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4 min read

Have you ever had to deal with one of those automated phone menus that banks and telephone companies often use? I have what I think is a really simple query that will be fixed in seconds if I could just talk to someone, but before I can do that I have to navigate my way through a long list of options to ‘direct my call’. All I want is to speak to a human who might be able to help, but instead I am trapped in a labyrinth of automation and menus.

On the flip side, have you have a super friendly person on the other end of the phone who is more interested in chatting than helping you with your question?

The same can be said about workplace, and in particular the company’s managers and leaders.

At one end you can have managers who are solely looking for efficiencies and high performance and at the other, you have the ultra nurturing management style.

Ultimately you want your managers to possess a combination of both. It’s a balance that allows employees to reach their goals and targets while ensuring that they achieve their personal development and enjoy the role they are in. Let’s walk through some of the main differences below:


What is a performance-based boss like?

You may be picturing a tyrannical, drill sergeant type of task master, but performance-based managers don’t need to be yelling and blowing a whistle.

Leaders who are performance-driven are clear on the metrics and goals they are striving to achieve and focused on getting there. While these traits are crucial – there is a risk of tunnel vision which can mean that humanity may fall to the wayside. These managers may lack the connection and relationship with their team that fosters trust and ensures their team feels supported, respected and appreciated for the work they do.

These leaders tend to be great at holding their teams accountable, but can lack awareness of the compassion and support they need to demonstrate to balance the focus on goals and performance. These humanitarian “soft skills” may not come naturally to them or just may not be a high enough priority.

Download our Culture Book for an insider look at how we strive to balance  performance and humanity »


And what’s a humanity-based boss like?

At the other end of the spectrum you might imagine a fluffy, parental character, who brings in baked goods from home and gives the best hugs! Well, that might be nice to have in the office, but a humanity-based boss doesn’t have to be that extreme.

Leaders who fall more on the humanity side of the scale are great to work for – they protect their people, care about their lives in and outside of work and serve as a valued partner in overcoming obstacles. Sometimes, though, these leaders struggle to hold people accountable, have uncomfortable conversations or make difficult decisions.

They may have an inherent need to be liked, but being liked and being respected are two different things and being liked will only get them so far. Trust can erode, and resentment can build, if employees feel they are picking up the slack for others or if teammates are getting away with behaviours that should not be permitted.

To recap, here's a snapshot of the main differences between performance-based leaders and humanity-based leaders:

Leadership Management Styles

 Performance-based leaders  Humanity-based leaders
 Clear on the metrics and goals Protect their people
 May lack connection and  relationships with team Struggle to hold people accountable
 Hold their teams accountable Care about employees' lives in and outside of work
 Can have tunnel vision on projects May have an inherent need to be liked

Before you hire your next manager, consider where they’ll land on the leadership scale. The balance is something that needs to be developed but many organisations lack the tools to help new leaders adjust their style to support these two crucial areas rather than gravitate towards either of the extremes. Imagine if everyone worked for a manager who held their team accountable to the same expectations but also fostered the environment where they could feel respected, supported, and appreciated for their efforts..


(Image from Gregg Lederman, Advisor to Reward Gateway's, book "Crave: You Can Enhance Employee Motivation in 10 Minutes by Friday)

How to create more balance among leadership teams

Performance-focused leaders can benefit from a better understanding of the value of regular one-on-ones, open and honest communication and consistent, strategic recognition for teams as strategies to drive results. It can even be as simple as grabbing lunch with their team, or a Friday knock off drink. Getting to know their team on a personal level, will encourage them to consider their employee as a human rather than a robot pumping out results.

And for those on the "humanity" end, setting clear expectations, having regular conversations about performance and learning how to facilitate difficult conversations can help increase their effectiveness at holding people accountable to goals or objectives while still being supportive and compassionate. Role playing scenarios or encouraging other leaders to share their stories or workshop some of the harder situations will build their confidence.

Leaders who find the balance between performance and humanity are even closer to improving employee engagement at their organisation, leading the right team to the success.

When someone has earned the right to lead people, they (and those they oversee) deserve the developmental support to successfully create the environment by becoming trusted, effective leaders.

Kameel Martin

Kameel Martin is a Senior Client Success Manager for a wide range of businesses. She always has communications and marketing on her mind, and loves to share knowledge with anyone interested in improving employee engagement!

Senior Client Success Manager

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