Do you find yourself unable to consistently get or replicate your desired results—especially when it comes to building relationships? While many inputs (behaviors, actions, words) contribute to relationship effectiveness, identifying the right inputs can make all the difference.
A friend of mine, Deb, needed to change an input with her 7-year old son, Dylan, who had a habit of forgetting his shoes. As Deb readied herself for work and to drive Dylan to school each morning, she would ask Dylan if he had everything he needed for the day. He would dutifully reply yes while making his way to the car. Occasionally, when Deb would drive up to the curb to drop Dylan off, she’d hear him announce that he’d forgotten his shoes. Frustrated and angry, she’d chastise him, drive back to the house to grab the missing footwear, then deliver her tardy child back to school. This routine happened enough that Deb knew she needed to figure out a way to solve the problem—for good. With the benefit of hindsight, Deb used a five-step process we can all apply to Align Inputs with Outputs.
- Clearly describe the output you want. (Deb wants Dylan to have his shoes on before she drives him to school. But more importantly, the output she wants long-term is to rear a child who is responsible, self-motivated, and in time, capable of taking care of himself.).
- Assess the current reality. (Dylan remembers his shoes sporadically which causes Deb frustration and makes them both late.)
- Examine the inputs. (Deb prompts Dylan to remember his shoes, chastises him for forgetting them, then drives home to get his shoes for him. None of these inputs achieves the outputs she wants.)
- Choose a new input you think will most likely achieve the desired output. (Deb decides to allow Dylan to experience the natural consequences of forgetting his shoes. The next time he announces he’s forgotten his shoes, she says patiently, “That’s okay. I guess you’ll just need to go to school without them. You can stay indoors during recess if you want. I’ll pick you up at the end of the day.)
- Analyze the result. (As you can imagine, Dylan is unpleasantly surprised and very unhappy about wearing socks to his second-grade class. But the next day, he remembers his shoes—and never forgets them again!)
By changing a single input, not only did Deb help move her son toward the kind of independence she wanted him to achieve, but she saved herself from a ton of anxiety in the process. She discovered how to align the right input with the desired output.
The next time you’re struggling to achieve your desired result—especially in the area of relationships—try applying these five steps again and again until you identify the inputs that work.