Coaching Skills For Leaders

Goal Setting: The Power of Well-Formed Outcomes

November 04, 2023 Neil Thubron and Jana Hendrickson
Coaching Skills For Leaders
Goal Setting: The Power of Well-Formed Outcomes
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ready for a radical rethink on goal setting? Buckle up, as we bring you an insightful episode on well-formed outcomes - an approach that shifts the focus from the endpoint to the journey itself. We flip the script on traditional goal setting, peeling back layers to uncover underlying desires that might surprise you! Taking a deep dive into our aspirations, we reveal that earning more money, for instance, isn’t just about the numbers. It's usually about something profound, something that redefines your perception of success.

We also take you on a journey of self-discovery, unraveling the importance of asking the right questions. We believe in the power of 'why' - why is this goal significant now? This approach can illuminate the hidden issues driving your aspirations. As a leader, shedding preconceived notions and judgments is a must. We guide you to find out who you need to be to achieve your dreams. This episode wraps up with an important reminder - enjoy the process, because the journey is as important, if not more so, than the destination. Join us, and start reshaping your goal-setting process today!

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Coaching Skills for Leaders podcast with Jan Henderson and Neil Thubbrough. The purpose of the podcast is to help leaders anywhere develop their coaching skills to transform the lives of those they lead as well as their own. Okay, welcome to another episode of Coaching Skills for Leaders where we are trying to help ring coaching skills to leaders to help them be better leaders and help them use those skills with their teams, with their peers, with their customers, and just help them be better leaders and help people around them more.

Speaker 2:

Jan, I could see how you today yeah, great good day to you over there in the UK. I'm excited about this one because I feel like this is really a key conversation or key topic for anybody who is interested in reaching new, exciting goals in their lives, and it's one that's often not, I think, really not enough time is spent on this topic. I think, in some ways, you can't ever really spend too much time on this topic. To get really really clear, which is around goal setting, but not just goal setting in the simpler form, like most people will have heard about the smart goals, right, we're wanting to talk about what actually constitutes a well formed outcome or a well formed goal and what that means and why you should care.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely yeah, because it's very easy when someone, when you're sitting down with someone in a coaching session, or a leader sitting down with an employee or a customer and so what is it you want to achieve? What are you focused on? What's your goal? To take that goal and, as you say, you could apply the smart approach to it, which is let's make it specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, put some time boundaries around it, but actually, one of the things we learn as coaches and we want to share with you now is how to create a well formed goal, a really well formed goal, and that could apply to long term goals over multiple years, and it can apply to a goal for a 30 minute or 60 minute coaching session as well. So where should we start with this? Where would be a good place to help?

Speaker 2:

I think it's really important that we make the distinction, first, about why we care that there's a difference between goal setting traditionally and a well formed outcome, and that is that I think when you ask a person what's your goal, they might very quickly come up with something that they would like to work towards. However, I think there's something about a well formed outcome where we really are looking to make sure that the individual is stating what they're looking to accomplish in the positive and they're looking at what is the goal beyond the goal. So it's like a level deeper really. It just gives more. It makes sure I feel like that when we get there, whatever there is, we do actually have the experience we were seeking, and not just hitting a milestone and then thinking, oh, is this all there is? Or actually I didn't want this, I wanted that. So it's really testing, I feel, the goal setting process a little bit more in depth to make sure that we are in control. For example, or the coachee or the person that is setting the goal is in control of creating it. We're not just like pointing fingers, like what they want to create in their team, and it's like out there where it's really the coachee is taking ownership for it, it is for the coachee, and that we identify some resources.

Speaker 2:

But we're also we are making it measurable to a certain extent, but more in the way of asking how will they know? Right, how will they know that they got there? And you know very well, and anybody who's worked with me knows very well that I will always ask this question of what will having that do for you. And this is intentionally phrased in this way where it presupposes that the person will accomplish their goal. Right, what will having that do for you? Not what would very, very important distinction from an NLP perspective. But it really looks at okay, what's actually what I call the meta outcome, what is it that you think having that will do for you?

