One of the more successful strategies I have seen managers take in their organizations has been shifting their focus from managing the process to managing for outcomes. In the age of employee empowerment one of the best ways to allow your team to feel like they have a say in the work is to allow them some flexibility in the process and approach provided that they are able to deliver the desired outcomes and meet the organizational targets.
The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it. Theodore Roosevelt
I would suggest that the act of simply managing for outcomes isn’t enough in the current corporate environment. Setting goals and offering some flexibility in the process and approach is more effective than micro-managing every step of the work and is an improvement over older management science but if you retain the concept of managing in the approach you won’t achieve the full potential of the organization.
I have specifically titled this post Leading to Outcomes because the component that is missed if you think of it as managing for outcomes is the concept of human leadership. I will talk about the need to foster diversity in your teams in a future post, but the short version is that your team won’t (shouldn’t) be made up of completely similar people who will work together and follow the same approach to get to the outcome you have requested. As a result they won’t all be motivated to deliver outcomes in the same way.
Human Leadership is the differentiator that makes an outcome based approach really powerful. I define human leadership by the following characteristics:
- Genuine curiosity and caring about the individuals on the team including their personal interests and pursuits, family, priorities, hobbies, etc.
- Willingness to adapt expectations and approach to meet the needs of every single individual contributor on the team
- Ability to align goals and success criteria as well as rewards to what is relevant to the individual team members – what works for one person may not be motivating to another
- Ongoing dialog focused not on the work or the outcome but on how aligned each individual feels to achieving those goals and objectives
The word ‘managing‘ to me connotes processes, reports, KPIs, measurements, and business results. All of those are table stakes in today’s business environment and can’t be forgotten or left behind, but the art of managing is only the entry point to what is needed in today’s organizations.
Leadership on the other hand is the ability to manage plus build trust, excite employees, align people to the vision, connect to personal priorities, and build a strong culture and team of people who will go above and beyond for their teammates and the organization.
Managers can create short-term results, but leaders deliver stronger results in the short term and build a long-term competitive advantage for their organizations.
In addition to the performance improvements you will see in the short term by genuinely applying human leadership in your organization, in the long term you will also begin to see advantages like:
People will see the strong culture and individual focus and want to join your team. If there is a choice between a human focused leader with a strong team culture and a manager with good results, people will typically choose the leader.
As your team becomes more engaged and aligned to the goals of the organization they will be more interested in finding new and better ways to achieve the vision. Creativity comes from engagement.
- Brand and Customer Image
Simon Sinek says it best: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” If you have a strong culture and a team who believes in the vision and the human values that drive that vision it will show through to your customers and create lasting brand value.
Managing for outcomes will improve your performance in a competitive market in the short term.
Leading to outcomes will create a lasting competitive advantage for your organization.
Tim Empringham, MBA
Tim Empringham is a passionate advocate for Innovation in organizations of all sizes as a mechanism to drive growth, create uncontested market space, create new customer value, and drive efficiency into the internal organization. His focus is on disruption of thinking and markets through integrative thinking, structured Innovation frameworks, and leadership development of Innovation and Change leaders within the organization.