To Succeed, Focus on Inputs Not Results

The ability and desire to focus on those areas of our lives that provide the greatest return can often be confusing. Change and growth comes first through understanding and acknowledgement.

When there is understanding, there is the potential for action.

Without understanding and action, it is too easy to continue to do what you have always done. That may of course be justified in your mind, but it rarely leads to progression, growth and development.

CoachStation: Focus On the Inputs

In almost every coaching and mentoring engagement I have taken on in recent years, my clients have struggled to understand the difference between inputs and outputs. In nearly every case, managers and leaders focus on the output, result or outcome and ignore the inputs. So, here’s the big tip:

You cannot change, influence or develop through focusing on a result only – understand the inputs and things that influence the result!

Don’t misunderstand my point. Results and outcomes matter enormously. Measuring our outputs and contributions is key to business. KPI’s, profits, budgets etc are critical to business…they just can’t be changed through themselves. Why? Well for three main reasons:

  1. They are historical, representing what has occurred in the past, hence cannot be changed.
  2. The inputs and things influencing and contributing to the result are what should be actioned and focused on because they can be changed.
  3. Very few people can directly translate the outcomes or result back into how they do what they do every day.

Let me provide more context. Most people, given the opportunity, can develop awareness for what they need to do and why it matters. The ‘how’ on the other hand is more difficult to determine on your own. Training will provide the background and broad knowledge. However, expecting the training participant to take this information and apply sustained change as a result, is difficult if not impossible minus follow-up and targeted support. Without reinforcement and personalisation, training has limited sustainable impact. By the way, I am a trainer and facilitator, so I am certainly not criticising training as a method of development in itself.

On its own and without reinforcement and personalisation, training rarely leads to meaningful action and change.

I am confident that many of you can think of times when you, your team or colleagues have attended training and not done anything different as a result. Crazily, I have even seen some managers send members of their team to the same training programs, year after year, expecting a different result. It rarely makes a difference. That is in fact, a very necessary focus of coaching and mentoring and a major part of the reason I now dedicate most of my time in this area.

My wife, Julie, and I have 3 daughters. Our middle daughter, Charli, plays netball. This year she has been selected in a representative team and will be playing in a State carnival in a few weeks. Based on recent conversations with the team coach, Hilary, I had the privilege in being invited to address the team and parents during one of the team training sessions recently. The key messages were delivered to 13 year old girls. I wanted to maintain their focus and take the opportunity to get them thinking differently. To challenge not only how they think, but where they focus time and energy. The link between netball and life was also highlighted. So, I related the core message to the theme of this blog.

The key is to understand and focus on the inputs, not the outputs.

Influence the many, many things that contribute to the result, not on the result itself.

Ultimately, I broke down the content to a key seven points. Of course, there are more topics that could be listed. However, I feel that the 7 themes highlighted are the baseline for development and growth. These topics and potential actions are as relevant to the young ladies who are in the rep netball team, as to people outside of sport. In fact, they are key to all of our lives in order to thrive (not just survive) in our modern world.

1. Self-Awareness: understanding who you are and how others see you is critical to your success. Too often we live in denial or fear about our performance, capabilities and how we are perceived. Perfection is not the goal. Improvement, increased self-esteem and continued growth are.

2. Communication: the ability to influence others; genuinely listen and understand; succinctly put across your views and thoughts; and, consistently ensure people believe what you say is important.

It is not only verbal skills, but also takes into account your ability to communicate through written means. Less obvious is your body language, pitch, tone, emotional levels and other contributors, but no less important.

3. Relationships: are one of the key inputs and cornerstones to satisfaction in life. In a work and sport context, this is not necessarily about developing friendships. It can be, but is more about building trust and respect, so that an honest and real conversation can be held and heard. Understanding what you value most and seeking insight into other’s values is one good way to develop depth in relationships.

4. Teamwork: has become even more relevant than in the past. Much of our learning, work environments; study and learning options are positioned within teams. The emphasis on individuals has reduced in recent years in the workplace, universities and other institutions. The focus on people collaborating and achieving more as a team, rather than individually, has become one of the big changes to how we operate. Your willingness and ability to meet that need will be one of the measurements of success.

Your ability to relate to others, influence, communicate and work collaboratively will define much of your success.

A very relevant point is to understand that diversity between people is good, when we take the time to understand the differences that exist. Understanding provides acceptance and acknowledgment. A lack of understanding often leads to assumption and negative judgment. It is the difference between thinking: “I wouldn’t do or say that, so you are wrong” to “I wouldn’t necessarily say or do that, however I know you well enough to understand your perspective”. It may feel like a subtle point, but in reality is a powerful difference in how people work together.

5. Capability and Competence: clearly a relevant input into your performance and perception relates to your ability to perform. Contribution to your team is reliant on continually developing competence, skills and capability in what you do.

6. Focus on Strengths: there is much greater opportunity for success when working from those areas that you are most interested, passionate and talented in. These are your strengths. We don’t have the opportunity to ignore our weaknesses or lesser talents. However, when you develop the areas that you care most deeply about and have natural ability in, your exponential growth is assured. Too often we are asked to focus solely on our weaknesses. These are the wrong inputs. Performance appraisals and other organisational tools are often designed this way. It is our role as leaders and people who care to make sure we talk about what is working well, not just the gaps and weaknesses. Strikingly, this type of emphasis assists us to build stronger relationships; trust; self-awareness and other elements detailed in this blog.

A shift in focus and mindset to develop talents into strengths can provide significantly greater returns.

7. Accountability and Action: the absolute key to improvement, growth and influencing the inputs. Willingness to be accountable for yourself and maintain a level of honesty in your own self-perception provides a platform for action. It is not enough to know more. It is always about what you do with this information. Practice does not make perfect. Practising the right thing, the right way leads to improvement and that is enough to enable growth. However, you must make a conscious choice and persist with your goals and actions for this to become more than good intention.

After the mini-workshop with the netball team I was talking with the coaching staff. It is fascinating how relevant these themes are for 13-year old girls and within the workplaces in our adult world. Interestingly, this points to the view that what works best for people, works best for people. Whether that is within families, workplaces, sporting teams or other situations where people congregate, the elements that provide comfort and growth remain similar.

The earlier that you develop and focus on the inputs that develop your self-awareness, relationships, confidence and self-esteem the more likely success will come your way…no matter how you measure success.

2 thoughts on “To Succeed, Focus on Inputs Not Results

  • Thank you so much Steve for your time with the girls last night. I am a firm believer in what you teach and still learned a lot! I know you getting the girls to think outside their comfort zone will benefit them greatly at State Age 😊

  • Hi Hilary,
    My pleasure! It is genuinely appreciated to have the opportunity to pass on a few key messages and thoughts to such a young and willing group. Who knows what each person takes away for now and the future, but the chance to influence is worth it. Good luck to you, Lisa and the girls for the State Carnival.

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