When to STOP Focusing on Your Goals

Ever had trouble focusing your camera on the right subject?

Most cameras — from your smartphone camera app to point and shoot to DSLR — have a default “auto-focus” setting. But that doesn’t mean they automatically focus on the best thing.

If you’re trying to take a picture of your family but the camera keeps focusing on the tree, you might end up with an image like this:

Not the picture you were hoping for. When the focus is off, you don’t get the result you want.

We have the same problem as we try to influence. When our focus isn’t right, we don’t get the results we seek. When it comes to influencing others, we often focus on the desired results.

Why? We love final products. We set goals, measure results, and demand to see the bottom line, especially in business.

Goals are great, BUT… they’re not what drives change.

See, just because we set goals doesn’t mean we reach them. Setting a goal is all about the final product. But if we ever hope to achieve the goals we set, we have to change behaviour. To change behaviour, we need to change our focus.

So, instead of focusing on the results, we have to focus on behaviours that drive results.

Regular People, Master Influencers

Some people are doing just that! They’ve realised that focusing on results isn’t the most effective way to influence. They’ve faced some tough challenges and been very successful in overcoming them. Here are their stories:

Mimi Silbert

Mimi is the founder and president of Delancey Street Foundation. Her challenge is to help repeat felons and lifetime drug abusers — through their own efforts — to turn their lives around. That’s particularly challenging considering two out of every three felons is rearrested within three years. It’s a difficult task, but she’s successfully influencing this community with a variety of businesses and residential programmes.

Howard Markman

Howard serves as the co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver. He’s taking on the challenge of helping people maintain their relationships. He strives to help people who are unhappy in relationships start to enjoy each other’s company again. His goal is to help them establish a stable relationship so they don’t get divorced. It’s another tough challenge, but his influence strategy is effective.

Dr. Wiwat Rajanapithayakorn

Dr. Wiwat works with the Thai Ministry of Public Health to stop the rampant spread of HIV in Thailand. Back in the 1990s, the numbers were increasing at an alarming rate. Thailand was predicted to be a country with one of the tops AIDS rates in the world. But that never happened — largely due to Dr. Wiwat’s influence strategy.

Focus on Behaviour

What did they do to be so effective?

They all focused on behaviours — behaviours that drive results. They are universally firm on the idea that before they can figure out an effective influence strategy, they have to identify the behaviour that needs to change.

We often mistakenly think about results or outcomes and miss the behaviours that drive the results.

When Dr. Wiwat first undertook the challenge of stopping AIDS in Thailand, his training led him to believe the epidemic was an education problem. People need more information. His advisors, who’d been working on the problem (unsuccessfully) for years, agreed, “Yes! People need more education!”

But Dr. Wiwat realised education wasn’t the solution. People needed to know what to DO differently. They needed to focus on changing behaviours.

How YOU Can Focus on Behaviours

We make the same mistakes when we’re thinking about our own influence strategies.

Take weight loss for example. You say, “I want to lose some weight!” or “I want to burn more calories than I consume!” This is what you want to happen — not how you’re going to do it. You’re still focusing on results when you need to focus on behaviour. How are you going to lose weight? What are you going to do differently every day to achieve that goal?

We fall into the same trap in the workplace. In an effort to solve our problems, we say things like:

“We need to launch a new product line!”

“We need to bring a new leadership team!”

“We need to restructure our company”

Again, these are results. We need to focus on behaviour.

At work, you may ask these questions to concentrate on behaviour:

Are people speaking up when they see project plans develop that are not realistic?

Are we starting our meetings on time?

As you aim to influence, focus on more than the goal. Ask yourself, “What are we doing? What behaviours need to change?”

We can’t just aim our camera in the right general direction and think we’ll get the perfect photo we imagined. We need to switch to a “manual focus” and choose to focus on behaviours that drive results. When we choose what we concentrate on, we get the results we want.

What are those behaviours? Check in next week to learn more about how these master influencers used specific behaviours to drive major change… and how you can too.

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