Start With The Result


“Effective executives…gear their efforts to results rather than to work. ‘What results are expected of me?’ rather than the work to be done, let alone with its techniques and tools.”

This passage from Effective Executive has had me thinking for quite some time. Focusing on a results-oriented approach is critical for designing your website (and defining what a conversion, aka result, is), it’s important for any communication (what do I expect the reader to do or understand after reading this?), and in general, it’s just good to think about what result you want before you act, say, or do.

x + y = z

It’s not just for algebra, and solving for the unknown.

It’s a great way to predefine “what does success look like?” on a particular project. If you make a mistake deciding what the results to measure are, that’s one problem to fix. If you never define those results at all, how can you measure progress and your path to get there?

Understanding and defining results is something that many brands struggled with (and some still do) when it comes to social media activities, partnerships, sponsoring, and ROI on those activities. When we were designing events for the Girl Geek Dinners in Milan, I spent a lot of time talking to sponsors and helping them predefine what potential ROI could be from their sponsorship. I’m sure it will be no surprise that our assumptions were often not aligned. Sometimes their expectations would be unrealistic, and it would be a great time to tell them and turn down the sponsorship, or it could be an opportunity to modify expectations and ROI and still feel good about the experience we were organizing together. Trying to understand how success would be measured became a default action for me, as the times when we failed to define those expectations initially usually resulted in someone being disappointed.

Starting with the result can be a powerful tool for work projects, and especially when it comes to communication. Starting with the result helps you set up a guideline or steps to achieve that result, no matter what reactive or short-term issues are pressuring you in the meantime.

It can help guide critical or constructive feedback to someone, by keeping the results in mind vs. the current frustration you’re feeling or want to express. Thinking past “what do I want them to know” and “how do I want this person to feel?” when you’re done talking with them, you can take a step further by thinking “what do I want this person to do?” when you’re done talking to them, and have those expectations help guide your words and actions.

Starting with the results helps refocus the day, clear away busy work, and make sure your actions and time are being spent with an eye on the results you want to achieve. Results, not just work. 

Start with the result can be applied to personal situations, too. For an everyday example, think of being served in a restaurant. You’re being provided bad service, but ultimately you want a good experience at the restaurant (if not good food). In this situation, Bad service + X = good experience. What is X?

I think many people default to thinking X is angry / upset reactions, but it rarely improves things. You may improve the situation temporarily, but you’ll probably never go back to that restaurant, and the server will not all of a sudden grudgingly respect and like you. On the contrary, they’ll be glad to see the back of you.

So how can we change an outcome of a situation more towards the results we want? First of all, you can start with compassion. This video, a speech from David Foster Wallace about fish not knowing they’re in water (aka the world does not revolve around you), is a great reminder of what it means to be compassionate. It’s probably the best way you can spend 10 minutes on the Internet right now (after finishing my post, of course).

Image from Death to the Stock Photo.

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Director of Product Marketing @ HubSpot. Early hire @ Automattic / Founder World Nutella Day. MBA Alumni Advisory Board @ Santa Clara University.

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