‘If you haven’t thought about what you really want, you may get something you don’t want.’

When we are preparing for meetings or important conversations, we’re usually good at making sure we have all the relevant information, and have thought of answers for questions that might be asked. These are the things we call good preparation.

And I want to remind you of a couple of other areas of preparation that we often forget to do so thoroughly. This month, I’m looking at defining the outcomes you want from the meeting or interaction.

Now most of us will be clear about the result we want: that the others agree with us, approve our plan of action, act on what we’ve told them etc. However, this result is not the full story of the outcomes we want from the interaction. If it were, then we would never encounter those times when we do get the result we wanted, yet still feel a bit disappointed.

For example, you may have wanted your team to agree to focus on an area of work where performance has slipped a bit, and everyone agrees that they will. And there are a lot of miserable or fed up faces around, and your ‘demand’ gets thrown back in your face if you ask about any other aspect of their work. The focus is happening, the performance is improving, but there is resentment in the air.

If you fully think through your outcomes, you realise that it’s about more than what you want them to do; it’s also about how you want them to react to your request, and wanting them to approach it constructively. So the second stage of the outcomes is to think about what will motivate the team to want to focus and improve that part of their performance. It also prompts you to think about how you can present your request in such a way that it doesn’t feel like a reprimand or restriction.

There is a third stage to a fully formed outcome. This is where you consider, not just the immediate impact on the others, but also the longer term impact or effect. You don’t want the improved performance at the expense of slippage in other areas of their work, nor do you want increased resistance to or resentment of any other requests you may make in the future.

What the act of thinking through, fully, what you really want as outcomes does for you, is to help you prepare far more than just your facts and arguments. It helps you to clarify the approach you will take, the way you will engage the others with what you want to achieve, and how you will make it an attractive proposition.

And as you think through these different aspects of your outcomes, you will find that your mind automatically starts to think of ways you can do this. It’s worth the extra time thinking it through, because it can enhance the likelihood of useful results significantly.

Di Kamp, Leadership Director of Meta

About Jo Clarkson

Jo Clarkson is the CEO of Meta and a frequent writer of the blog.
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