Should Leaders Focus on Results or People?

Should leaders focus on the long-run potential of their people or short-run outcomes? Amun Thapa shares his view on how leaders can balance good results with great candidates.

A comic strip exerpt, a CEO asks his manager, “What if I invest in my employees and they leave?” And the manger replies, “What if you don’t and they stay?”,

Leaders are the ones who know that they are out for a long expedition. For which they tag along determined, smart and diligent individuals whom they call ‘employees.’ Now, these employees are the ones who can either make or break a business. So, should leaders train their employees for a longer haul or focus on a work-in-hand?

Having managed over fifty employees in my businesses, I believe leaders should focus on results yet nourish their employees at the same time. Here is why:

It is a soccer game
Think of your company as a soccer club – you recruit the best players, spend resources on training them and hiring smart managers. During the game, your team may perform extremely well. However, the game may end in a draw. The spectators may find the game entertaining but did you win?

This is a rather tricky scenario. Winning is important but winning most or all games should be your objective. If you focus too much on results, your team may win a game or two but will lose most. However, if you focus on your team then you will win majority of the games in the longer run. It is tricky as it is difficult to determine how many games you are ready to sacrifice in order to prepare your team to become champions.

Just like in football or any other sports, players get transferred to other teams. Think of what would happen to Barcelona if Messi is transferred to Real Madrid (fingers crossed that won’t happen!). For the past decade or so, Barcelona has been investing on Messi – and that includes his meals as well. If suddenly one day, Real Madrid buys Messi, is that a win or a loss for Barcelona? Definitely a loss! But Barcelona continues to invest on Messi because the investment gets results as long as he is on the team.
I recently had to go through a similar circumstance at Sasto Deal where I had spent two years on training and nourishing one of my managers until one of my competitors hired him. For the time being, my investment on him showed results. Had I not invested on him, it would have been my loss. But now that he works for another firm, it is that firm’s win and my loss.

Results are not guaranteed, people are
In doing business, there are far too many external variables that may defer the desired results. For example, government regulations, lack of resources to carry out the work, lack of co-operation from a third-party and so on., results are never guaranteed. However, your employees’ skill, knowledge and experience are always guaranteed. No matter the situation, you know you can trust them for the assigned task at hand. However, as I said earlier, there is no guarantee that your employees will stay with you and your company for a longer term.

Move fast and break things Facebook’s CEO couldn’t have said it better, “Move fast and break things.” In this competitive business environment, it is utterly important for business leaders to produce quick results. If leaders spend too much time and resources on their team then the rivals get an opportunity to take the lead. A visionary leader might think five or ten years from now but what happens this year and this month or this day predicts the future. Results are important and people produce them. Hence, it is important to nurture employees without losing sight of time, deadlines and the competitive environment.

Now, let’s go back to quote from the comic strip again. All entrepreneurs are faced with a dilemma whether or not to invest in people. If they do, what if their employees leave? If they don’t invest, what if their employees stay? For me, creating the right balance between results and people has been a daunting task but so far. I’ve been able to strike a balance. How about you?

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