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By Ian Munro, director, Legitimate Leadership.

QUESTION OF THE MONTH:  Legitimate Leadership say we need to move from being a results-driven business to being a people-driven business?”

ANSWER: Many people think that Legitimate Leadership says that in order to succeed a business needs to move from being results-driven to being people-driven.

But we do not say this. Sustained success isn’t about committing to results or to people; it’s about committing to excellence.

The standard defence of a single-minded focus on results is, “We aren’t here to make friends. This is business. We’re here to deliver. And delivering means getting results.”

All of this seems true, but it doesn’t work because it doesn’t deliver excellence and value-add to the customer, and therefore is not sustainable.

Initially, a focus on the results will produce an upward curve. The job is getting done and only people in the business who do things to get the results are tolerated.

But pressure to sustain and get the result starts to show. External competition means that we become increasingly reactive in our actions and our decisions. Previously we weren’t competing with anyone; we were just giving it our best.

Internal and external turf wars develop and trust declines. There is increased accountability for output, and we worry less about accountability for input.

Stretch becomes stress. Results tend to flatline.

Strategy is unlikely to address the real problem, which is that people don’t want to be there.

In fact, in being mostly concerned with what we can get out of people, we have created a culture of taking, and by implication we have turned those around us into takers.

So, to cure this, presumably we should focus on people … right? Because when we have this focus performance goes up … correct?

No, when we have a focus only on people, with no concern for the results that they produce, we get a similar pattern.

Again we start with the energy to conquer the world. This results in collaboration and purpose, and together these drive performance. We attract talented people.

Actually, at this stage we attract both givers and takers – but we don’t make any distinction between the two.

Out of concern for everyone’s feelings, we give them lots of positive feedback. But we are diluting the real feedback which would grow, develop and encourage a culture of excellence. And some people start to abuse this because they are not confronted on these things.

Performance starts to drop. Soon the people who are doing a good job experience increased workload and strain because the work shifts to them. Those people soon don’t want to be there.

Customers start to wonder why they are now experiencing mediocre service.

Finally, there is financial underperformance, restructuring and redundancy.

So, to revert to the question, we must obviously balance our focus on people and results … right?

No, what is needed is a single-minded focus on excellence! Our answer is that businesses should focus on both of these things (people, and the results they produce) at the same time. Not in terms of what we are taking from them, but in terms of what we are giving to them. It is AND, not OR, and it is what leads to excellence.

I give X this task because I genuinely want her to be excellent at it and I’m offering my help because I genuinely want to help her. And I’m saying ‘you can do it yourself’ because I genuinely want her to learn. I’m not doing it so that I can get something out of her. I’m doing it so that she can become a better software writer/rider of a bike – so that she can one day win the Tour de France.

When we increase excellence in the person, what happens to the result? Does it fall away?

No, other things being equal, the result also goes up.