The Essence of the Well-Formed Outcomes Model
I’d like to start with a story…
This is the story of KING MIDAS. Now, King Midas was a very kind man who ruled his kingdom fairly. However, like many of us, he would not often think before he spoke. One day, whilst he was out walking in his beautiful garden, he saw a scruffy and elderly man asleep in his flower bed. Because he was a kind king, he took pity on the man, waited for him to awake in his own time, and let him go without punishment. When the god Dionysus saw his kind action, he decided to reward King Midas by granting him one wish.
The king was extremely pleased when Dionysus approached him, and didn’t even think about what he wanted. He simply said, “I wish for everything I touch to turn to gold.”
And so it was.
When King Midas touched his beautiful roses, they became rigid and gold. Initially he though this was quite cool. He went inside and touched the fruit in his fruit bowl – everything he touched turned to gold. Eventually he grew hungry as he couldn’t eat anything, and became thin and malnourished. His daughter who had not seen him for some time came to visit. She bowed in his presence and was aghast at what he looked like. She reached to hug him, and immediately turned to gold. Eventually, the whole palace was gold.
Eventually he pleaded with Dionysus to turn everything back to the way it had been, and take away his golden touch. Thankfully Dionysus took pity on the king, and granted his request. Instantly, King Midas was poorer than he had been, but richer in the things that really count in life.
The moral of the story ? BE VERY CLEAR ON WHAT YOU WANT…
… and that is what the well-formed outcomes model is all about!
Meaning of “Well-Formed”
Many people talk about what they want, and what they don’t want, without sufficient consideration of exactly what it is they want to achieve and how achievable it is. I had a client that came to see me recently… she had set herself a goal to be more prepared and confident next time she gave a presentation, had put in all the preparation, and yet still messed it up. She started believing that she just did not have what it takes to be a good presenter, no matter how much preparation she would put in. Now, preparation is key when wanting to achieve this sort of goal, but there are many other considerations to think about too.
The term ‘well-formed’ has been around in NLP for over 35 years. This term simply means that the outcome you are wanting to achieve has been refined or checked against a number of tests and once it has ‘passed’ these tests, it is well-designed – or, indeed, ‘well-formed’.
Another term I would like to clarify with you is the usage of the term “outcome” rather than “goal”. A Goal is something you want to achieve… like increasing sales by 5%, becoming an excellent presenter, or being more assertive in negotiations. Whilst these sound specific, they are actually quite general – you will understand this more once you have read the entire post. In the context of the well-formed outcomes model, goals are general and outcomes are specific. An outcome represents a goal developed with specifics that enables us to have a very clear understanding of what to do.
However, as most people refer to achieving goals (rather than outcomes), I’ll talk about setting our goals… using the well-formed outcomes model.
Let’s look at the 7 dimensions of the well-formed outcomes model…
Well-Formed Outcomes Model Step 1: Positively Stated
The first step in of the well-formed outcomes model is having your goal positively stated. This will require you to change the way you think about things…
- Focus on what you want, not on what you do not want.
- Focus on what you want to move towards to, not what you want to move away from.
- Focus on solutions, not problems.
How do you move from stating in the negative to the positive ? Ask yourself:
“What do I want instead ?” or “What will this do for me ?”
Not: “I want to lose weight”
Rather: “I want to be healthy”
Not: “I want to reduce my debt”
Rather: “I want to improve my cash flow”
Not: “We need to cut down on our staff ”
Rather: “We need to increase our profit margins”
Not: “I want to stop being nervous when delivering presentations”
Rather: “I want to enjoy delivering presentations”
How do you feel if you had to say to yourself “I want to stop being nervous when delivering presentations” ? Most likely, this will make you feel under pressure and anxious. In contrast, think about how you would feel if you said to yourself: “I want to enjoy delivering presentations”.
Doesn’t that feel so much better ?
Stating your goal in the positive is motivational, and this will go a long way to you achieving your goal. Move towards the outcomes you want instead of moving away from the problems you do not want.
Well-Formed Outcomes Model Step 2: Specifically Stated
The next step of the well-formed outcomes model is having your goal specifically stated. “I wish for everything I touch to turn to gold” … remember the story ? The more specific you are about exactly what you want, the greater your chances are of achieving it. Ask questions like What ? When ? Where ? Who ? Where ? When ?
