Results and processes when managing ourselves and others

When managing yourself, focus on process and let results simply serve as a validation for a good process.

Managing ourselves by focusing on outcomes strips all opportunity for learning and growth. Such a focus also guarantees unhappiness because, unlike our processes, results often include forces that are outside our control. And, we’re better off focusing on what we control.

But, here’s what’s interesting – when managing others, we’re better off when we focus on outcomes and let processes simply serve as a validation for good outcomes.

Why this difference? It is because we limit others’ creativity by prescribing processes. The processes we prescribe typically suffer two flaws. First, they work best for us and don’t necessarily suit everyone else’s style. And, second, they are rarely the best approach to get to the outcome we seek. That can work okay for routine work (the kind that robots will do a decade from now) but it decidedly does not work for knowledge/creative work.

Good managers set clear expectations on outcomes and leave it to the their team to figure out process.

But, as we’ve discussed above, good processes don’t always result in good outcomes.

That, in turn, is the difference between good managers and great managers. Good managers evaluate their teams based on outcomes.Great managers, on the other hand, give precedence to outcomes first. But, in the event outcomes didn’t work, they ensure every bit of effort, creativity and dedication is given due credit.

Enlightened management considers both processes and outcomes. In the absence of that, the rule of thumb we started with is the way to go. For yourself, focus on process. For others, focus on outcomes and let them figure out a process that works for them.