How often have you gone into a conversation at home or at work where you thought you knew what you wanted only to discover mid-discussion that things feel less clear than when you started?
Or you’re very sure about what you want to accomplish in the conversation itself, but don’t necessarily have in mind what your longer-term objectives might be?
If you’re like a lot of us, that might have been the case more than once. We’re either unclear about what we want, or know what we want right now but don’t necessarily consider how that might fit into the bigger picture. And because of that, conversations often end up heading to an unsatisfactory end.
Two Types of Outcomes
When influencing, there are almost always two types of outcomes we want – the immediate outcome and the strategic, or long-term, one. The trick is getting clear on both before you head into the conversation.
- Immediate outcome — this is the end result you’re hoping to accomplish in the conversation itself.
“By the end of this meeting Jake will have given me the green light for this project.”
“By the end of this conversation Emily will be clear about what she’ll be doing for me while I’m away.”
- Strategic outcome — this is your longer-range goal that will be realized at some point in the future.
“Within a week, all key players will have said yes to this request.”
“By the end of this quarter I’ll be seen as an expert in this area.”
Both are important and knowing them keeps you focused during the influence discussion.
Less is More
There are two considerations for both immediate and strategic outcomes. The first is that they’re short and to the point. You should be able to articulate either one using just a few words, as in the examples above.
If you notice that you’re expressing your outcomes using several sentences, you’re either going after more than one outcome — which is fine in some cases — or your description represents the strategy that you plan to use to achieve the outcome. For all outcomes, extract what’s not needed and pare your statement to the core of what you want.
In those cases where you’re going after more than one outcome, how you position each in the conversation is crucial. I’ll discuss the best ways to approach this type of situation in a future post.
The second criterion is that all outcomes need to be measurable. For both immediate outcomes and strategic outcomes, the way you measure whether or not you achieved what you were going after depends on how specific or how broad the outcome is.
When outcomes are specific they are easily measured with a simple yes or no; you either got what you asked for or you didn’t.
Immediate outcome that’s specific: “By the end of this meeting Jake will have given me the green light for this project.” He either gives you the go-ahead or he doesn’t.
Strategic outcome that’s specific: “Within a week, all key players will have said yes to this request.” They either do or they don’t.
When outcomes are broad they need other more explicit measurement criteria. Take a look at these two broad outcomes and how you could measure them.
Immediate outcome that’s broad: “By the end of this conversation this leader will see me as a knowledge expert in this area.” What do you mean by knowledge expert? And what data will you be using to determine if you’re being viewed that way?” You’ll need answers to both in order to be able to measure your success.
Strategic outcome that’s broad: “By the end of this quarter my manager will see that I’m ready to take on greater responsibility.” What constitutes ‘readiness’ and what do you mean by ‘greater responsibility’? Greater responsibility could be anything from handling one more customer issue to being put in charge at a customer site. Be clear in your own mind about what you mean by that so you’ll be able to measure whether you got it.
Do You Really Know What You Want?
When you’re clear on both the immediate and strategic outcomes you want, and you know how to measure whether you’ve gotten those outcomes, then you really do know what you want. Getting what we want is the next step and next week I’ll share some of the most effective methods for successful influence.
Question: Do you find it useful to break down desired outcomes in this way? Or do you have any tips to share? You can leave a comment by clicking here.