Do Leaders Focus on Results or People?

A while back (December 2013), the Harvard Business Review had an article on the subject of leaders and results-focus vs. people-focus. The verdict is you need to focus on both results and people. But we knew that, right? The trick is figuring out how to do that.

How you do that is in communications – more specifically, by using productive conversations. But we knew that too, didn’t we?

For a focus on results, build your strengths in using Performance conversations. Practice making effective requests and promises, and then use those to establish good agreements with people for what each of you will do or produce.

For a focus on people, improve your ability to have Understanding conversations. Practice having dialogues where you ask other people for input about a particular task or project, and use the feedback to revise the task or project goals, measures, and responsibilities. Hint: it requires listening and validating their responses by using them.

To strengthen both of these focuses, practice gaining mastery in Closure conversations:

  • Acknowledge the facts of the matter – what were the agreements you both made for results and timelines, and what actually happened?
  • Appreciate the people – what do they bring to the project that you see is particularly valuable?
  • Apologize for mistakes or misunderstandings – take responsibility for things that were left unclear or didn’t work for some reason.
  • Amend broken agreements – clean up the past, including what didn’t work, and make fresh agreements that you have confidence will work now.

The mysteries of leadership and management are not solved by listing the traits and characteristics you need. The solution is in practicing ways of doing the things that have been demonstrated to be effective. Saying “focus on results” or “focus on people” (or both) is not enough. We need to practice the conversations that will produce the focus we need.

To see the HBR article, go to

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