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Why a focus on people beats task focus every time

In our ‘busyness’ to get stuff done, the pressure is significant…we find ourselves unable to anticipate where the next demand on our team and resources will come from. Ultimately, we find it easier, even essential to get that thing off our list before the next one bites…

Whether you are managing your teams’ daily task or in the C-suite driving that well-considered strategy; with the demand from stakeholders or an internal metric to tick, the desire to get ‘tasks’ done is constant and never-ending. Sure we need to get things done, but we need to keep people-orientated at least an equal priority if we want a high performance team and organisation.

Recently working with a team of managers, we discussed the merits of people-orientated vs task focus and quickly became curious about the impact that being dominated by a task focus.

While there will always be a need to focus on an outcome or performance target, we do need to understand that are implications in doing so, like:

  1. the increased pressure around task completion will see a drift in your preferred leadership style towards autocracy to meet that deadline;

  2. process and rules become more important than guidelines and principles, ultimately applying constraints to progress and stifling innovation;

  3. the teams ability to withstand sustained pressure will diminish quickly over time; and

  4. with this increased pressure, the inevitable negative impact on team morale.

When we have our eyes on the balance between people and task we have the potential to realise valuable benefits, such as:

  1. our teams are more inclined to provide discretionary effort, offering new ideas and a willingness to be part of innovative approaches;

  2. individuals move from feeling like a financial conscript to being part of a team that is doing great things;

  3. a foundation of resilience develops because we are paying attention to the people in our team; and

  4. people move from an employee mindset of obligation and to an entrepreneurial spirit seeking solutions.

When we understand that a focus on the task means that we will miss out on the best that our team have to offer and that a shift towards people allows us to take on more challenging tasks then we will see a level of vigour where people that have a sense of achievement.

When it is all said and done, people know when they are the focus and when they do, willingly participate in the next big thing that you need to deliver as part of your organisation's performance.

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