A goal like “I want to be promoted” is not specific enough – you could be promoted in two year’s time into a job that you do not want. Think about WHEN do you want to be promoted into WHAT specific job, reporting to WHO, working WHERE ?
Here’s another example: “I want to enjoy presenting.”
WHAT topics ?
WHEN is the next presentation ?
WHERE will it be ?
WHO will be there ?
There are two reasons to be specific: (i) To check exactly what it is you want, and (ii) To visualise the achievement of your goal in specific detail.
Well-Formed Outcomes Model Step 3: Feedback and Evidence
The third step in the well-formed outcomes model is identifying feedback and evidence associated with your goal achievement.
- Feedback – Along the way, how will you know that you are on track to achieving your intended outcome ?
- Evidence – What evidence will there be indicating that you have achieved your goal ?
You can have hard feedback and evidence – like seeing a report showing an increase in sales figures, or soft evidence – like what you see, what you hear and how you feel when your goal is achieved.
For example, if your goal is to enjoy delivering your next feedback presentation which is scheduled for two weeks time to your Board at Head Office…
You can have feedback and evidence before the presentation while you are preparing for it – like feeling enthusiastic, motivated and excited to deliver the presentation. You can also have feedback and evidence during your presentation – like people smiling and nodding in acknowledgement to what you are saying, and perhaps you knowing that you are a bit nervous but not letting it get to you, rather feeling confident and competent. You can also have feedback and evidence after your presentation, like people telling you it was a great presentation or simply feeling like you really enjoyed it.
Well-Formed Outcomes Model Step 4: Resources
The next step in the well-formed outcomes model is a consideration of the resources you need to achieve your goal. Resources like time, money, tools, equipment or training. You could even consider a positive attitude and resilience as a resources. Many people don’t think broadly enough about the resources they need, especially the intangible resources like having the right attitude.
Write down all the resources you need, and check that you have them or can get them. Without the necessary resources, it will be very difficult if not impossible to achieve your goal.
Well-Formed Outcomes Model Step 5: Control
The next step in the well-formed outcomes model is an important consideration about control.
- How much is under your control ?
- Will the achievement of this goal rely on other people ?
- How much is up to you and how much is up to them ?
- If you do need others, can you convince them to support you ? How ?
For example, having a goal of enjoying delivering a presentation is largely up to you. Sure, your audience can make it a terrible experience for you, but enjoying or hating something is a stage of mind which is affected by how you think about things. What you think affects what you feel. So you would largely be in control of achieving this outcome.
However, increasing sales may rely on your sales team. You could set the target, give them guidance, motivate and inspire them, but then it is up to the sales team to sell. And there could be other factors at play, like economic factors, competition, supplier issues and so on.
Well-Formed Outcomes Model Step 6: Identity Alignment
The next step in the well-formed outcomes model is about challenging how the achievement of this goal fits in with who you are or who you want to be ?
For example, enjoying delivering presentations and then being known as an excellent presenter, could be aligned to the identity you wish to have in your company. If your goal is to be promoted however, will it mean you will be working longer hours, travelling a lot and only seeing your family on weekends ? Will it mean that you will be more of a generalist rather than a specialist ? How does this fit with your identity ?
Well-Formed Outcomes Model Step 7: Ecology Check
The final step in the well-formed outcomes model is an “ecology check“. Here you ask yourself questions about the wider consequences of achieving your goal.
- Will it impact other people negatively ?
- Will it impact the environment negatively ?
- Can it possibly impact you negatively ?
- How much effort and time will it take to achieve on top of your other commitments, and will this “time-sacrifice” impact other people, other processes and so on…
Sometimes people set themselves goals and do indeed achieve them… only to find out later that it has negative consequences for them or others. The ecology check is the final “test” of how well-formed your goal is and whether this is really what you want.
Once you have formulated your goal by considering each of the seven steps in the well-formed outcomes model, you need to develop an Action Plan. Your action plan should do two things for you when you look at it:
- Keep you focused
- Keep you motivated
Your Action Plan should be written in a simple format and kept somewhere where you have easy access to it. Track it regularly. In the end, you could have set up a really well-formed outcome, but without the action to back you up, it will just never become an outcome and just remain a dream.
Well-Formed Outcomes Coaching Model Application: Structured goal setting
Well-Formed Outcomes Coaching Model Can be used by: Managers and Mentors, Life Coach, Corporate Coach, Self
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