Okrs and future-directed communication: How to talk about the futre in a way that inspires and motivates

OKRs and Future-Directed Communication: How to Talk About the Future in a Way That Inspires and Motivates”

A lack of clarity in our communication, combined with a past orientation in how we address people and issues, are often culprits in not achieving our far-reaching goals.

OKRs are future-directed and best underpinned by future-directed, positive, motivational, and dialogue-based communication. How can we talk about the Future in a way that inspires and motivates? – Is a critical question to answer by taking action, as the sustainability and success of OKRs largely depend upon it.

It is a well-documented and researched fact that despite being well-trained and thinking they are excellent at coaching, most managers still tell people what to do. They cannot be blamed for this, as :

  1. It is natural to think that the quickest way to get to a result is to tell people what to do instead of having long conversations about what to do next.
  2. The command-control management style is an ingrained habit in many corporate cultures.

Read the following Harvard Business Review article on managers’ general style of communication and coaching:

A change in our approach to communication and mindset is required to be successful with OKRs in the long term. By its very nature, as stretch goals, OKRs are not easy to achieve. Therefore, the core need for innovation and collaboration lies at the heart of OKRs – Individuals, irrespective of their talent and skills, cannot achieve far-reaching strategic goals alone.

Be Curious with optimistic and confident intent.

There are two types of confidence that we can focus on in this regard:

  1. You can walk into a room, believe you can solve all problems, and have the answers to everything by yourself. This is called epistemic confidence.


  • You can walk into a room and believe, with absolute confidence, that you have the skill to facilitate, elicit, and discover the correct and collective answers from team members over time.

Option number two is way more likely to create an environment of trust and collaboration over time and lead to improved ‘OKR performance’.  The type of confidence alluded to in point two above is called social confidence. This can be built over time.

A good way to build social confidence is to arrive at meetings well-prepared with excellent questions that foster collaboration and have a positive intent. Keep the questions simple yet aligned to the OKRs that have been set:

It was an excellent start to this OKR as we wrote down the clear intent of what we wanted to achieve. How can we make this OKR more outcome-focused and add value to the customer?

How can I help?

I am very interested to know what you did to create momentum on this key result?

This was outstanding work; please tell me exactly how you achieved this.

We failed, but that’s great – failure is learning. What did we know? And what can we do differently?

OKRs and Future Directed communication

Most of us tend to harp on the past, which is understandable as this is a realistic reference point, and we do not know exactly what the future holds. However, references to the past are only beneficial when we use it as an opportunity to gain positive learnings from it. As OKRs are future-directed, it goes hand-in-hand with future-orientated communication.

An example of how we can transform past-orientated conversations into future-directed communication is:

Instead of ‘hammering on’ a team member’s past behavior’s that you have judged unproductive, you can ask – what would you like to be known for?

In the context of asking this question with positive and supportive intent, it can create a positive picture in the team members’ minds of a desired future state. The climate around the conversation will be more positive if well-constructed questions such as these are asked. It is likely more negative if we repetitively make statements about the team members’ past behavior’s.

Using future-directed communication during OKR-related meetings, such as town halls, check-ins and reviews, is likely to create a motivating climate around OKRs, especially when you, as a team, only refer to the past as a reference point for learning.

OKRs aligned to the company’s operationalized purpose, strategies and vision exist to create a desired future state for all stakeholders. One strong factor in making OKRs sustainable and successful is to ensure positive, transparent and future-directed communication. At the OKR Institute, we have created a communication model called: ‘ The Communication with an ROI model. This model has a future orientation that is a positive catalyst for OKR Performance. You can receive an immersive experience of this practical and ‘easy to adopt’ model by joining our OKR Institute, OKR Leader course.

Join here:

OKR Leadership Course

Talent Development Director of the OKR Institute