Effective leadership is a delicate balance between focusing on tasks and focusing on people. While it's important for leaders to drive results and achieve goals, they must also prioritize building relationships, inspiring their team, developing others, and showing empathy. However, the irony is that a focus on tasks can often come at the expense of a focus on people, which can ultimately deter success.
Today we will explore the importance of balancing task- and people-focus in leadership and provide practical examples of how leaders can achieve this balance.
The Dangers of Overemphasizing Task-Focus
Leaders who prioritize tasks over people often miss out on the opportunity to build strong relationships with their team members. This can lead to a lack of trust, low morale, and high turnover rates. When leaders are too focused on tasks, they may neglect to recognize their team's efforts, fail to provide necessary guidance and support, and overlook opportunities to develop their team's skills. This not only harms the team's productivity but also hinders the leader's ability to achieve their goals.
The Benefits of Balancing Task- and People-Focus
On the other hand, leaders who strike a balance between task- and people-focus are more likely to achieve long-term success. By prioritizing both tasks and people, leaders can create a positive work environment that fosters collaboration, innovation, and productivity. When leaders take the time to build relationships with their team members, they can better understand their strengths, weaknesses, and motivations. This allows them to assign tasks that play to each team member's strengths, leading to better results and higher job satisfaction.
Practical Examples of Balancing Task- and People-Focus
So, how can leaders balance their focus on tasks with their focus on people? Here are some practical examples:
a. Be Present and Engaged: Leaders who are present and engaged with their team members are more likely to build strong relationships and create a positive work environment. This means being available to answer questions, provide feedback, and offer guidance when needed. Leaders who are present and engaged also demonstrate that they value their team members' time and contributions.
b. Prioritize Feedback and Recognition: Providing regular feedback and recognition is an effective way to show team members that their efforts are valued and appreciated. Leaders who take the time to recognize their team's achievements and provide constructive feedback can boost morale and motivation. This doesn't have to be a time-consuming process; a simple "thank you" or acknowledgement can go a long way in making team members feel seen and heard.
c. Empower Team Members: Leaders who empower their team members to take ownership of their work and make decisions are more likely to build trust and confidence. By providing opportunities for team members to learn and grow, leaders can develop their skills and increase their engagement. This not only benefits the team but also allows leaders to focus on higher-level tasks and strategic planning.
d. Take a People-First Approach: Leaders who take a people-first approach prioritize their team members' well-being and personal development. This means considering the impact of their decisions on their team and being willing to adjust their approach when necessary. Leaders who prioritize their team's well-being create a positive work environment that fosters collaboration, creativity, and productivity.
Balancing task- and people-focus is essential for effective leadership. While tasks are important for achieving goals and driving results, leaders must also prioritize building relationships, inspiring their team, developing others, and showing empathy. By being present and engaged, prioritizing feedback and recognition, empowering team members, and taking a people-first approach, leaders can create a positive work environment that fosters collaboration, innovation, and productivity. Remember, task-focus and achieving results are vital for success, but without a sufficient balance with people-focus, success will be limited at every level.
Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.