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CW 49: Christy Cunningham

Looking for a competitive edge? Nope, you’re not going to find it in the shiny new sales/marketing “toy.” In this episode, Christy Cunningham breaks down the power of three types of goals – Process, Performance, and Outcome to unleash achievement and catalyze motivation.

Hello and welcome to Bridge The Gap Contributor Wednesday, I’m Christy Cunningham. And every month on the fourth Wednesday of each month, we’re talking senior living sales and marketing. So if you’re new to the Bridge The Gap Contributor Wednesday series, and you haven’t heard any of my previous shows or any of the shows from the other three contributors, I encourage you to go back, tune in, join the discussion. There’s some really great inspiration and ideas in those episodes that you aren’t going to want to miss. So with that being said, it is April, which just feels crazy to say. We are just swimming along in this year. And in this week’s episode, I want to talk about something that might feel a little counterintuitive. You see we’re all out there trying to gain this competitive edge. And for those of us that have been around for a while, we’re seeking the new shiny, interesting different ideas, the stuff that nobody else is doing yet, the technology nobody else has really been able to incorporate, because we think that’s where that differentiated performance is going to be.


That’s how we think we’re going to beat our competitors. Interestingly enough, some of my favorite discussions that I’ve had lately have all revolved around quite the opposite. Which is that while everybody might be focused on the new shiny thing in the room, what really is driving performance are the fundamentals. The boring stuff. The stuff that we’ve been kind of doing for a long time, you know, the fundamentals of building relationships, of attracting people to our websites. You know, some of those fundamentals really haven’t changed. And if we’re missing on those fundamentals, then our attempts to seek that new shiny, exciting thing, sacrifice even more of the customer experience than we realize. And it actually has a pretty negative effect on performance. So when I talk fundamentals, you know, there’s so many different areas that I could have focused on, but there’s one area in particular that I thought was worthy of a podcast.


And that was goal setting goal setting. So don’t roll your eyes. Don’t assume that, you know what I’m going to say. Because what’s interesting is where we might have had some training or some exposure to goal setting in our past. The reality is, and this is a quote that I’m stealing from a friend, if we were really great at setting goals, then we would be achieving them a lot more often than we do in senior living. And I thought that was such a great way of putting it because we don’t always set great goals. And it shows. It shows when we are so focused on the outcome, meaning maybe occupancy, that we are flailing to come up with any idea. Every week, every day, we’re rolling out new things. Do this, not that. Do this, instead of that. Try this now, what about this?


And when that gets so crazy, it’s a big symptom that we don’t really have a great goal yet. We might have an outcome that we’re seeking, but that’s not the same thing as having a goal. The other symptom of not having really great goals are being micro micro-measurer, if you will. So what do I mean by that? I mean, being so consumed with the outcome that you’re looking for any little clue and feedback in moment to moment data, moment to moment performance, to help you determine if you’re going to reach that outcome. And what’s wrong with that? I mean, Christy, you’ve talked about being data oriented before and using data to make informed decisions, strategic decisions. Yes. The problem is that there is a pendulum that can swing too far. And when you get so focused on micro measurement, what happens is that there is a natural fluctuation in very narrow time spans of like days and even weeks that happens. Results don’t always come evenly.


So when those fluctuations happen and you’re so focused on, what does this fluctuation mean? That what often happens is that you jump into changes in behavior. Or you jump into changing your processes in a way that actually prevents you from harvesting the results that your behavior and processes could have given you. So that lack of discipline in staying on point with the process actually drives you away from the outcome that you’re seeking. So a good example of this outside of the senior living space is weight loss. So let’s imagine that you had a goal to lose 10 pounds, and that’s your outcome. You want to be 10 pounds lighter, fit into your size X, you know, whatever that is, jeans or whatever. Well micro measurement might look like in that scenario, that you are weighing yourself six times a day and watching your weight in the morning and Oh, I’m below my weight target, well great! I’m going to go have a really big breakfast! 


Then you go have a really big breakfast and you weigh yourself. And, Oh my gosh, now I’m two pounds over. So what do you do? You retract from that and you say, Oh my gosh, I’m not going to eat anything for the afternoon. Or you have a glass of water, and now you’re up a pound. And now you’re completely discouraged because, Oh my goodness, I’m so over my weight, and each of those micro measurements really change is your behavior to the point that in the long run, you’re not staying true to the process and to the discipline that’s going to give you the results that you want. And often people aren’t very successful doing that. So you want to think about sales and marketing in the same way.


