SUCCESSFUL business owners and managers need to be very clear about what outcomes they want.

Whether you call them goals, objectives or targets, these are the factors that you are ultimately judged on.

Outcomes determine whether your business is a success or a failure.

If you are an employed manager, you will find them in your job description or contract. And I am sure your boss will concentrate on them at your next performance review.

Outcomes are what you are paid to achieve.

Don't be distracted

Many business owners and managers allow themselves to be distracted and diverted from their outcomes. They get involved in all sorts of situations that take their "eye off the ball".

I regularly run a workshop for managers called Managing Your Priorities.

At the start of the workshop, I ask the managers to draw a map on a large sheet of flipchart paper of all the things they do in their job.

They almost inevitably fill that page with all sorts of tasks and activities.

I then ask them to identify and mark with a large cross their real priorities and the outcomes that they are ultimately judged on.

Out of all the tasks and activities on the page, they usually mark only five or six priorities and sometimes less.

What we do find, however, is that the priorities that they mark are not allocated the time they deserve on a day-to-day basis.

The managers will often blame their senior manager for many of the tasks that divert them from their priorities, which is perfectly fair.

However, there are many tasks that the managers take on because:

* They don't like to say "no",

* They don't trust anyone else to do it, or

* They just "like" to do it themselves.

I then spend time in the workshop showing the managers how to communicate with their senior manager and their other colleagues to minimise the number of tasks that do not contribute to their outcomes.

Many managers fall into the trap of believing that their boss will understand why they have not hit their target or quota.

They seem to think that because the senior manager has handed out all sorts of other tasks, then he will accept their failure to achieve their targets.

Well, let me tell you now -- he won't! The successful boss is very focused on outcomes and does not allow anyone or anything to divert him without good reason.

Help your team to focus

It is also important to focus on outcomes as far as your team members are concerned.

Sometimes, the people in your team will be only too happy to do other little jobs and tasks that you ask them to do.

I have had sales staff who say: "Oh, I'll deliver that to the customer, it's on my way."

Customer service people will say: "I'll go and talk to distribution or finance department about that."

As their supervisor, you have to keep asking yourself the question: "Is what they're doing helping me to achieve my outcomes?"

If the answer is "no", then do not let them do it.

Make it clear to your team what the outcomes are and do not concern yourself too much about how they get there. Now, that does not mean that you encourage a salesman to get a sale at any cost.

Your people may not do a job the way you would do it, but that does not necessarily mean it is wrong.

I checked into a hotel recently, and as I signed the paperwork, the bubbly receptionist complimented me on my cologne. She asked what kind it was so that she might buy some for her boyfriend.

Now, I know this hotel chain, and this is not part of the welcome speech. I also know that some managers would discourage this level of familiarity between staff and customers.

But as a customer, I loved it -- she certainly brightened my day. Her response was far better than some of the robotic greetings you get from most receptionists at major hotel chains.

This receptionist had made me a happy customer, and if I owned this hotel, that is an outcome I would want.

The successful manager defines the outcomes to the team and then lets each person find his way of getting there.

That does not mean you walk away or have no idea what is going on.

You need to be constantly out there with the team -- watching, listening and supporting what they are doing.

However, do not control your team's activities and get the members to do things the way you want them done because that is extremely stressful.

You might end up de-motivating the team, and then it will be much harder to achieve your outcomes.

I believe that two characteristics of successful business owners and managers are:

* They get the job done, and

* They do it in the easiest and least stressful way.