Season 2, Ep. 6: Results Versus Relationships

Results and relationships. Too often, leaders hold them at odds with one another. Either we focus so much on getting stellar results that we neglect building the trust and relationships that are necessary for succeeding as a team, or we focus so much on relationships and making sure everyone gets along that we shy away from the hard conversations and holding one another accountable to our shared goals. But the best leaders know that for a team to truly succeed, results and relationships have to go hand in hand. Join us as we talk with Heather Leachman-Beck, Director of Workplace Innovation at Hyphn Studio, and explore what architecture and design can teach us about the balance between results and relationships.

View Transcript >>

Daniel Harkavy (00:00)
At the turn of the 20th century. Louis Sullivan was one of the most influential voices in American architecture known for his revolutionary high-rise steel structures. Sullivan was considered by many as the father of modernism and architecture and one of the core design principles of this modernist approach was form follows function. When it came to designing a building, Sullivan felt that any decisions regarding aesthetics should always be secondary to and dependent upon whatever practical purpose the space was supposed to serve. This principle influenced many architects who came after Sullivan and it helped lead to many of the common office building structures we’re using today, but there was one student of Sullivan who saw things a bit differently. Frank Lloyd Wright, who many believe is the greatest American architect of all time, worked for Sullivan in his Chicago architecture firm back in the early 1900s he took his mentors rule and changed it to form and function.

Our one no longer was at form follows function, but he looked at it differently and this led to the birth of his own signature approach to design, which came to be known as organic architecture. In light of this new approach, the strict hierarchy of function determining forum gave way to the notion that form and function could be integrated. They could influence and play off of one another and I believe this kind of shift is sorely needed in our approach to leadership, especially when it comes to the interplay between results and relationships. Too many leaders take results and relationships and set up a form versus function style hierarchy. Either you emphasize results at the expense of relationships at work or you focus on maintaining a friendly environment at the expense of getting done what needs to get done. But what I want to talk about is a better approach to this issue and it involves shifting your perspective to see how results and relationships they’re not at odds with one another and that you can successfully pursue both to build high performing teams and organizations.

Daniel Harkavy (02:28)
Hi, I’m Daniel Harkavy and this is the building champions podcast. Our goal is to share interesting stories that highlight key leadership issues from a unique perspective so you can learn how to better lead yourself, your team and your organization. This episode is about results and relationships and how pursuing both is necessary for creating healthy, successful organizations. To help us understand the balance of form and function in design can teach us something about leveraging both results in relationships at work. We spoke with Heather Leachman-Beck. Heather is the director of workplace innovations at hyphen, an organization that helps companies design inspiring workplaces and helps them navigate change and transitions. So what does that work look like for Heather?

Heather Leachman-Beck (03:22)
Well, I get that question almost every day. So I’m getting really good at this elevator speech, but it’s really about changing workplace cultures through the lens of change management. So taking care of individuals and making sure their needs are met in a much bigger holistic picture than just space. Although we concentrate on space and making sure we’re having the conversations so we know what the real problem is

Daniel Harkavy (03:47)
For Heather and her teammates. The goal is to create a workplace that is both beautiful and inviting as well as functional, a space that actually helps employees to get their work done. Because if you have one without the other than the space will fail to serve its purpose of boosting engagement and supporting the team in doing their work.

Heather Leachman-Beck (04:06)
And we’re having this right now within our own organization, we’re changing our physical space. So this is what we do for our clients and now we’re doing it for ourselves, which is terrifying. But it’s really one of those things where our culture is drastically shifting. We have new ownership, we’re changing how we do work or much more team based. So the way that our space was built isn’t meeting the needs of where we are as a team right now. So do we have spaces for teams to go to work through their problems? No, we don’t. Is it beautiful? Absolutely. But is it providing those connection points for people to be able to get work done? No, it’s not. We have so many beautiful items in here and overall when people come in, they’re like, why would you even think of changing the space? It’s dynamic. It’s beautiful. It’s amazing. Yes it is. I will not contest that, but it’s not meeting our needs in terms of where we’re trying to go.

Daniel Harkavy (05:03)
Heather and her team know that aesthetics are important. Having a workplace that’s beautiful energizes people and it makes them want to come to work, but she also knows that beauty and form. It’s not enough. If the workplace isn’t functional, if it isn’t set up in a way that gives team members the space and resources to be productive, it’s missing the Mark. The two aren’t at odds with one another. They go hand in hand. In my experience, most leaders tend to be either more results oriented or more relationships oriented. I’m sure if you’re listening right now, you know which camp you might fall into. If you’re more results oriented, you probably tend to focus on the deliverables you love solving problems and coming up with solutions to get things done. You’re all about execution on time and perfection, and if you’re more relationship oriented, you love communicating with teammates, you focused on culture and energy, you find common solutions and collaborate.

