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What Does A Great Leader Focus On: People or Results?

What Does A Great Leader Focus On: People or Results?

I recently spoke with a good friend of mine whose company is being bought by a private equity firm. The firm’s managers have made it clear that they plan to run the company by spreadsheet. To quote one of them directly, “We don’t care about people; we don’t care about customers; the only thing we care about is you making the numbers.” I’ve got another friend who runs a very large company that drives its salespeople into the ground with daily, weekly and monthly spreadsheet reports that constantly harangue them to “make their numbers.” The turnover in sales people in this company is about 120 percent per year, at an annual expense to the business of a little bit north of $30 million. But, because the company generates about $8 billion in revenue, it doesn’t seem like a very big problem. The leaders in both of these companies consider themselves “great” leaders because they are results driven, they always hit their financial goals and their shareholders are very pleased, too.

Then, you’ve got a place like Google that takes legendary care of its 25,507 employees, offers them an insane array of amenities and perks and was listed as the No. 1 best place in America to work in 2013 — all while generating $58 billion in revenues.

Just for fun, let’s write that out: 58,000,000,000

Or, maybe Zappos, the company founded on “delivering happiness,” that has also been listed as the No. 1 place to work in America (in 2012, before they were bought by Amazon) and had 3,000-plus uber-happy employees who helped make the company $1.6 billion in revenue that year.

So, what’s the answer, people or results? Well, it’s actually neither.

I was just looking over a Harvard Business Review article that mentioned a fascinating survey of 60,000 employees on what they felt made a leader a “great” leader. Two of the characteristics they looked at were results-focused and people-focused. A results focus combines strong analytical skills with an intense motivation to move the company forward and solve problems.

If a leader was seen as being very strong on results focus, the chance of that leader being seen as a great leader was only 14 percent.

A people focus combines attributes like communication, inclusiveness and empathy. If a leader was strong on people skills, he or she was seen as a great leader even less of the time — only 12 percent.

However, for leaders who were strong in both results focus and people focus, the likelihood of being seen as a great leader skyrocketed to 72 percent.

From my 20 years of working with companies of every size all around the world, it has become crystal clear to me that in order to build and sustain highly successful organizations, leaders MUST:

1. Hire the best people they can possibly find

2. Treat those people extremely well and pay them fairly

3. Invest lots of time and money in training and development

4. Empower them to go out and take great care of customers

5. Rigorously track business results

6. Hold those people 100 percent accountable for delivering the desired results

7. Celebrate both small and large wins, and deal decisively with mediocrity

Every great leader I’ve ever had the privilege of working with has been focused relentlessly on both taking great care of his or her people and building a strong, financially stable business. Focus solely on numbers and pretty soon you don’t have any people left (or at least not any good ones); focus only on people and pretty soon you don’t have any numbers (or at least not any good ones when you show up in bankruptcy court). So, the goal is this: People first and results first — you’ve got to have both!

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