The purpose of a leader in an organization is to help it to achieve the results they set up as the reason for its existence.
Results that consists not only of financial gain but also other objectives that the organization pursue in the direction of their vision and mission, like market positioning, technical leadership, talent attraction and retention, support for the community, or respect for the environment, among many others.
Some of the results are needed at the short-term; some others are targeted to a later point in time in the future.
And all of them have to be handled on a day-by-day, moment-by-moment basis, with different urgency and pressure for the teams to deliver.
So, the activities we run on a daily basis can be categorized as urgent or important.
Urgent activities being the ones that have to take priority among many others because they may have high short-term impact. But it doesn’t mean they are important for the organization.
Important activities being the ones that will impact the future of the organization (it’s mission, vision and strategy) if not handled properly, and on time.
Long-term success is more related to ‘how’ the different teams deal with daily activities and interactions than ‘what’ they actually achieve every day.
Many leaders and managers are so focused on delivering short-term results, that they constantly focus on what their teams achieve today, this month, this quarter, not paying any attention to how they specifically achieved that.
Did their teams get very good results through full cooperation, personal respect, and open and honest interactions, or, on the contrary, they did it through force positioning, micro-management, fear and individualistic actions while straining the personal relationships?
Many leaders and managers fall into the tyranny of the what: it’s more important the what than the how.
No matter how their teams achieve good results, this is welcome and recognized. They prioritize a short-term success over a medium or long-term potential for sustained better results.
I’m not advocating forgetting about sort-term results. We have to deliver to our Customers what we promised, we have to deliver to our shareholders what they expect from us, we have to deliver to our employees and community what we promised in our vision and mission.
How could you, as a leader, ensure that you are both meeting short-term requirements while not jeopardizing future better results?
How could you avoid submitting yourself to the tyranny of the what?
By paying attention to the quality of the conversations in your organization.
If you step in any meeting, if you overhear any personal interaction in an organization, and you pay attention at the way the different individuals and teams
Listen to each other
Share their points of view
Ask for other’s opinions
Look for constructive feedback
Offer their support to those in trouble
Accept the team’s agreements
in summary, if you pay attention to the quality of the conversations, you will be able to predict the level of results the organization is ready to achieve.
And yet, so many leaders and managers fall into the trap of the tyranny of the what, finding it easier to ‘push’ for short-term results using their position of power, rather than developing the right environment for their teams to grow and preparing them for a higher level of results.
But this requires hard-work from the side of the leader.
It requires giving up their power position, it requires vulnerability, it requires developing their own leadership skills, it requires recognizing that they may not be right, and that they are also in a process of development themselves.
And this, it’s a hard pill to swallow for many leaders, managers or supervisors.
If you want to achieve better results, start paying attention to the quality of the conversations in your organization, and commit to start taking actions to improve that quality.
Your good results will, inevitably, follow.