Speaker 1:

And this is where it actually gets more into the meat of the goals, right, yeah, absolutely, and I think that's so when you're trying to clarify, when you're trying to get to that really well formed outcome, I love the question what will having that do for you? Because it gets someone to think into the future, think about what that really is. What I find with this process of really drilling into a well-formed outcome is most of the time, the original goal that was presented changes and you end up looking at a completely different goal. I had an example this morning, actually in a coaching session where a goal was presented when I started the call about what the person wants to achieve during the coaching session. What do you want to achieve in this coaching session? And as we started drilling into, what will have that do for you or what will that mean when you get there and also, how will you know that the goal changed as we were talking through it? The more you dig in and uncover that, the more I find the goal changes.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, absolutely, and this is really critical because it prevents the disappointment that might be on the other side of accomplishing a simple goal, because we realized that it wasn't actually about that, right? So one of the most common examples I feel like in society is this desire to make more money. You could be setting this goal I want to earn more money, I want to grow my business to X, I want to, in some shape or form, increase my wealth. And then the question really is what will having that do for you? You start to realize that it's probably not about the specific number in the bank. It's something that you're seeking beyond the finances, and for somebody it might be some more peace of mind, it might be future-proofing their lives, it might be about creating something in their lives that would, they feel like, help them. It never really is about growing the business in that particular way, like it's not about just the number.

Speaker 2:

So here's the start of doing that, and then I think where we take it even another step further in a well-formed outcome is we're really testing the conditioning of the individual and whether it would actually allow for that goal to come into being.

Speaker 2:

And so one of the questions I like to ask is what might you lose that you value?

Speaker 2:

Because it prompts individual to think okay, well, if I got to this goal, is there anything I might have to give up? That actually I'm not willing to give up, and so then at least we can look at it when we know if there are any obstacles like that or it might affect our lives, our close family, people around us, in a way that maybe isn't optimal, then us accomplishing this goal. Say, for example, a very common example again in this context would be to say, well, I want to earn more money, and then the person thinks they need to work more and that might affect their family life, et cetera. So it's a very common scenario people can relate to. So it would be very hard to go and grind against this value of the person that maybe values family very much or their time with their spouse to work more hours. It's going to be very hard going to get to that goal. So this is a way of us preventing or mitigating from the start the things that are maybe in the way of accomplishing the goal as well.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, and that's a great, great example, the ones that come up regularly, and I think it's probably just worth walking through the kind of the stages, of the kind of questions that you could ask when you are. The example that popped into my head was similar. One was around. You know, I'm looking for my next career, but you know, my goal is I want to become vice president of sales in two years time. That might be. That might be a good example of career goal, yeah. Or I might want to become a CFO or whatever. The goal is Right, so the goals clear and you've got a timeline on it.

Speaker 1:

Is it achievable? Yes, is it realistic? Yes. Is it measurable? Yes, because you get the title Okay. So you've got the smart goal, okay. So then, if you ask that question, you just what will have in that do for you? Then, I don't know, you might get an answer like Well, it'll give me the salary I need, the money I need, because it'll give me the status. Or it might be feel like I've progressed in my, in my life and I'm at the right level for the age I am, or whatever the kind of things we normally see you smile because you know they're so big and then and then you get the okay. So, and what will having that do for you?

Speaker 1:

And that's where this brilliant question to ask again and and keep asking you know, what will having, just what will having that money do for you? What will having that status do for you? What do you think that will bring you that you haven't got now right? So these kind of questions, and then the other question you honestly, they bring that in as well. You know what might you lose that you value when you step into that new role, and it does regularly come up. Well, I'm gonna have to spend more time away from home. I think I'm gonna spend more time away from home, or I'm gonna, and I always find it's useful to actually drilling a little bit to that, because quite often that's a belief or a perception.

Speaker 2:

It's not necessarily truth Absolutely same goes for you know, I think, when pursuing leadership positions often is also associated with Losing peers or team members or the environment of working in teams and closely with teams, that it could be lonely at the top. You know very common belief. Those types of things would show up here as well. But yeah, this is exactly. I mean, as you know, as a coach. Of course, we then can go into the beliefs that are under there, because really where we work is the identity and belief level, because that's what creates more permanent change, not just behavioral change. But I think that the listener will hopefully get the idea that really we want to ask a few more questions beyond the smart goal in order to help a person get really, really clear on what it is that they actually are looking for.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and I think there's a couple more questions I just want to bring into the mix here. I think just takes to a slightly different place, and I know there's another great question that you asked regular is who will you need to become To be in that role? So who do you, how do you need to develop, who do you need to become? Which is a great way of getting people to think about what it's going to be like moving to that goal. And A question I think really helps unlock In a note it can be a big term goal or a short term goal is what makes this important to you now? Is another great question to ask just to help get that well-formed goal, is this really something? Is it just something you think you should do, or is it really important to you now?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, what makes it significant right now, is a great question, because they usually highlights a Hmm, a problem that the person has been dealing with that they're trying to get out of. Yes, then this might be a typical question where the goal actually changes. Can you see that? So if say, for example, if you ask, well, what makes this significant right now? I have an example, really simple one.

