self initiated as opposed to what other people want or need from you and so should be the actions you take in achieving those outcomes. Taking the above instance, the desire to get fit should come from within and not that someone else wants you to do so. Committing to other peoples’ outcomes can often cause internal conflict and stress. Base your outcomes on personal performance and on factors that are in your control. Ask yourself, Are my desired outcomes self-initiated ? What are the controllable aspects of my outcome?
What is the context of your outcome?
When, where and whom you want to involve in achieving your outcomes. Clearly defined outcomes are situation-specific. If you don’t set boundaries, you can then tend to generalise. Setting specific outcomes makes it easier to track your progress. Know the purpose of your outcome, Write down all the reasons why this broad outcome is most desirable or important to you. Answer your ‘why’ with ‘in order to’ instead of ‘because.’ “I want a new job in order to…” Being clear about your “why” will test your aspirations and provide you with a stronger incentive to get there.
Understanding what outcomes your organisation or workplace is trying to achieve keeps you aligned with the big picture goals. Ask yourself, Why am i doing a particular activity? What are the deliverables of my activities? Why is it important? You should be clear about what you are trying to achieve. In case of a professional gaol working with a team, what is it that each one of your team is there to achieve? What are the changes in terms of outcomes I want and how my activities lead to that change?
How will you know whether you’ve fulfilled your outcome?
You should know when you are nearing your desired outcome. Specific, measurable and sensory outcomes create more of a sense of direction in our minds. Be as concrete as possible by considering exactly what you will see, hear or feel. Describe your outcome in detail making it as clear as possible. For instance, I want to be successful is not a well formed outcome. What does success mean for you? How can you measure this outcome? or if your outcome is to become more assertive, then what does assertiveness looks like and how will you know when you are assertive in your communication? Set timelines, milestones and subgoals to review your achievements and to establish new deadlines and responsibilities to track your progress.
Are your outcomes sequential and bite-sized?
Outcomes can seem overwhelming if not broken down into small manageable chunks. For instance, outcomes like reaching a desired level in your career or starting your own business can be overwhelming. Such outcomes consume considerable amount of time, effort and decision-making. Instead of framing them in big chunks, taking small steps every day builds momentum and makes them more manageable.
Define your goal. Identify your big picture or large scale goals. Then you break these down into smaller targets that you must achieve to reach your big picture goals. Work down to things to create a two-year or one-year or six-month plan. Have your goal broken into small chunks so that each is doable and measurable. Periodically review the goals and if required make changes according to your changing priorities in your tasks or activities. You should keep the sizes of your actionable steps manageable.
What resources do you have or will need?
Sometimes we are limited in achieving the results we desire because we don’t have the resources we need. They might be external resources like information, skills, people who can help and guide or time to devote to achieving your goal. For instance, What are the financials related to your career goals? What information and skill will you need to have in order to achieve your outcomes? And internal resources like your own intrinsic motivation, attitude or confidence. Is any part of your mindset or attitude that is holding you back? Because these limitations can become excuses to not to make any progress towards the outcome at all.
Most often, the resources are available to us, all we have to do is put in place the things we need to move forward. Ask yourself, How can I achieve my outcome? What empowering states and beliefs can help me achieve my outcomes more quickly and with ease? to tap into your inner resourcefulness. Define the issue that you are addressing or list the resources in hand.
What are the external resources i require? What are my options or opportunities and what kind of plan will I need to move forward? this also should include What resources to start with and what is your fall back plan if you hit obstacles?
Are your outcomes compelling or motivating enough?
Your outcomes should be motivating enough to be consistent in reaching your end goal. Set your outcomes in a way that motivates you or others. Think about the positive benefits for you – What will be the good things that will happen when you achieve your goal? Anticipate likely barriers and consequences for others. What may gain by achieving this outcome? What you may have to sacrifice? How can you motivate yourself through the process?What is most likely to prevent you from achieving your end goal and what is your plan for dealing with these potential obstacles? Working through these steps will help you set clearly defined goals that are motivating and that which you can truly commit to.
What are the potential consequences of my outcomes?
Consider what approach would be the best to minimise the risks or consequences to come up with the right measures and needed steps to achieve the goal. Your process or approach should make the goal attainable. But also, too much structure can distract and mask the end goal and you might lose the understanding of why some processes are in place. So, balancing both and focusing on the outcome and the process is important as it helps you achieve your desired goals more effectively.
Consider your outcomes with other aspects of your life, like others involved, other priorities, and your core values. Who else might be affected and how do you think they will respond? What are the risks or costs involved? Consider in what ways this outcome might not be right for you? Does this fit with your values as person and how you see yourself? Are there any contexts where having this outcome wouldn’t work? By taking time to get a clear vision of what it is will help you arrive at potential consequences.
Space for self-reflection
Are you clear about what your main objectives are at the moment?
Do you know what you want to have achieved in short and long-term?
How outcome-focused are you in your personal and professional endeavours?
How effective are you in communicating your desired outcomes to others you work with or those whom you lead or manage?
How resourceful are you to reach your desired outcomes?
Are your desired outcomes clearly defined and stated in positive?
What are the direct deliverables of your activities?
Do you know the context of your outcomes and how to go about achieving them?
Do you have processes in place in order to reach your desired outcomes?
How efficient are your processes in attaining your goals- are they helpful in measuring the risk, performance and potential consequences?
Are your goals self-initiated or do you give into people-pleasing habit?
How often do you review or monitor your progress?
To sum up,
Once you have your well formed outcomes, make sure you visually and verbally communicate and share it with everyone you are working with. Decide on the activities/process or tasks necessary to achieve the outcome, anticipate risks, obstacles or hurdles, if you have more than one outcome to achieve, order them based on their importance and focus on one at a time. Review your progress periodically.
Your focus determines your reality. So, when you have well formed outcomes, you can narrow your focus and direct your attention to what it is you want and can create more opportunities in getting there. By following the well formed outcome model, you can move from busyness to being outcome -focused in your daily activities and tasks. Adopt to outcome-focused mindset to orient your work or personal goals towards your desired results. Use the process of self-questioning to arrive at clear set of outcomes to your your gaols from broad intent to a well thought through and committed course of action.