You’re always checking in to see how everyone’s doing and feeling and if you know you’re firmly in one camp or the other, that’s fine. Everybody has more of a, a natural leadership style, but where leaders can get into trouble is when they focus so much of their time and attention on just one area, whether it’s results or relationships that the other one suffers. These common traps of focusing too much on results versus relationships or leaning too heavily on form versus function. They put you at risk of missing out on the bigger picture and the bigger opportunity. Heather knows the danger of this and she knows that when it comes to designing an effective workplace, you need to take more of a holistic approach.

Heather Leachman-Beck (06:46)
It’s not a one size fits all, but it needs to be holistic. You need to be looking at the entire experience of that person and if you want to make them more engaged, then you need to understand what their day looks like. So what that looks like. One person doesn’t look like it for another, it’s not like equity inequality. You can’t do that within an organization and provide 2000 Dilbert stations and be like, we’re done. It’s, it’s not like that. And like I said, it needs to be ever evolving. That might work today, but it won’t work next month. So really having conversations about what are your needs and not just from, you know, what linear filing do you need? What computer monitor arm do you need? How much work service do you need? But what does your day look like and who are you interacting with and what are your real needs as a human being? It’s about humans, right? Or impacting individuals, which is what makes cultures thrive.

Daniel Harkavy (07:39)
We leaders need to take a similar holistic approach when managing results and relationships at work. There’s a term we like to use here at building champions, and that’s dynamic tension. Many leaders, when it comes to managing both results and relationships, they feel the need to balance the two as if trade-offs are required between them. If you really want to hit numbers centered around productivity, then office friendships and catering to people’s feelings need to take a back seat or vice versa. If you’re really focused on building a warm and inviting culture, then you may shy away from having the more difficult conversations and holding your teammates accountable to their specific responsibilities and to the shared organizational goals. But instead of thinking of results and relationships as a balancing act or maybe a zero sum game, we leaders need to start viewing it in the terms of this dynamic tension from this perspective, results in relationships rather than taking away from one another, are pushing together and feeding off one another to help propel your team and your business forward.

In a 2009 study, James Zanger of zinger Folkman conducted a survey where he examined which leadership characteristics made for a great leader. When zinger looked at the characteristics of results, focus, and people focus, he discovered that leaders who emphasized a results focus were only considered great. About 14% of the time, and leaders who emphasized a people focus were only considered great 12% of the time. In other words, just focusing on either results or people alone was rarely enough for a leader to be great. But when zinger looked at leaders who were equally focused on both people and results, it turned out that they were considered to be great leaders. 72% of the time. That’s a huge jump and it goes to show how results and relationships interact and work together to produce results that either one on their own could never produce. For instance, positive relationships and an engaging work environment, energize people and inspire employees to give their best effort, which leads to better results for individuals, for the team and ultimately for the organization. And then on the flip side, when everyone is working hard and goals are being met and the team is succeeding, then that success gets people fired up and they’re excited to come into the office and collaborate with their coworkers every day. We all want to be on a winning team. This interplay between results and relationships can be powerful. And what often ties the two together is having a clear vision both for your team and your organization.

Heather Leachman-Beck (10:34)
If we’re not really solving for what the problem really is with a space, is it really functional? Right? So you have form. It’s a beautiful space, but what is the function really? What is the problem we’re really trying to solve in a workplace?

Daniel Harkavy (10:50)
At the end of the day for Heather are her team, designing a workplace is about problem solving. They come into a project and they have clarity around the desired end result. They’re there to figure out what problems their clients are facing and how they can redesign the workplace to address those problems. Any decisions about form and function are influenced by that desired end result, that desire to solve the client’s problems. It should be the same for us as leaders when we navigate results and relationships. The problem we’re trying to solve is how do we get extraordinary results while at the same time building a high performing team, a team that cares for one another and the work that you do. You see if we overemphasize results and we become so metric focused, so performance focused, so results focused that we missed the human element, we might hit our objectives for the quarter and maybe even for the year.