Speaker 2:

I once had a client come to me where I thought we are talking about making an exit plan from their company and that's basically all we talked about is like two hoops to create a life that was going to be somewhat disentangled from the business that they built, and a new chapter, next chapter, going forwards. And I didn't ask this question those many years ago. But later on I found out that what actually made that significant at that time was that they had moved in with a partner and the partner started witnessing the amount of time that was spent at work and with work on the phone, on the laptop, and that my client wasn't actually feeling that driven, happy and excited to be there. So the partner was questioning, you know, if this was really what they wanted to do. And so really, it was a situation where the partner said well, look, you know, I think I don't think it might be sustainable for us as a couple if this is how you're going to be working, going forward. So actually, underneath that was the struggle and stress of the relationship being tested by the way that my client was seeing and dealing with work. And so this is. You know what, if I had asked what makes this significant right now, then I would have heard you know those years ago, that it was actually about something else, and it really is a fantastic question to ask, because it usually highlights something that's going on that we're feeling really stressed by.

Speaker 2:

You could say the same thing for, you know, another goal that people might relate to very well is, you know, want to lose weight, right, or I want to get, you know, into a fitness routine. How often do we hear that? Right, a healthy routine, okay. But if you're asking about what makes that significant now, you might find out that either there was just some test results that came out that weren't actually that encouraging, or that there's some pressure on the relationship at home in terms of, you know, just, the connection is missing, intimacy is missing.

Speaker 2:

You know, it could be about all sorts of things, and that's where, then, actually the coaching goal lies. Now, we're obviously finding ourselves here in the context of business and business leadership, but it's just as relevant because if you're asking your employee who walks in with the goal of wanting to earn more money, you might actually find out that either they just split up from their partner, and that's why they now need to be financially independent and earn more money, or that there's some other circumstance they got pregnant, they're starting to save money, like you know what I mean. So this question will always uncover a definitely a layer deeper, and that's why we must not, you know, ignore that kind of thing.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and I think a really important point to make to the leaders on this who are listening to this is it takes a little bit of time to do this and it feels like I haven't got time to go through all these questions because they presented the goal I want to. Just why don't we just get on with working on that goal? But actually, if imagine the examples, you know it's just used that if you spend that time getting to the real goal of really what's behind it, how much more powerful that's going to be for the person and helping them. So, just investing that time and it doesn't have to take, you know, hours and hours and hours of time it could be done very quickly by asking the right questions and listening. I'm pulling my ears because, again, without judgment, without preconception of the really listening and then thinking from a mindset of how can I help, how can I help this person in front of me? So yeah, it's really really, really key to that Getting to the next goal, getting to the goal below the goal.

Speaker 2:

I think what you just said is go on. You had another thought. I just wanted to pick up on something that you said because I think it's really critical is that it, in order to do this well, it really presupposes that the leader asking these questions has an empty cup and doesn't bring any of their own judgment or assessment into this. Because I think I can imagine I certainly have done it myself that when someone brings a problem, we'd be quite easy and tempted and led to thinking that we know what the goal is, that the person has Right, like it's very, very, very easily done. And so you know, being really aware and being in this coaching mindset that we've talked about many, many times is what would lead to more depth and more clarity here, and not the quick oh yeah, yeah, I know what you need. I know what you need.

Speaker 1:

And I think that's really important too. You know, we were teaching one of our coaching skills for leaders courses the other day and they're in a demo coaching set. It's very natural, when you hear a goal that someone presents, that you want to help them. You want to help them with advice. But it takes a moment, like a breath, like a moment to just pause and think, step back a little bit, move back a bit and just say, actually, what question could I ask them to help them really uncover what behind that goal or what, or get some more clarity around that goal, before I jump in and start giving advice or what questions that I asked that might help them come to the to their own conclusion or their own solution to this goal. So yeah, I think it's.

