The Power of “And”
Our world is currently consumed by picking sides. One cannot scroll a social media feed without a question regarding which quick-service restaurant serves the best chicken sandwich (Chick-Fil-A is the right answer by the way). Which fries are the best? Coca-Cola or Pepsi? Beach or mountains? Democrat or Republican? This just got real.
We are constantly encouraged to pick a side, take a stand, and choose this OR that. I want to remind you of the power of “and.” Although I showed my hand when it came to chicken sandwiches, it is quite possible to appreciate the quality of sandwiches at Chick-Fil-A and Popeyes. Henry Ford’s Model-T was so popular because it was a quality vehicle and it was priced where most consumers could afford one.
The same pull to choose a side occurs in our approach to leadership. Should leaders focus on results or relationships? While every human on the planet has an initial bias towards one or the other, researcher, James Zenger, conducted a study with 60,000 employees in 2009 that revealed the most effective leaders valued and pursued both results and relationships.
The most common misconception when it comes to results and relationships is that a leader must choose to serve one or the other. Servant leadership expert, Sen Sendjaya, fought this misconception by explaining that serving the organization and serving the people are not mutually exclusive. It is true that most leaders start with an initial bias towards results or relationships, but an initial bias does not have to lead to picking a side.
After acknowledging your initial bias, it is important to take steps to compensate, but we must compensate with caution. It can be natural to think that compensating for my relational bias means shifting to only thinking about results and leaving relationships in the dust. This approach would be nothing more than simply picking a different side, and we are in pursuit of valuing results AND relationships.
Four Ways to Get Better Results by Utilizing Relationships
1. Take Inventory
As a young firefighter, one of my jobs at the start of every shift was to check off the fire truck. This involved grabbing an already-established checklist of items and going through every compartment in the truck to ensure that each piece of equipment was both present and in the right location. I was advised not to simply look and see but to actually put my hand on every piece of equipment I was checking off.
This was a tedious process at first, but the benefits were worth the time. As I checked off the truck every shift, I began to memorize where each piece of equipment was located. This was important because firefighters need to be efficient when responding to an emergency, and knowing where each resource was located on the truck made retrieving it a lot faster.
As a leader, do you know what resources are available to you and where to find them? What resources do you see in your employees, and is there anything missing?
Familiarizing yourself with the strengths and potential gaps in your team can help you determine how to move forward in the best strategic way.
2. Learn Your Resources
While checking off the truck made me a better firefighter, it was not enough to simply know what was available; I had to know how to properly use each piece of equipment. It does not help if I know exactly where to find each fire hydrant in the city but not know how to get water out of one. While I had to know what resources were on the truck, I also had to spend time at the fire station training on how to use each resource appropriately.
This took even more time than simply locating items; I had to understand what each resource was used for. Learning my resources involved getting equipment off the truck and spending time with it, feeling its weight, practicing using it, and returning it to its proper location. I asked other firefighters questions, read books, watched videos, and we sometimes even created mock scenarios for additional practice.
Again, this seems tedious, but the bottom line is that great firefighters must be efficient. It was important to spend more time with a resource outside of an emergency, so we could spend less time using it inside an emergency.
The best leaders get the best results by understanding how to steward their resources, and the most important resource for leaders is their people.
It is good to know who is on your team, but do you also understand how to utilize each individual to reach their fullest potential? Spending time with your people to understand them can give you insight into what motivates and derails each person.
3. Apply Learnings
The reason each piece of equipment was on the fire truck in the first place was so firefighters could use the equipment when needed. After knowing where each resource was located and learning how to use it, the next step was to apply my learnings during an emergency. The ultimate result for any firefighter is to assist in saving life or property. To get this result, it helps a firefighter to know what resources are available and how to use them properly.
Similarly, leaders should not only know who is on their team and how they can be utilized; they should apply these learnings by giving real responsibility and ownership to employees when needed. If an employee excels in organizational skills but is never given the opportunity to organize, the resource is wasted, and results could suffer.
As a reminder, I had to check off the truck every shift. It was not helpful to assume everything was in place from my last shift. What if another shift had an emergency? I had to stay up to date with each resource that was on the truck.
It was also common to get new resources including brand new fire trucks, and we had to repeat the process with each new piece of equipment that was added to our fleet. Take inventory, learn how to use it, and apply it when needed.
As a leader, learning your people and building relationships is a never-ending process because people and circumstances are constantly changing.
Building and maintaining relationships with your most important resources will take a significant amount of your time, but the benefits are well worth the investment. Get better results by taking the time to build better relationships.
An Actionable Idea
At WinShape Teams, we love helping leaders and teams improve their results and relationships. One way to work on both is to set aside time for a team retreat. This will take time, but the investment is worth it. Your team will have time to learn more about each other and how to utilize each other better to accomplish your team’s ultimate purpose.