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Who achieves more…a people-oriented or a results-driven manager?

What yields more results: a boss who is constantly focused on achieving targets? A manager who pushes your limits? Or a manager who is good to his or her people? Who ensures people feel empowered because they are appreciated? 

It is not easy to provide a clear answer here. Over the years, I have seen many managers who are simply too easy on their teams. They are sweet and nice, but they do not reach the results that are within reach. Results that can be achieved without adding more resources.

On the other hand, the manager who mostly just gives orders, who does not listen to his or her people, is no longer credible. The days when that equalled success are gone. With this type of management style, you alienate yourself from your team and are unable to retain the best people for the organization. This is also not very effective.

To discover which of the two approaches is most effective, people or results, James Zenger interviewed more than 60,000 people. And guess what: The results that both types of managers are reaching with their specific style are ...about the same!

Something interesting also emerged from his research: managers who know how to combine results and people focus are perceived to be highly effective by 72% of people. A huge leap forward!

My personal experience is that most managers have a natural preference for one or the other. The question is: can you learn to combine it with the other style later on in your professional life? A results-oriented manager learns to have more attention for his teams, and a people manager learns to keep a keen eye on progress and results at all times.

Can you fine-tune your management style? Yes, you can! Is it easy to change? No, it’s not! Learning new habits for adults proves to be extremely difficult over and over again. It requires courage, modesty and perseverance from the manager.

Hope this inspires


Paul Donkers


In our programs for executive coaching we work with successful business leaders and entrepreneurs. We help them to become even more successful by focusing on changing some of their habits and internalize them. Let us know if you want to continue the conversation with us. More information can be found here.

Probably my favorite role model who perfected to combine results and people is Alan Mullally, former CEO of Ford Motor Company. Please find a speech that he gave for Stanford about his approach here.

Our strategic partner Management Research Group also completed research on this topic. We will shortly add their findings to this column.

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By Paul Donkers

"my purpose is to help improve strategy execution, to create high performing teams and coach for effective business leaders"

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