Speaker 1:

The other thing that pops into my head actually was I was thinking of a real scenario where I was asked by someone recently I was coaching up. I want to try and be better at coaching. When someone comes, one of my employees comes in and presents an issue and they say can I have your advice on this please? I find it very difficult to step back and go into coaching mode. I think what we talked through was just asking a few questions to really understand why that problem is important, what that problem is, what they hope to achieve. Even a question about you've just walked into my office or you've just called me what would be a great outcome from this conversation that we're going to have? Just asking a simple, goal-oriented question like that and what would having that do for you, even just focusing on what do you want from this conversation at this moment? That makes it important for me.

Speaker 2:

I think you're hitting the nail on the head there around. It's almost like any question will be better than any advice or jumping to conclusion. Just any question. If you can at all stop yourself in the moment, go like any question, any what or how question, especially ideally not a why question, because it kind of puts people on the back foot and gets them defensive. But really almost any question is better than just jumping right in, because I think what's still the most difficult to do for leaders that haven't practiced this coaching mindset is their desire to help and fix and be so solution-oriented that they think within a couple of sentences that they know what the other person wants and then they make suggestions and solutions. But they're missing the critical points.

Speaker 2:

Every time I witness in our training sessions where any new young coach, when they're coaching around the goal, I always think they jump right in way too early, way too early. They haven't actually clarified what the goal is. It's not clear what the person would want to walk away with, or I can just sense, by the way the person described the goal, that there's something else behind it, which we also did have in our previous training, where the person was sort of saying, well, they wanted to have a good experience on a trip abroad talking to their suppliers or clients in the country. Actually, what it was all about was that she was anticipating getting certain feedback and was feeling uncomfortable about that. It was really more about managing that experience than it was about dealing with those clients on a more surface level. It was very evident. These are the kinds of situations where I feel like if we can just pause and move from boss mode or mentor mode into coach mode, we will get in five minutes to a very, very different outcome. That will be much more empowering for everybody.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, 100%, and just some of those questions we've you've shared with you in this conversation just around. If you just pause and just ask some of those questions, you know what, what we'll have in that do for you what. What might you lose, what? How will you know when you've got there or what, what makes that important? Now, just just pause and ask one of those questions and it will open up a whole new avenue of conversations and the listings key actually, and it's interesting, there was a couple of conversations that I had recently was sales person comes in, I need some advice because I'm not getting any responses to my emails, to my to this senior person in the customer and it would be easy to jump in and give advice on. Okay, so, but what you could try is you could try contact in this person, or try contact in this person, or you could try phone in them or try you know whatever, and but they pause, they ask questions. So you know what's the outcome you're looking for here.

Speaker 1:

The outcome it actually wasn't contact the manager or actually the outcome was to get their support for a project. So the project was that they wanted to get commitment on. They needed the manager directed support. Okay, so that's the outcome, and then what they then went through the goal process of that, of that outcome and so on. And I won't go through all of it, but what just occurred to me is actually there's probably a goal below the goal is, which is probably more of a belief is about how I feel about approaching senior people, how that sales person felt about approaching senior people because they probably knew what to do but they felt comfortable sending an email rather than phoning them up or going and meeting them, and so there was probably even a layer below the great coaching that that person did to actually get to that that kind of belief level.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, absolutely. I love that and I think you're demonstrating with that example really beautifully that really this kind of context that we're sharing with you today about what's a well formed outcome or goal Applies to both your work with your teams and you know team members. It applies to a you know how you sit down for yourself right and plan out your own goals, but also how you are being in the business and planning business goals. So you're really not wasting any time applying this everywhere you can, because it will just be much. You will, I think, feel very quickly the benefits of just digging a little bit more deeply and spending a bit more time on what it is you're actually seeking, and I really liked.

Speaker 2:

There's kind of a couple of bonus questions there for me. One was around, you know. You said who might you need to become, right, like, who would you like to become in order to accomplish that, and that goes along with sort of the identity piece, and then I'll speak to that in a second. And the other is really about the feelings that the person is craving, because very often I feel like underneath any goal, we're all just pursuing a specific feeling, even if it's a feeling of status, because we earn a specific amount of money, or if it is, you know, feeling better in our bodies, or if it feels feeling more connected to our purpose, or feeling more connected to our spouse. There is definitely a desire to feel something, because otherwise we wouldn't be pursuing it. So I do find it helpful to find out what it is that we anticipate to be feeling. And so, aside from the you know who might you want to become question, I always like to ask you know, what does that mean to you specifically? That word specifically can bring so much more depth, because if a person says, well, I just want to, you know, have this leadership function, and then you know I'll be happier Well, what does that mean to you specifically? So then we get to that, to the meta outcome. That way, also, in any context, whenever somebody uses a more global phrase of confidence more time, you know, or they want to feel anything, they want to have any anything to do with it, and there usually is like a blanket statement Okay, what does that mean to you specifically? Will give you a lot more clarity there.

