In my previous blog post I shared how I was introduced to the powerful leadership principle of Process…as well as Content. This principle is so powerful, it’s helpful to dig deeper and define what I mean by Process and Content.
When we make decisions, outline plans, or convey instructions, there are two key factors involved. One is the Content of what has to be decided. The other is the Process whereby the decision is made. The Content is the ‘what’, the results or end product of our efforts. The Process defines the ‘how’, the way we interact with the people involved in task.
As you can see, we need both Content AND Process. Jim Collins said in his best-selling book, Built to Last “Instead of being oppressed by the ‘Tyranny of the OR,’ highly visionary companies liberate themselves with the ‘Genius of the AND’ ”
Technically, Content is defined as: “the amount of something in a container”. Content usually is measurable, quantifiable. In different contexts, other words that can be substituted for Content include:
We drive for results.
The focus is on things.
We manage things.
It is what we say and do.
In terms of leadership, one way to think of Content is as the objectives we frame with those we lead. The Content part of this principle is important. Without clear, well-communicated, meaningful and attainable objectives people are directionless. The people you lead need to know where you expect them to go!
Process is defined as: “a series of actions directed toward a specific aim.” For our discussion, Process is the essential “people” part of great leadership. Working well with others enables a leader to bring the very best out in his or her people. There are two important aspects to Process:
- How we do things. This addresses how we interact with people to set and pursue our goals.
- How we say things. The focus here is how we communicate and interact with people on a day-to-day basis. How we say something can significantly impact what the recipient of the message feels is being conveyed. Our physical actions and tone of voice can reinforce or contradict the message in the words we are saying.
Jim Lundy said, “How you say or do something can make or break What you’ve said or done.” As with Content, Process is often expressed using different words. The list below matches expressions for Process with corresponding expressions for Content.
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
Although different words are used in different contexts, the concept of Process and Content can be found in almost every aspect of business.
For example, let’s look at the task of establishing a business plan. We can break this task down into two main areas.
1) The first area would be the thing we would like to produce or accomplish. In this case it is a business plan. This is the ‘what’, or the Content piece of the task.
2) The second area focuses on the ‘how’, or Process. This involves planning how you would involve people in preparing the plan, and how you would communicate the finished plan to others.
If you start to look for it, you’ll see the potential to use this powerful duo of Process and Content in every area of your life. This concept literally transformed my leadership ability once I began to learn and apply its truths.
What do you think about this principle of Content and Process? Do you naturally focus more on Content or Process?