Daniel Harkavy (11:49)
But if we neglect the people in the team dynamics, we’re going to create a whole host of problems that we’re going to have to deal with in the months, quarters and years ahead. And oftentimes it’s those internal challenges that result from the people neglect team neglect side that will impede us from having a repeat year, year after year or another extraordinary quarter. And on the converse, if we just focus on culture and we just focused on a team that gets along and enjoys doing the work well, we might feel really good in the quarter or year ahead, but the best people they want to win. And if we don’t focus on the specific deliverables, if we don’t focus on the behaviors that are going to enable us to get to the results, and if we don’t have a scoreboard and we don’t see that we’re winning, well then we’re going to have engagement problems there as well.

In today’s times, leaders, we need to see that both are critical. In order for us to lead a high performing organization for every bit of effort we put into performance for every bit of effort that we put into strategy and execution, we need to put in the exact same amount of effort into the human elements, the team dynamics, the culture side of our business. If we can see that the two are completely interdependent, they’re not separate than we are going to be best positioned to lead our organizations to future success in the times ahead. So regardless of whether you have a natural bent towards results or maybe a natural bent towards relationships, my coaching for you is to not see them as two things that need to be balanced, but instead they are two sides of the business that need to be focused on and pursued. If you do, you will be best positioned to lead a high performing organization. Coming up, Todd Moe center, our vice president of content development will sit down with one of our building champions, executive coaches to discuss specific strategies and actions you can take to apply this to your life and your leadership.

Todd Mosetter (14:05)
Hi, my name’s Todd and I’m excited to sit down with my friend and colleague, Dr. Drew to talk about results in relationships. Drew, thanks for joining us. So when we think about teams and this need to balance, right to think that it’s a tradeoff between results and relationships, when you’ve worked with teams, how have you seen this dynamic play out?

Drew Lawson (14:45)
Well, first and foremost, it’s all about psychological safety and trust. You have to develop connection and develop trust. And by doing that first and foremost, that lays the foundation for relationships to develop people to feel safe. And if they feel safe and they trust you, then results will come after that.

Todd Mosetter (14:52)
What are some ways as a leader that I can help prioritize the relationships?

Drew Lawson (14:56)
So what’s interesting is how simple it is. We try to make it formulaic and complicated, but the reality is it’s about touch points. It’s about reaching out and shaking hands and connecting with each of your staff and employees and asking them how they’re doing. Know them by their name and make connection points, make touch points. And that develops psychological safety that develops trust. And that is the foundation of developing relationships, which will drive results and instantly enough. A lot of these foundations are from the good old book by Dale Carnegie, how to win friends and influence people. I mean really it’s that idea of listening, actively engaging with people by shaking hands with them when you see them and by calling them by their name. Those things sound so simple, but that makes us feel comfortable and it makes us feel safer and therefore we feel connected and that’s what drives results. I’ve heard it said that you don’t lead results, you lead people to get results and I think you have to understand that the key is to first lead people and then results will follow.

Todd Mosetter (16:12)
When we think about results, I think accountability is tied into that. I think some leaders struggle that if they want to have a good relationship, holding people accountable can feel challenging. How have you seen leaders be able to balance that need to have sound relationships while still entering into those difficult conversations that accompany accountability?

Drew Lawson (16:35)
First and foremost, the foundation is trust and that trust is established through connecting personally through getting to know the people on your team and if you’ve established that trust, then accountability is a much more comfortable and palatable and accountability can occur in a safe and comfortable atmosphere and you establish that early on, you establish that as the foundation, then you can have accountability successfully. I think if you just lead with accountability, then it can sound harsh and it can feel like you’re being overly critiqued. So you have to start with the trust and the lay that foundation. Once that’s established, I think you can be very successful with understanding accountability.

Todd Mosetter (17:27)
What do you think the key ingredients to accountability really are? You mentioned trust, but when we think about a team environment and holding each other accountable to goals, right? Not letting things just slide. Whether it be a result or a behavior, even if you have a solid foundation of trust, our human brains can get kind of weird sometimes if we feel like people are poking at us. What are some practical ways you’ve seen leaders lean into accountability without setting off that response?

Drew Lawson (18:00)
Yeah, great question. I think first and foremost you have to lead by example. You have to hold yourself accountable as the leader and you have to model what that looks like. I reminded of a recent client that just got promoted and he asked me, is it a good idea? I’m like, I’m doing a keep start and stop every quarter with my new team and no one else has told me to do this. I just thought it might be helpful. And it’s been tremendously successful because now the rest of the team is being modeled by the leader. That feedback is important, it’s okay and it’s the way we get better. So I think feedback and modeling are two key components of successful accountability.

