3 Reasons Managers Should Focus On Outcomes (And How To Get To That Point)

What counts more when managing your employees – the process or the result? The answer is “it depends”. While there are certainly situations where following a specific set of processes is necessary to achieve the desired results, research suggests that knowledge-based domains depend heavily on the inherent talents of each employee. As a result, management judgment should focus on outcomes rather than prescribing processes.

For organizations that have not yet decided to make the transition to focusing on results, consider the following reasons that illustrate how this focus can improve your work as a whole.

1. Greater autonomy fosters accountability

One of the biggest benefits of focusing on results is that it gives your team real autonomy. As a leader, you’re still responsible for creating a framework for what you do—parameters, guidelines, goals, and so on. However, they are free to choose what they think is the best way to achieve those goals.

Despite its own share of recent mistakes, Southwest Airlines has long been a good example of this kind of autonomy in action. As Jennifer Robison describes in an article for Gallup, “Southwest leadership believes that passengers should have a good time on a Southwest flight, which is why flight attendants are known for having a good time. However, management doesn’t provide a list of required jokes and games — it lets staff make flights as enjoyable as feels right for them. Fun is the required outcome, but the process is up to the individual.”

With this increased autonomy comes a greater sense of accountability. Each individual is responsible for ensuring that their chosen process leads to the desired goals. There is no way to transfer responsibility to someone else.

2. Engage your team

It should come as no surprise, then, that team members with a heightened sense of autonomy and accountability naturally become more engaged in their work. In a study, 33% of professionals cited boredom and the need for new challenges as the main motivating factor for looking for a new job.

Results-oriented management can counteract this directly, as it gives employees more ownership of what they do. Employees are encouraged to use their strengths and talents. This can greatly increase job satisfaction and help team members feel committed to doing their best and sticking with your company for the long term.

This became particularly clear during a recent conversation with Cole Gordon, the founder of He explained, “A key benefit of focusing on results is that you spend your time as a leader coaching, rather than ‘pushing’ your team to do things a certain way. With this model, your focus is more on helping each individual reach their full potential, making them feel a much more valuable part of the team. As more leaders adopt a coaching role that is tailored to each individual, the potential for full engagement increases.”

3. Innovation increases through experimentation and iteration

Of course, the level of freedom that results-based management offers encourages more experimentation and iteration than you would otherwise find. And this can lead to both individual and collective results improving significantly over time.

Organizations that employ an iterative process can continually improve by learning through trial and error, collecting feedback, and evaluating results. All of this is strengthened under results-oriented management as the overall culture encourages this focus on iteration in one’s tasks.

Naturally, over time, employees can learn what works best to achieve desired results, increasing productivity and profitability.

How to create a successful results-oriented management system

While results-based management can dramatically transform the way your team works, there’s no denying that shifting your focus can be challenging—especially if your organization has previously been primarily focused on managing processes.

In another article for Gallup, Jennifer Robison notes that successful results-oriented managers must be people-centric. You need to learn each employee’s skills and strengths, but also make an effort to find out what motivates them. That way, they can better match the right talent with the right job—and then let the employee determine the best process.

This requires a high level of trust in your team members and their abilities. A leader who develops a high level of trust in their employees serves as a coach, providing guidance when needed. They do not dictate individual processes or micromanagement. They remain firm and clear on expectations and standards, but are otherwise willing to step out of the way to allow employees to do their best work.

The successful implementation of this management style ultimately requires a re-evaluation of one’s own way of thinking and the management approach. Focusing on hiring top talent who you can truly trust with their assigned tasks is also a must to maintain that focus over the long term.

Get better results

Depending on the needs of your team – or even individual employees – using a results-oriented management style can dramatically change your results for the better. Granting autonomy can lead to greater engagement, which helps employees to experiment and iterate to find the best possible solutions. Over time, this can produce truly amazing results.

While transitioning to this type of work culture takes a lot of work in and of itself, the long-term results can be truly rewarding for you and your team—as well as your company’s bottom line.

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