Speaker 2:

And I think the, the becoming piece is really, really important, because it helps the person look at what kind of parts of the person that's, you know, in their identity, would need to shift in order to become this person. So, you know, especially when it becomes like about a, for example, right now I'm working with somebody who's stepping into a very global political leadership role from a business role, you know, a business leadership role and there are some very different things required. You know, around communication skills around. You know diplomatic thinking and speaking and all of those things. And so, little by little, every conversation I can sense that we're actually dancing around needs to be becoming, because the person that's anticipating that this, this kind of issue that she found in her business, might be even more of an issue in that new context, right? So it's a really, really empowering question because it helps us, you know, also in determine but also enjoy the path, because really any goal pursuit is about the way to get there, like it's enjoying the process to get there.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and I can feel almost another podcast coming on on this, one on who do I need to become and then coaching around that, because I can think of lots of examples where I've had to do just that and just focusing on that question and coaching around that can be quite a big topic on its own. So maybe that's one for the list.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I like that too. I mean because I can see too how you know with an employee, especially when we're, you know, doing talent development with our team right. That's a critical thing, because I feel like you know I actually think you've mentioned this as an example where one of your daughters had said one of the things that she likes is that there's a lot of focus on development in the company that she works at Right, so not, or that that's what young people seek from employers, at the very least Right.

Speaker 1:

Right yeah.

Speaker 2:

And so I, you know, I have yet to meet, you know, people. I've had an experience of that myself, thankfully, in my past career at Cooper Perry in the UK and at PWC in the UK. I felt like those were, you know, very much focused on the individual, but it was like honest, somewhat of a professional level, and I have yet to meet leaders that are really really going the extra mile and figuring out what does this young person actually seek to accomplish and why? What's part of their purpose, their, their, their soul's path that I can contribute to, you know. And so, yeah, I think that would be a wonderful conversation, so let's just book it in our calendars to have.

Speaker 1:

Put a pin in it. I think is the American question.

Speaker 2:

As we were, yeah.

Speaker 1:

Okay so so the focus today I think we're kind of wrap, rolling up, rounding up there is was all around this wealth on goal, moving past the smart goal and getting more under the covers of what's really behind it so you can really help the person. Focus on what they need and then how you can help them with that focus. Is there any final thoughts you'd like to add before we wrap up?

Speaker 2:

No, I think I think this is going to be really hitting a lot of nerves, you know, I think I can see how people might really eat this episode up, because it is very, very helpful to come at goal planning from a different angle If we want to actually accomplish them, because I think you know people historically just struggle with, you know, making things happen in the end, and I think it's often because there is a step missed in the middle between the goal planning and the action taking. And that is this like making it a lot more clearer on what it is we're actually pursuing. Yeah, Because then the how kind of comes out in the wash too.

Speaker 1:

Exactly, yeah, the how, the options in the grow model what are we going to do? What are the options we've got available to us comes out. And yeah, and I think for you know a lot of people ask me. A lot of people I work with say how can I be bring coaching more often into my leadership role, how can I start acting and behaving more like a coach? Here's a great way of doing it. Just, you've got some great questions that we shared with you. Take a moment just to take that breath, pause and ask a great question when your employee, customer or someone comes to you, so you can try that coaching methodology. Yeah, Okay, Till next time.

Speaker 2:

Have fun trying practicing.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely All the best. Great to speak to you.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, you too, you too.

Speaker 1:

Thank you for listening to coaching skills for leaders podcast with the honor and Neil. If you found the conversation useful, please share with your colleagues and friends. Please also leave us a rating and a review and if you would like to connect with us directly to discuss your own or your business needs, you will find our contact details in the show notes below.

Goal Setting and Well-Formed Outcomes
Asking the Right Questions
Exploring Well-Formed Goals and Outcomes