If you’re micro measuring yourself, and you’re trying to read so much into each moment of data that you could be hyper changing your behavior and processes in a way that isn’t going to give you the outcome that you’re really seeking. So I bring this up because often when I’m speaking with folks and we’re talking about, Hey, what are your goals? What I generally hear are goals that are outcome focused. I want to be 90% occupied. I want to have X number of move-ins. And where those are incredibly important, and we need to know where we’re going, and we need to know what we ultimately have to achieve, the unfortunate truth is that just by focusing on those outcomes alone isn’t going to get you to where you want to be. Outcome oriented goals are multi-faceted. There are lots factors that go into whether or not you achieve them. Some are within your control and many are not in your control.


So how do we then achieve the outcome that we want? Because it’s going to be hard to say to our CEO or to our investment group, Hey, we’ve decided that we’re not going to focus on an occupancy number. That might be really important to everybody. And instead, we’re going to focus on something else. That might feel really scary. So how do we make the shift into maybe a different way of thinking, but something that’s actually going to drive us to hit those goals? So the first thing is knowing that, A. it’s important to have an outcome that you’re seeking. That vision or ultimate kind of win or lose has to be out there. That gives you your sense of direction as to where are we going and why are we getting there? But if you stop there, that’s where the problem is. What we need to do then is drill down even further.


And there are two other types of goals that I want us to think about that are going to be more within our span of control and help us drive to those outcomes. The first type of goals are process goals. Process goals are action oriented. They’re 100% in the span of control of you or whoever it is that’s the primary person with responsibility, maybe in sales. So I’m going to use sales as an example, like the sales director at the community level. Process goals are specific actions that they have control over. So this might mean I’m going to use my inquiry form with every single inquiry. Or I’m going to do that post tour, ED follow-up after every single tour. I’m going to spend 30 minutes pre-planning every single tour that walks in the door. So these are things, these are behaviors and actions that are 100% in our span of control.


And if we align those processes, those specific actions to what is going to give us that outcome, what gives us the best chance of reaching that outcome that helps us optimize our ability to get to that outcome. So focusing on exactly our behavior, what we can control, what is our process, and setting goals related to that process. Speaking them out loud, writing them on a piece of paper, being accountable every week or day for ourselves, for our own sake to are we hitting those process oriented goals? They’re really important. Okay. The next type of goal is a performance goal. So these are sort of personal standards, personal targets that you might set, that it might be like more cumulative in nature. They’re still mostly under our span of control, but we might start to get into some other factors that affect us. So what do I mean by a performance goal?


I might mean an overall productivity goal. My standard performance might be 200, we’ll say call-outs, but my performance goal, I want to set a little bit higher. I’m going to set it at 250. Or it might be a tour to move in conversion ratio, or for those of you in marketing, an inquiry to move in conversion ratio. Maybe a total total number of inquiries that you’re driving in from a particular source. So these performance goals are based on your personal standards. And they’re kind of looking a little bit bigger picture. They’re still mostly in your span of control, but at this level of performance, there are things that can affect your ability to hit these goals. You might have your boss call you and tell you that they need your energy on a whole different project, which throws off some of your ability to reach some of your productivity goals. 


Or you might have something cataclysmic, like, I don’t know, a global pandemic that affects how people are shopping for senior living and this and how some of your performance goals can be achieved in the moment. So we have some things that can affect those performance goals, despite our very best efforts, but they’re still largely in our span of control. So you think about these three types of goals in a sort of a layered way, at the very kind of top or outer layer, you have the outcome goals. This is the big picture at the end of the game, did we win or lose? Those are the outcome goals. The next layer is your performance goals. Meaning what are those personal standards for performance that you’re going to set? Looking at more cumulative measures, still largely within your span of control.


And then in the center, or at the very bottom, it is going to be the process goal. Which are, what are the specific actions that you’re going to be taking this hour, this day, this week, this month, what are the specific actions that you’re going to be taking? And the goals around those actions that you can build to make sure that your process and your behavior is absolutely as well executed as possible? Maximum performance happens when you have goals set in each of these three areas. You need that ultimate vision of where you’re going. You need those cumulative markers that are going to tell you, Hey, am I on track? Am I hitting my personal standards? And then you need those every day actions that are keeping you on track in those micro moments. So often our goal setting doesn’t hit on each of these three areas, and that is going to hinder our performance.

