I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that I tend to live my life focused on things that I need to do. And before I sold our moving and storage business, the things I usually focused on were Content items such as phone calls to make, parts to buy for our trucks, reports to complete, financial statements to review, etc.
The more these things stacked up, the quicker I wanted to handle them so I could get on with other things. These are the what items that I habitually focused on while often not slowing down long enough to adequately think about the how, or process, considerations.
In previous blog postings, we have discussed the need for both Process AND Content. We need both the How AND the What. It is not one OR the other.
And the difference between Process AND Content is:
Process vs. Content
We enhance relationships vs. We drive for results
The focus is on people vs. The focus is on things
We lead people vs. We manage things
It is how we say and do vs. What we say and do
So why don’t people pursue process as well as content?
Here is the problem: in our busy environment we tend to expediently pursue individual and departmental goals that are self-focused. It is very easy to slip into expediently fulfilling our own narrow needs without giving sufficient attention to the needs of others and how we might better fulfill the overall needs of the organization and its customers.
It’s natural for sales people to want to increase their sales. Similarly, manufacturing people want to reduce their costs, minimize the production of imperfect products, and eliminate lost-time accidents. Administrative people such as accountants and human resource staff members want to produce accurate records and minimize employee turnover, respectively.
It's easy to focus on results
In each of these pursuits the focus tends to be on quickly and successfully handling the content targets of our own specialties with insufficient attention being given to how our challenges and opportunities fit into the organization’s. Self-serving efforts to save a dollar might have two dollars worth of negative consequences on another department.
In other words, practicing “Ready, aim, fire!” should take precedence over “Fire, ready, aim!” Expedient, departmental-focused achievements can give quick results and produce a feeling of personal satisfaction at the expense of big-picture team effectiveness.
Many leaders make incorrect assumptions
The following are some other reasons why people don’t pursue process as well as content:
- A person who is bright, knowledgeable, dedicated, decisive, and dependable may also be understandably impatient and intolerant when dealing with others of average ability.
- A leader thinks they have to give up content to have more process. (By the way, this way of thinking is not correct. It is not either/or. To be the most effective leader it is both Process AND Content.)
- Some would question that participative leadership means running your organization as a democracy. (The answer is NO. As the leader you always have ultimate authority and responsibility for decisions and results.)
- Some would even think that it means creating consensus decisions among all members of your team. (This assumption is incorrect. Consensus decisions usually take forever to reach and yield diluted results.)
- Some would think that participative leadership is not always the right approach. (Maybe sometimes a Process-oriented strategy isn’t best, but it’s generally the most powerful approach a leader can take when driving for Results.)
There are many reasons that get in the way of leaders fully applying this principle of Process and Content. Anyone can, however, make conscious decisions to learn and leverage this powerful principle.
Are you daily caught up in the things of your life and business? What can you do to change how you say and do things to become the most effective leader?