Understanding Process and Outcome

If I had to select one concept that is most important for performers to understand to achieve sustainable excellence, it would be grasping the relationship between process and outcome.

We are trained by our companies, coaches and society to focus on outcomes. Did you win or lose the game? Did you win or lose the election? Did you beat earnings expectations? Did you take market share from your competitor this year? These are a few of the outcomes performers are judged on. As a result, their mindset becomes focused on the outcome of their form of competition. In companies, this is at the heart of the major ethical, legal and moral pitfalls that destroy organizations and lives. If the focus is purely on the outcome, some people will do whatever it takes to achieve it.

In sports, outcome focus results in choking. Losing a game does not mean a performer choked. If you’re competing at the highest level of your craft, you will not win every contest. The competition is simply too strong. Choking results when the athlete becomes distracted from the task at hand and thinks about winning or losing while they are competing. If a basketball player misses a free throw at the end of a game and his/her team loses, he/she would not have choked if they went through a complete pre-shot routine, visualized the ball going through the net and confidently shot–expecting the ball to go in. If the athlete did all those things it would be a physical error rather than choking if the free throw was missed. However, if the athlete had thoughts like “I hope I make this free throw,” “I don’t want to let my team down,” or “If I don’t make this we lose the game,” that would be choking. The player choked because he/she focused on the outcome rather than the task at hand of completing a normal pre-shot routine and making the free throw.

In great performance organizations, teams and individuals there is actually a paradoxical relationship between process and outcome. Sustainable excellence is a process, approach, philosophy and discipline. If you remain focused on the process of achieving excellence, the outcomes will take care of themselves. That is the nature of the paradox. You will win more often, make more money and consistently beat your competition by focusing on the process of becoming and remaining excellent.  If you focus on the outcomes rather than the process, you will cause undue stress, pressure and perhaps encourage unethical behavior.

Stay focused on the process and let the outcomes take care of themselves. You’ll be amazed at the results you and your organization will achieve by adopting this philosophy!

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