Maximum performance is when you can get the momentum from having those three types of goals in alignment. So I bring this because I want to see us be successful. I want to see you being successful in your business. And whether you are a leader who may not be particularly strong in strategic goal setting, or even helping to drive performance in your buildings. And you’re struggling a little bit under the conditions to make some magic happen. Or perhaps you’re at the community level, and you’re not, you know, maybe you don’t have that leadership or you don’t, maybe the person in leadership isn’t helping you actually set goals that are meaningful and going to contribute to you ultimately getting the results that you want. No matter who you are or where you are, you have the power to hit the pause button on some of the reactiveness in your strategy if you’re feeling that way.


And get back to center and really think about what is the outcome that I need to hit? What is that ultimate win or lose? What are the key actions I can be taking today, every day, this moment, that are going to help me achieve that outcome? What are my personal standards for performance that I want to try to hit and write those things down. Set up those goals. It is far more easy to decide in that kind of moment, which shiny new toy that is out there that people are talking about is going to actually help you achieve maybe your performance goals, maybe your personal standards. It may be your outcomes, whatever it is, it’s going to be so much easier to determine what is going to actually help you when you are really clear about these three things: your process, your performance, and your outcome goals.


So no matter who you are, what level of the organization you’re in, it is 100% within your control to stop, shift your thinking, set yourself up with some goals, and be strategic about how you spend your time every single day, week, and month. So Tony Robbins, I’m a big fan of Tony Robbins. I know some folks out there are not. So I apologize if you fall into that camp, but Tony says setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible. Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible. For some of you, we need to get that occupancy number into the visible. We need to be able to show that number at the end of the year or the end of the quarter. Setting goals is the first step. And I know that this seems really basic and seems like something that well, duh, Christy, you’re not really bringing us anything, especially new and enlightening here. And I get that. 


We should all be really, really good at setting goals. But I go back to, if we were, then we’d be hitting them. Great goals are things that we’re hitting and we’re achieving and we’re rocking. Bad goals are stuff that isn’t realistic to begin with, or isn’t really based on any fact, or is solely focused on the outcome and misses everything within our control in between. So, because this is so basic, I think that’s why we avoid conversation about it because who wants to say like, Hey, I’m really bad at setting goals for my teams. Like no leader wants to say that. No person at the community level wants to say, well, I don’t know what I’m doing here. I don’t know why I’m doing it. No, like, we all have to act like we know what we’re doing.


And then we’re learning the hard way when we do things well or not so well, by whether or not we might achieve a goal or not. So this episode, it might be a friendly reminder. It might be a back to basics moment. And for some of you, it might actually be the start of educating yourself about goal setting. So no matter who you are, and how open you want to be about your strength in this area, my encouragement to you is go seek information. There is a lot more strategy out there in terms of goal setting than just the basic idea of a smart goal. There’s a lot more information out there. I intend to publish an article on my LinkedIn page this month, that is just going to give some ideas about 10 different ways that I might create different goals.


So kind of recipes for like, okay, how do I, in a data oriented way, arrive at a certain number? Like, how do I know if my performance goal, that personal standard is realistic? Like, how do I know what that number should be? Do I just make it up? Do I just guess? Well, there are some things that I do in some data-based ways that I look at information to kind of help me decide what goals might be realistic and achievable based on performance in a certain way. So I’ve got 10 actually different methods for doing that, that I’m going to publish to my LinkedIn page. So again, if you’d like to see that, or stock that article, please do it. I’m putting it out there because I know that there are people who need this information, but who are too afraid to say it and don’t want anyone to think less of them for needing it.


And I also know that you may not always have time for the research yourself. So, I hope that that’s helpful to you. You can find me on LinkedIn, I’m Christy Cunningham. I am the President and founder of Gusto Consulting. And, you should see me out there. I will be linked of course, on the Bridge The Gap LinkedIn page, to this podcast episode so you can find me that way as well. But you’ll clearly see on my LinkedIn page, an article that I’m posting about different methods for setting goals. So with that, it is a short episode this week, this month, but I hope that it’s been helpful for you in reconnecting to a core fundamental and giving you something else that you can be thinking about and doing in your every day and month and quarter to help you really achieve those desired outcomes that I know we’re all so motivated to hit right now. So best to you. This has been another great episode of Bridge The Gap Contributor Wednesday, I’m Christy Cunningham. Thank you so much for tuning in.


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CW 49: Christy Cunningham