In my journey as a peak performance trainer and coach, one of the key attributes I’ve found which distinguishes the great from the good is their ability to clearly differentiate between outcomes and objectives – an objective being a goal that is designed to achieve a specific result, or outcome.

People come up short when they focus solely on meeting the objective or goal at all costs, as opposed to truly focusing on achieving the real outcomes sought. The key difference lies in the manner (i.e. the “how”) in which the objective is executed.

For instance, there are many ways of getting the kids to school on time (the “objective”) and only some of these ways will meet the outcome of creating for the child a wonderful experience or association of “learning and the attainment of wisdom” with going to school (the “outcome”). Far too often, we see stressed parents with equally unhappy kids on tow “successful” in getting to school just as the bell tolls and in the process, inadvertently creating an “aversion” to school or unhappy association of “learning” for the child.

In the professional world, examples abound. Take the case of the council that completes the beautifully architected new playground on time, within budget and scope and yet draws the wrath of its constituents because it has been built next to a toxic waste dump. Or the surgery room that could not be used because the floor tiles were not “non-slip”. The builder’s excuse – that was what was specified in the plans! Or the expensive Customer Relationship System became a white elephant because the sales folks resisted entering new customer data into the system because they had “no time”.

The root cause of the above is often either poor “leadership” and/or communication. Focusing on “getting things done” rather than taking the time out to first ask “why” or “what is our ultimate outcome for doing this?” i.e. “doing the right things”. And then, if it involves others, communicating the why or purpose clearly and regularly.

Often, this is also a result of highly directive leadership styles (“just do as I say”) with an over-reliance on “fear”-based motivators stifling initiative, innovation and independence of thought and judgement.

To become even more outcomes focused, one of the best tools I’ve found for planning any activity is to use what Anthony Robbins calls OPA.

O is for Outcome – before starting anything, visualise clearly the outcome you wish to create. Importantly, think of “feeling” outcomes. People remember how you make them feel, not what you do. Taking the example of the council playground, the Outcome might be:

“To complete a highly functional, aesthetically pleasing and emotionally inviting facility and that will create a safe environment for the residents and children of Suburbville to mingle, play and to have fun. It will be a key centrepiece of Suburbville, one that will instill a strong sense of pride within the community. It will be produced within a budget of $1.2 million and by 31st December 2009.”

P is for Purpose – list down all the reasons for achieving this outcome. If the Outcome provides a target or destination, the Purpose is the “fuel”, motivation or drive required to overcome the many obstacles or hurdles that might hinder your progress in getting to the outcome. Think of the consequences of failure and success. E.g.

“The juvenile crime rate at Suburbville has been steadily increasing. Social studies research has shown that this is due to a breakdown in families. By creating such a facility, families will be encouraged to spend even more time together thus strengthening family and community bonds.

The facility will create 10 new jobs which will significantly assist with morale during the present economic downturn.

It will significantly elevate the image of Suburbville Council and the morale of its employees, knowing that they are creating a wonderful legacy for the people of Suburbville and the development of new skills required for the successful completion of this project.

It will give Suburbville Council staff an opportunity to practise and develop confidence with their project management skills, something that will be a huge asset to them and to the council.”

The Purpose provides the team with a sense of urgency, enthusiasm, pride and motivation and the energy to help them drive successfully towards attainment of the Outcome.

A stands for Actions. Such actions, taken only AFTER a clear visualisation and emotionalisation of the Outcome and Purpose are highly directed, focused and purposeful.

Enjoy putting this into practise immediately. Winners simply have better habits and with practice, this becomes second nature.

Think of a project you are working on right now, either at home or at work.

Imagine the ideal Outcome. Visualise the successful completion of the project. What do you need to see, hear or feel to know that it has been a resounding success for you?

Write down all the reasons why achieving this outcome is important to you. What if you don’t? What if you do? Remember, if the whys are strong enough, the hows will look after themselves.

And then list all the massive Actions you will take this week to get the momentum going. Remember the first step is always the most challenging one, so set yourself a target of taking ONE action immediately to get the ball rolling!

Till the next time, Carpe Diem!