Articles

March 2022 – Question Of The Month

March 25, 2022 - By Wendy Lambourne, Director, MA Industrial and Organisation Psychology, Registered Psychologist with SA Medical & Dental Council

Question: What is the fundamental shift in focus required from management in order to achieve better results?

 Answer: That excellent results can only be produced by excellent people – be they mountaineers, athletes or employees – is common sense. So too is the notion that the best route to sustainable organisational excellence is the relentless pursuit of human excellence in all those in the organisation.

But following through on this understanding is not easy. This is because it requires people to do something which feels absolutely counter-intuitive. For those in the business’s front line it requires a shift in the focus of their attention from what they want to “get” (the desired result) to what they should “give” to effect excellence in the task in front of them.

It requires them to take yet a further step back from the results. That is, to take their eyes off the results and put their attention on their people. It requires them to focus on giving their people what they need (Means, Ability and Accountability) to excel at the task and ultimately to realise the very best in themselves.

Generally, the focus of management’s attention is largely on the result. A minority of the effort goes into defining the actions (by people) which will achieve the desired results. Even less time is given to determining and delivering the leadership actions which will enable people to perform the actions which will deliver the result.

When the results are not forthcoming, the typical management response is to increase the pressure/demand for the desired results as well as the frequency and detail of reporting up the line on the results. As one client said, “We are so busy forecasting and reporting on sales that we can’t get out to our clients to understand their needs and convince them of how we can help them address those needs.”
Legitimate Leadership does not advocate an abandonment of goals/targets and scoreboards. On the contrary, we believe that goals (which are stretching but achievable) and a scoreboard (which informs those making a contribution what they need to do going forward to make a better contribution) are enabling of contribution.

We advocate making the setting and measuring/reporting of results only 20% of the focus. That leaves non-managers with 80% of their time to focus on task excellence and to realise the best in themselves. Just like an athlete who know that her real effort needs to go into making herself a better athlete and perfecting her game – not to determining who she wants to beat by how much and to tracking how she is doing against the competition.

Similarly, we believe that the people in leadership roles should spend their time primarily on defining the value-added contribution(s) which need to be made by whom to achieve the desired result, and then enabling their people to make those contributions.

Leaders, in short, need to dedicate themselves to the relentless pursuit of excellence in their people, not getting results out of them.

In any case they have far more control over that than they do over the result.
Ironically, by focusing on excellence in their people, they also increase the chances of realising a better result.

Wendy Lambourne
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