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Outcome-Based Managers Focus on People and the Finish Line

Outcome-Based Managers Focus on People and the Finish Line

by Jennifer Robison

Story Highlights

  • OBC managers have to know their people as people
  • These managers coach, rather than "meddle"

Outcome-based cultures (OBCs) let leadership define the end goals and then leave it to individual contributors and their managers to determine processes.

This approach allows OBCs to be extraordinarily efficient and adaptable, which is the objective. However, even if they aren't involved in day-to-day operations, leaders still need to pay close attention to selecting the right workers and then driving their performance through engagement.

When leaders do this, it also enables managers to lean on talent and stay out of the procedural weeds. But this approach doesn't necessarily lighten their managerial load. Perhaps counterintuitively, OBC managers may have a more sprawling role than command-and-control managers do.

As well as handling the usual administrative tasks, OBC managers have to know their people as people -- and sometimes better than their people know themselves. This includes understanding the interplay of natural tendencies, strengths and weaknesses within the work environment.

Properly equipped with that knowledge, OBC managers can coach each individual's performance to focus on outcomes that align with the organization's strategy and purpose.

In other words, an OBC manager is an outcome-focused coach who will intentionally catalyze strengths to push performance. Every day. With every worker.

And love doing it.

The Traits of Great Managers

Gallup has studied thousands of managers in hundreds of industries worldwide. The best managers -- in OBCs or not -- all share certain traits:

  • They enjoy learning their team members' strengths.
  • They purposefully discover what motivates each person.
  • They match talent to task.
  • They trust workers to do their best.
  • They get out of their workers' way.

To do any of that, a manager must know the employee's abilities. That's what CliftonStrengths is all about. If we add knowledge and skills and build on our greatest talents -- our natural patterns of thought, feeling and behavior -- we can grow those talents into strengths.

Gallup categorizes talents into 34 themes, and the CliftonStrengths assessment identifies the intensity of these themes in each person. With that in hand, OBC managers have a cheat sheet they can use to understand their people, better position them and coach their performance along the path to the defined outcome.

This is not an approach that comes easily to all managers. In fact, it's the result of some particular psychological characteristics that some managers have, but all OBC managers must have.

Utter Devotion to the Outcome

OBC managers don't believe controlling people is the best solution, so they don't try. Instead, they have bone-deep confidence that talented people will arrive at the desired outcome with the right help.

Managers who lack that confidence will never be comfortable in an OBC, and they won't resist micromanaging when they should be coaching.

Quality coaching requires the ability to genuinely care about people. That doesn't necessarily mean an OBC manager must develop lifelong friendships with workers. But it does mean OBC managers need to have a holistic view of their employees and allow employees to get to know their manager as a person.

This builds trust -- necessary for an OBC manager's minimal-meddling approach -- but it also gives managers a clearer perspective of people's capabilities.

OBC managers build and use trusting, emotionally genuine relationships in service of the outcome. Not friendship. OBC managers often care deeply for their people and know them well, but they won't hesitate to remove someone if it appears he or she can't perform. The OBC manager's job is to build and sustain a team that can create an outcome. Relationships are the path to that.

The ability to catalyze talents and drive them to productivity and profitability is remarkable. Leaders in OBCs need to seek this skill in the managers they hire.

Managers who can do it are members of a special tribe and should be valued as such. But they need development, too, just as much as anyone else. And some tools to help them, as discussed in the next article of this series.

Learn more about how Gallup can help your organization shift to a culture of performance development:

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