Match Your Actions to Your Outcomes

Stephen Covey wrote one of my all-time favorite books, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. In this book, one of Covey’s seven habits was to Begin with the End in Mind. To do this, you think of the future result you want and work backward from there. Sound and solid advice now, as it was when Covey wrote it.

That said, it’s easy to decide to act without thinking first of the outcome you are trying to achieve.

You have a difficult client. They are unhappy with you. You want to call them to defend your actions—and vent your frustrations. Anyone with clients has had this experience, or eventually will. The question you have to ask yourself is: what do you want the outcome of that conversation to be? What do you hope your defense and your frustration is going to produce for you in the way of an outcome? What comes after this course of action?

You have a once in a lifetime meeting with your dream client. They asked you to come in and explain what makes you different than your competitors. They say they want to learn a little about you. That’s their agenda and you want to please them, so you build a deck that explains your company’s history, your locations, and the logos of all the well-recognized brands you serve. If your outcome is to look and sound an awful lot like your peers, that might be a good strategy. If you want to differentiate yourself from your peers, that outcome will require a different approach.

The key to successfully achieving a positive outcome is to first define what a successful outcome is and work backward from there. In most situations, there are many choices of action, some that will lead to an unfavorable outcome. By defining the outcome first, you match the actions to that outcome, and you massively improve your chances of success.

Before you do, think.

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