Todd Mosetter (18:43)
I think that’s great insight. I was having a conversation with a client the other day and we were talking about the power of pronouns, that when you’re talking about a project, it’s easy to, you know, for example, say, why are you behind on this versus saying, well let’s talk about why the project is behind. I think that’s a way that we can help. When we think about prioritizing both results and relationships is when we’re giving that feedback to try and distance it from an identity perspective can be helpful. Right? If I say, why are you behind Drew? That has a very different outcome than probably asking, Hey Drew, why is that project behind?

Drew Lawson (19:22)
Absolutely. And I don’t see that there is ever a you, we want to try to focus on the we and we want to be in a relationship in such a way that we are looking to continue to strive to get better and part of the we is each of us as individuals. So looking at it that way and understanding our pronouns in that way I think is very powerful.

Todd Mosetter (19:46)
I would agree that the I is easy to throw in there sometimes, isn’t it? Yes. When we think about results and keeping them top of mind, right as a team we’re going after some big goals. I think in today’s day and age it’s easy to get distracted, lots of competing priorities, a lot of noise coming at us. What kind of a processes or frameworks have you seen teams use to keep the right results in front of them?

Drew Lawson (20:10)
I think there are two things. One, first and foremost, I think of clear vision. I’m reminded of a client who got the highest great places to work scores in his organization and looking at the secret sauce to that was first and foremost a clear vision and I think the leader’s responsibility as a whole, that clear vision consistently because by doing that, that will help clarify and help kind of weed out all the other distractions and allow the team to focus on the results that thereafter based on that clear vision. The second thing is to have a clear dashboard and recognize the team comes first. Not the individual silos of the team sub-teams, but recognize the team comes first and that we have a dashboard that is clear and concise and helps us consistently see what we’re going after and consistently helps us to have a snapshot of the results that we’re pursuing.

Todd Mosetter (21:12)
When you’ve had a chance to sit down with clients and look at their dashboards, are there any things that come to mind that some clients miss that you coach them on and say you really have to have this on your dashboard?

Drew Lawson (21:25)
Well, two things. Obviously the convictions and the bigger vision needs to be in the dashboard. Additionally I find dashboards to be very overwhelming. They tend to have way too many items on them. So there you need to actually make them more simplified. Our brain just gets overwhelmed so easily if we have more than three things that we’re looking at. So if you may have more than three results that you’re driving for, but you want to splice them up so that they’re not all seen all the time, cause it can be very overwhelming.

Todd Mosetter (21:59)
I love that example. I remember I was at a conference a couple of years ago and the exercise they took you through was imagine that you were deserted on a desert Island for five years and you get rescued. And they say, I can tell you any three things you want to know about your business. What would you ask to figure out what the health of your businesses? And I thought the clarity that drove to only being able to know three things about my business. To your point, you’re probably tracking a hundred things, but what are the, the handful of things, three in this case that give you the best indication of the health of your business?

Drew Lawson (22:35)
I think it’s the vision the future vision. Like where you’re headed. I think it’s current reality and knowing clearly what current reality looks like and then it’s the gap between those two. And what are some of the drivers or some of the strategies that you’re looking for or you’re focused on to try to get from current reality to future state?

Todd Mosetter (22:59)
When we talk about prioritizing relationships, psychological safety, culture is another way a lot of people talk about that. I think often we talk about culture, there’s this need to think about. We’ll all just feel it. Where have you seen leaders move past? Just feeling it. Have you seen any examples of programs or measurements they’ve put in place that you found really effective?

Drew Lawson (23:21)
I remember reminded of one that one of my clients was thinking about adopting a with a sense of a smiley face. Like, you know, you had like three or four. It starts out the very low end is kind of a frown. And then we use it in pediatrics when we look at pain skills for kids. But a company has started to, and I’m sure there more than one, use that as a dashboard of how our culture is doing by having a frown face as the low score and then the high score being a big, large smile. And it sounds kind of simple, but it is a great and simple way of helping to understand where your culture is at.

Todd Mosetter (24:03)
I love that. I can imagine that it probably changes from day to day, but it’s a great visual.

Drew Lawson (24:08)     And two, I really encourage my clients when they start meetings to set the meetings just with a minute or two of something like that. Like let’s look at this frown to smiley scale and where is everybody on that scale today? And that is opening up transparency and vulnerability and it won’t take very long, but your meeting will go much more efficiently and you will drive results more successfully if you do simple things like that and embed them in your culture.

