Balancing People & Results

How effective are your leaders in finding the right balance between people and results? Leaders often fall into two camps: the results-oriented manager focuses on problem-solving and outcomes, and the people-oriented manager focuses on relationships, and ensuring team members are engaged and fulfilled in their work.

There’s often a debate about what type of person makes a better leader: the results-focused leader or the people-focused type. And, here’s the surprising answer, backed by research—neither.

Analytical vs. Social Leaders

A well-known study by Jack Zenger polled over 60,000 employees to see which leadership characteristics made leaders “great” in the eyes of their employees. He looked at two leadership characteristics —the more analytical “results-focus” and the more social “people-focus” — and found that neither consistently produced great leadership.

The survey revealed that the execs who were perceived to be results-focused had only a 14% chance of being seen as great leaders. And those social people-focused leaders who ranked high in communication and empathy fared about the same, with only a 12% chance of being viewed as great leaders. However, the ones who brought together the two characteristics saw the likelihood of being perceived as a great leader skyrocket to a whopping 72%.

In short, managing too closely to one side or the other can negatively impact how a leader is perceived by their direct reports.

Putting Leadership into Balance

Here at The Roundtable, we use a lot of the tools, assessments and research from our partner, MRG (Management Research Group). From MRG’s research, fewer than 5% of leaders effectively balance both the rational brain and the social/emotional brain. So, what can L&D pros do to help organizational leaders embody both the task-focused side of their role as well as the social people-oriented side? In our work with group coaching, we know that there are three key factors to helping to change behaviours to create more balanced leaders.

1. Psychological Safety

In order to move from our “heroic” model of command-and-control leadership to a balanced leadership model, organizations will have to double down on cultivating psychological safety. Vulnerability enables growth and the future of our organizations will depend on leaders and teams being able to lean in and support each other as expectations and demands increase.

2. White Space for Reflection

In our VUCA, hustle-and-bustle work environment, it seems everyone is stressed out, overwhelmed and under-supported. There’s simply no time for reflection. Deepening our understanding of self and our internal motivators and how our leadership style impacts others is the true key to unlocking our own potential and the potential of those around us. When L&D can support leaders in building self-awareness, they can better balance both the results and the people aspects of their job.

3. Support and Accountability

Behaviour change doesn’t happen overnight. It takes support and accountability. While 1-to-1 coaching will always have a place in helping to develop leadership skills, our experience has proven that a group coaching scenario has support and accountability baked in. In a group coaching environment, leaders outline their challenges, ask questions and offer up thoughtful feedback and support in a way that allows each person to ultimately find their own answers. And, the group keeps each other accountable as they build their skills.

If you’re curious about how The Roundtable can help your organization develop a culture where leaders can support each other through coaching and mentoring, let’s start a conversation.  And, be sure to download our 2022 L&D Trends Report for more insights into the issues affecting L&D professionals in the year ahead.

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