“What” & “How” in life ?

I have many times wondered as to why “How” is important as long as are able to achieve the “What” in life. I am sure many of you have the same dilemma. Why is it important to focus on how we do something as long as we achieve what we want to accomplish in life ?

I am reminded of an incident almost three decades back when I started my career. I had a colleague who used to sit next to me and was quite ill behaved to say the least. Our team members were scared of him because of his position but hated him for his antics. I used to sit next to him and sometimes wondered as to why people don’t take me seriously as much as they took him. I felt I was very nice to everyone around me and he was not that well behaved and was used to throwing his tantrums around. Sometimes, I almost came to a conclusion that if you have to have an impact on others, it may be necessary to throw your weight around.

However, as years passed by I realised that people remember you for your behaviour and not for your results. Whenever I visited that site again even after years of my leaving that place, people welcomed me with love and affection. My colleague whom I thought was more impactful was hated and forgotten. Nobody bothered to enquire about him.

Many a time as managers we tend to focus on the results and not on the process. The Japanese have always taught us to fix the process and forget about the results. It will come by itself. I also believe that we need to focus on the way we do something more that what we want to do. If you have to grow as a leader it is very important to remember that the way we treat our team is as important as the way we accomplish our goals through our team members.

On a lighter note I also remember once when I was leading a team to define a process in ISO, we had a lot of fun for three hours but we did end up defining the process. One of my team members told me that although we accomplished our task, we should not have had so much fun. But most of the other members felt that we accomplished our task ahead of other teams because we had a lot of fun. So the way you do something has a huge impact on your results as well.

One of the ways of measuring our impact on our team is to ask how many of your team members enjoy coming back to work on a Monday morning. If the majority say yes, it means that the way you go about leading your team is as good as the way you accomplish your goals. On the other hand, if you realise that many of your team members do not enjoy working with you, it may not be because you are a hard task master or you do not accomplish your goals. It means that the way you treat them is not ok.

Many organisations have also realised the value of “How” and hence have tweaked their performance management systems to measure the behaviour (how) and the results ( what) and given them equal weightage in assessment.

If we recollect, Gandhiji had taught us quite some time back that ” The means to an end is as important as the end itself” . So, it is high time that we focus on “How” we accomplish our goals as much as “What” we accomplish.

Let us start today.

S Ramesh Shankar

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