The other day I read a quote by an unknown author, “Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.” Process-oriented parents are preparing their child (the person). However, content-oriented parents are preparing the path (the thing).
All too often, however, this philosophy plays out backwards by well meaning parents who believe their task is primarily to prepare the path (the what) for their children. These parents remove obstacles, smooth out the rough places and generally make life a painless, trouble-free experience.
What happens on the inside (How the child is maturing) will have far more influence on the child’s future life than the external things that tend to consume the parent’s energy and emotions.
Where most leaders go wrong
Most leaders, while very intelligent and well-meaning, tend to expediently “prepare the path”. They “tell” their subordinates the results (the what – content) they want with little or no input (in the how – process) from subordinates. Few leaders realize how a process-oriented approach would “prepare the employees” for the twist and turns along the path as they serve customers, clients, and each other on the team.
In previous blog postings, we have been discussing Process AND Content, and that there are two important aspects to Process:
1. How we do things.
2. How we say things.
Every leader can begin to apply good process to their leadership. Let's look at a couple of areas where you can start to “up your game” in this important area of leadership.
Interviewing prospective employees is the first key area where you can start developing your sensitivity to process. When you interview you next candidate, keep in mind the two important areas of Content AND Process:
1. The resume tells us about what (content)a candidate has done.
2. Ask questions to explore why (a process question) various things have been undertaken and how (a process question) the candidate’s decisions have evolved. In this way, you can more accurately predict how the candidate will act and interact with other employees.
A second key area to focus on process-focused leadership is goal setting. Since success has been defined as the achievement of one or more predetermined goals, goal delineation is a great place to grow our leadership.
Those who strive to build peak-performance teams learn (often in the expensive school of hard knocks) that how goals are determined is at least as important as the substance of the goals themselves (What the goals are).
When I am asked about whether an organization’s planning and goal development should flow from the top down or the bottom up, my answer is “Yes!” I’m convinced that these important tasks should be based on dialogues, not monologues.
A completely different atmosphere exists with a process-sensitive leader who respects his or her subordinates and has the good sense to seek and appreciate input from their employees! With participative decision-making, employees can enjoy being respected for sharing their ideas. They can become truly inspired, but also, they can enhance the organization’s chances for success by virtue of their input.
As the leader of your organization are you preparing your employees for the path or are you preparing the path for your employees?