Todd Mosetter (24:41)
So if we have a listener right now who says, you know, I feel like we’ve shifted too much to the relationship side. We prioritize getting along. Everyone likes coming to work, but we’ve missed our goals for the past couple of years. The health of the business isn’t where it needs to be. Not knowing all of their situation, because this is a hypothetical, but where would you suggest someone who’s in that situation start?

Drew Lawson (25:05)
I love the Five Dysfunctions of a Team book and the concepts they’re in, because I think that’s kind of the roadmap to get to results if you’re struggling with results is to set the foundation at trust, then have a conflict that is healthy and then create commitments that are clear and concise, develop accountability, and then finally all those drive forward results. So that would probably be a starting place for me in answering that question for that client.

Todd Mosetter (25:38)
No, I couldn’t agree more. You mentioned the book the Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Patrick Lencioni and his team at The Table Group have definitely done some great work there. If we swing the pendulum the other way, and I’ve got a team who we’ve been driving very hard, we’ve been successful, but we’re kind of burning our people out. The culture isn’t where we want it to be. You mentioned trust and psychological safety is a good place to start, but that can feel overwhelming for a team that has not invested in relationship up to this point. What would be a good place for them to start?

Drew Lawson (26:12)
Yeah, it’s, it’s baby steps, right? And you’ve got to start with some of those connection points, shaking hands, connecting with them on their, on a personal level. How is, how are things going today? Those type of simple gestures that we are as a culture we lose track of. I mean that the research on incivility, you know, not being civil at work is astounding. I mean it’s actually going the wrong direction. We’ve become much more in civil and civilized or friendly or kind into our coworkers. And that creates such a toxic environment that you cannot get the results you’re looking for unless you start with that relationship foundation of trust and psychological safety.

Todd Mosetter (26:57)
If you could touch on this for a quick sector, cause I’d love your kind of take on this. We talk about self-leadership proceeding, team leadership and the beliefs have to come before the behaviors for a leader to do this really well, I would assume there needs to be a deep held belief that investing in people, caring about them as humans, that relationship side, they have to believe that that’s important. Or anything else they do is going to feel like a check box. Would you agree?

Drew Lawson (27:24)
Yeah. And it reminds me there’s a former CEO of Boeing and Ford was asked by other CEOs, do you mean I’ve got to love my people? And his response was, why wouldn’t you? They spend three quarters of their waking hours helping you produce something amazing for the world. We have to get that perspective. We have to understand this is our family. I mean, we are working with them and spending more time with them than we are our, you know, home life sometimes. And so we need to rearrange our priorities. Re understand that these are relationships that have to be meaningful and have to be important to us. And if that shows up, then you’re going to have incredible success and great results.

Todd Mosetter (28:12)
I love the topic of this episode because it’s just so key to finding success in business today, right? We all want to go to work in a place where we enjoy what we do and who we get to do it with. But the end of the day, if we’re not winning as a business, we’re not having the impact that we could. And ultimately we may not be around for very long. So leaders that are able to realize the way these two elements in our play off each other, it’s key for them to be successful. If you think about everything we’ve talked about, if we’ve got listeners that are really trying to figure out how to chase both of these, any final pieces of advice for them about what they should do?

Drew Lawson (28:52)
Yeah, I mean the, the thing that comes to mind is another great book is culture code. And in that book, the author talks specifically about the importance of psychological safety and driving purpose and purpose is largely connected with results as is psychological safety. And so that might be a great place to start from a reading perspective, to look at that. I think we have a lot of work to do. I think our culture is so driven towards results that we’re losing a lot of money. I mean, when you think about how the impact we have if we’re continuing to drive results on our culture is that no one wants to come to work and everybody’s stressed. And so you have a lot of absenteeism, you have a lot of stress which people less productive and you have a lot of people just packing up and leaving, which is incredibly costly to an organization and it happens far too frequently because we’re so focused on results and we have to turn those tables and start with relationships.

Todd Mosetter (29:57)
True. Thank you so much for taking time out. I really appreciate it.

Drew: Always a pleasure.

Todd Mosetter
Before we end today’s episode, I’d like to thank our guest, Heather Leachman-Beck for her stories and unique insight. We had a chance to do the interview at Hyphn’s office here in Portland. If you’re ever in town, be sure to swing by. It’s an amazing place. As a reminder, you can listen to other episodes and access relevant tools by visiting building forward slash podcast and we’d love it if you could share the podcast and leave us a rating and review in your Apple podcast app while you’re there. Big thank you to Lucian Green, who helps with both the research and writing of these episodes. And Scott Higby, who handles our sound and audio. He has Studio C Creative Sound down in San Diego.