People or Performance?

That’s the age old question that every manager or leader has to deal with. Do I grind people down and force them into a mold, eliminating anyone that can’t live up to my standards, or do I let people perform to the best of their abilities and let it go at that?

Bad managers always put people second. Feelings are irrelevant. Commitment and investment are irrelevant. Opinions are irrelevant. It’s my way or the high way, and if you don’t like it, I don’t want you here anyhow.

This philosophy only works if you happen to be perfect. Since most managers can’t claim to be Jesus, bad managers and leaders always fail eventually. In business, it plays out as people disengage, look for another job, or actively sabotage the project. In volunteer settings, it means mass exodus of anyone that has a backbone.

Good managers and leaders find ways to harness people’s passion and commitment. This is especially true with volunteers. They want to be there and they care about what they’re doing. As a leader, all you have to do is allow people’s passion and commitment to flourish into something good. Being a good coach and mentor to them can help raise their level of comIncredipetence, and being kind and compassionate can allow for people who would otherwise shy away from church to be a part because they feel important and accepted.

I’ve personally done it both ways. When I took my first managerial position, I immediately fired a bunch of people without getting to know the department or the people at all. That was a great way to temporarily raise productivity (fear for their jobs) and make everyone hate me and plot against me.

I’ve also done it right at times. I have invited people who were not the most talented people to come and be part of something because THEY were passionate about it. I’ve spent countless hours of my own time practicing (i.e. “teaching”) with musicians to get them ready to play. I will take a mediocre person that’s passionate over a talented asshole any day of the week.

Sadly in life, it’s easier to demand than to care about people. The true definition of compassion is accepting people where they are.

  1 comment for “People or Performance?

  1. September 20, 2011 at 6:55 pm


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