People Vs. Results: Why Leaders Need to Prioritize Both

Leaders at every level must be able to manage the tension between supporting their people and hitting their numbers. These 4 conversations can help.

Everyone wants to feel successful and valued in their job. 

In my leadership experience, people will run through a brick wall if they know you genuinely care about them as a person. They will put the organization ahead of their ego and stretch outside their comfort zone to reach goals. 

But all that goodwill collapses if we focus solely on output and results.

Prioritizing only the metrics makes people feel that their job is just a job.

If the only thing that matters is hitting arbitrary numbers, your A-players will check out.

The new term for it is “quiet quitting” but the lack of engagement is nothing new. I’d argue that quiet quitting is a symptom of poorly trained managers who are unable to balance business priorities with the human side of leadership. 

When people don’t feel cared about, they protect themselves. They pull away. Sometimes, they make the minimum effort to keep the job and pay the bills.

But this doesn’t have to happen in your organization.

You can train managers in both sides of the role, so that they can be more effective leaders and develop stronger, higher-performing teams.

Achieving big, audacious goals and prioritizing people may seem like a difficult balance — and it is. But it’s made easier if you communicate these four things with the people we lead:  

  1. Here’s where we’re going, how we’re getting there, and what your role is.
  2. I may not always have the answer.
  3. Temporary imbalances are different from a lack of balance.
  4. Is everything OK?   

What do I mean by each of these? That’s what we’ll explore in this article.

1. Where we’re going, how we’ll get there, and what your role is.

In a recent series, I outlined how you can build trust with the people you lead by establishing a vision and aligning the team toward that goal.

Each person we lead can answer three key questions:

  • Where are we going?
  • How are we getting there?
  • What is my role? 

When we understand what we’re working toward collectively, it’s easy to see that we’re all in it together. We know what part we’re each responsible for. The metrics make sense.

If someone has a personal challenge, the rest of the team is able to help you stay on track. That’s how you win as a team.

2. I may not always have the answer. 

We can show vulnerability to the people we lead by acknowledging that we don’t always have the answer. 

It’s okay to say, “I don’t know what to do here. I don’t know how to solve this issue, and I need your help.” 

Most often, the best answers come from the people on our team. When you seek insights from those you lead, they are empowered. They know you genuinely care about what they have to say. They’re encouraged to collaborate on the solutions.

3. Temporary imbalances are different from a lack of balance. 

Even when you’re able to prioritize both humans vs metrics, there will be times of imbalance. 

You might be driving toward results that will make or break the company. Your team members might be carrying a heavier workload to cover for someone who’s lost a loved one. 

You’ll have days, a week, maybe even a month, of intensity.

In cases such as these, I would pull my team together and say:

“We need to be laser-focused on results. We have no wiggle room. How can we do it together? I’m under pressure, so please give me some grace. But also let me know if I’m out of line.”

It all comes down to transparent, honest communication. We’re going to have times when we need to push harder to reach our business goals. If you’ve genuinely shown you care about your people, they’re more likely to stick by your side during these times. 

And if there always seems to be an imbalance? You’ve got a problem. Take a step back and figure out what you need to adjust.

4. Is everything OK? 

Finally, when things get off track, remember that we’re humans managing humans.

If someone you manage is underperforming, have a conversation with them: 

“We are not hitting our numbers. I know you’re capable, but you seem to be struggling. Is everything OK? Is there something going that I need to know about so I can help?”

Often, people open up and you’re able to help them get the support, training, or resources they need.

We’ll always achieve more as a team.   

When we are singularly focused on results, the responsibility also falls on us to identify how to achieve those results and we risk becoming task masters.

But when we build our teams with a balanced focus on driving results and investing in our people, they step up and collaborate. We have more diversity in ideas and solutions. A more engaged and empowered team.

And yes, better results. 

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