Dear Dave:The managers at my company have different opinions about how to achieve results. Some say you should focus on the work, production and productivity and the desired outcomes will be achieved, while others believe that you should focus on the employees and their attitudes and they will bring you the results you need. Which is better? —P
Dear P:The answer is … both. It's not a matter of performance or people, it's a matter of staff focus and a concern for results. Sadly, some leaders focus on neither. But, the best leaders produce engaged, happy and well-trained employees, who can produce the results needed.
A study done in 2009 by management theorist, James Zenger bears this out. He surveyed 60,000 employees to identify how different characteristics of a leader combine to affect employee perceptions of whether the boss is a "great" leader or not. Two of the characteristics that Zenger examined were results focus and social skills.
Zenger found that if a leader was seen as being very strong on only a results focus, the chance of that leader being seen as a great leader was only 14 percent. He also found that if a leader was strong only on social skills, he or she was seen as a great leader even less of the time — a petty 12 percent.
Here's the biggie! The leaders who were strong in both results focus and in social skills, the likelihood of being seen as a great leader was astounding -- 72 percent. Clearly, leaders who focus on both the tasks and the people doing them will have the greatest success.
So, what exactly is the concern for people and concern for production (results) all about? It's important to note that managers tend to be more one than the other.
A concern for people is the degree to which a leader considers the needs of team members, their interests, and areas of personal development when deciding how best to accomplish a task. A leader with a high concern for people also talks to his or her employees regularly and nurtures a bond, demonstrating respect and sincere caring for staff.
A concern for production is the degree to which a leader emphasizes goals, objectives, organizational efficiency, and maximized productivity when deciding how best to accomplish a task. This leader thrives on schedules, meeting goals, systems compliance, giving directions, and numbers.
Some leaders are very task-oriented (production); they simply want to get things done. Others are very people-oriented; they want people to be happy, empowered, and engaged. And others are a combination of the two. Again, sadly, some are neither.
Neither tendency is right or wrong, just as no one type of leadership style is best for all situations and all types of people. However, it's important to understand what your natural leadership tendencies are, so that you can then begin working on developing skills that you may be missing and to start integrating a concern for both tasks and the people into your everyday leadership style.
Unfortunately, employees are much more likely to be promoted to leadership positions, because of their technical competence and ability to be effective at the tasks related to job performance. We are thus promoting people who may lack the social and relationship-building skills needed to build teams and team bonds.
The solution to this problem lies in an integrated approach to the recruitment and hiring of leaders – or promotion of existing managers – who possess and demonstrate a balanced approach to leadership that meshes both a concern for people and a focus on productivity.