There are plenty of style questions that get asked of leaders – often stated as a dichotomy. Here is one for you – are you results-based or process-based? Perhaps this isn’t one you have thought about, yet I would suggest you should. Let’s talk about the question – and what the best answer might be.

Results-Based or Process-Based?

A results-based focus primarily targets the outcome of the project, task, or objective. Do you focus on achieving goals or targets in a specific time frame and ask “What” questions? If so, you are operating from a results-based focus.

A process-based focus emphasizes the approaches, strategies, and practices employed to reach outcomes. Do you think often about continuous improvement, learning and development, and ask “How” questions? If so, you are operating from a process-based perspective.

A Real World Example

If the leader of a sports team focuses on the win-loss record and opponents, they are results-based. While we all know that success in sports is largely measured by the scoreboard, there is another approach. A process-based coach looks at performance based on how the team executed the plan, believing that if the execution is strong, results (wins) will follow.

What is the Best Answer?

Choosing one or the other is a false choice. As a leader, you can integrate both results-based and process-based thinking into your work. Getting to a healthy integration requires three things:

  • Recognize your natural inclination.
  • Find ways to balance these personally and with your team.
  • Check with the team to monitor the balance.

Five Ways to Create the Balance

Here are five specific things you can do keep a healthy balance between results-based and process-based thinking.

  • Build collaborative goals. When people understand and have a personal stake in the goals, their commitment to them will grow.
  • Consider who needs to be involved. Before solving a problem, ask yourself who needs to be involved in coming to the best solution.
  • Think “How” and “What.” The “What” in every situation needs to be clear, but the “How” matters too. Ask yourself both questions regularly.
  • Think about communication. When we focus too much on results, we often assume everyone knows the goals and the reasons. Clearer and more intentional communication is one of the best ways to balance results and process.
  • Trust your team. Let the team help you find the right balance between result-based and process-based. Lean into team members that have a different inclination than you to help you keep a good balance.
The best leaders consciously consider both results and process daily to ensure greater success for their team and themselves.

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High Impact Leadership: The #1 Fastest Way to Accelerate Your Organization’s Success

February 22, 2024  1:00pm ET

Kevin Eikenberry is a recognized world expert on leadership development and learning and is the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group ( He has spent nearly 30 years helping organizations across North America, and leaders from around the world, on leadership, learning, teams and teamwork, communication and more.
Twice he has been named by as one of the top 100 Leadership and Management Experts in the World and has been included in many other similar lists.

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