It was easy in the early days. You were clear about your vision and you knew what you wanted. Your small team were close, they reported to you and on a daily basis you were able to rouse their enthusiasm and energy so you were confident things were moving on, and fast.

With success comes challenges. As the team grows, lines of responsibility widen and you have to rely on others to enthuse and engage your team on a day to day basis.  Competing ideas and different styles of working can introduce a level of frustrating complexity which slows down the process of getting things done.

Develop a healthy "solution orientated" culture from the outset

It's no secret harnessing the goodwill of your team is challenging. This UK-based research about Leadership in small to medium businesses, concludes: "What leaders struggle with most is communicating an image of the future that draws others in--that speaks to what others see and feel."

As your team and business grow, there is one essential activity which can be developed throughout the employment lifecycle and planning process which will help "speak to what others see and feel", and get real results.

The activity of developing outcomes focuses minds and helps to create a solution orientated culture. When problems occur, because your team have, in the words of Stephen Covey, "Began with the end in mind" they are more likely to quickly switch to solutions and avert risks.  Linking outcomes around your own vision, your team vision, and the team members' contribution creates a common thread running throughout.

Outcomes vs Goals

Setting goals is essential for the team. Often, this is where the effort stops. Goals are about results and targets. An outcome is different because it's about the impact of the results of achieving goals.

Your financial assistant, for example, might have goals around billing, invoicing, and producing statements. SMART goals are set, specifying timing, quantity and quality.

To be able to develop outcome-based objectives for your team member, you might want to ask: What is the purpose of your job? Why is it important? How do your goals fit into the wider organizational aims and objectives?

In the example of the financial assistant, you might say:

1.     The purpose of the job is to make sure the organization is financially sound legally and contractually.

2.     The integrity of the company in financial matters is highly important for both risk and reputation.

3.     Keeping financial transactions up to date is essential to be able to identify if your business is on track to achieve financial goals and to be able to deliver on outcomes.

So from this information you and your employee can develop an outcome such as:

"At the end of the financial year, I have achieved my goals. As a result, I've  grown the reputation of the business by maintaining the integrity and the transparency of financial activities. I have contributed to the achievement of business outcomes  by providing timely financial reports and information which have enabled the business to adjust when needed, which has, in turn, created a better customer experience."

Setting outcomes successfully

Setting outcomes involves engaging the imagination, emotions and values of the team member.  Here are some key steps to setting them successfully.

1.     Individuals should be tasked with developing their own outcomes in a way that's meaningful for them.

2.     The outcome must be developed in the 1st person and expressed as if it has already happened.  This acts like a GPS because it is programming the subconscious mind to find ways to fulfill the outcome.

3.     Don't be too prescriptive, allow individuals free rein to find ways to achieve the outcome needed.

Outcomes should  contain:

·         achievement of goals

·         the difference made

·         shared values

·         how they contributed to business success

·         impact on the customers or key stakeholders

4.     Measure success for each outcome.  This can be from results, statistics, feedback or case studies.

The benefits of setting outcomes

While setting outcomes needs a more thoughtful approach, using outcome based objectives benefits your business in a number of ways, here's a summary of just some of them.

1. Harnesses the imagination of everyone involved and encourages future thinking

2. Forces all involved to think through the impact of their contribution

3. Describes the future of the business in successful terms

4. Can empower all involved to work in a way which suits their individual style

5. Develops clear success criteria

6. Builds in accountability and responsibility

7. Galvanizes a hearts and mind approach

Set properly, outcomes encourage communication with the cognitive, emotional and visual  parts of your brain. An outcomes-based approach can force you out of your comfort zone and feel uncomfortable at first.  Even so, you will find the effort is worth it as outcomes can equip your team with the skills not only to visualize a positive future but to improve engagement with your and get better results.   

Is your team using an outcomes-based approach?