Are you a ‘task’ or ‘people’ person?

Picture1My boss reminded me of this diagram recently, as a gentle encouragement to think about the pros and cons of my own personal bias. The diagram represents the relationship between the functional and the relational and suggests that good leaders have both in their locker.

The bottom left corner is where no-one wants to be – not good at the task in hand, and not good at relating to people. We all know ’em. We don’t want to be ’em. Bottom right are people who are great relationally but not so good at getting things done. People love hanging round with these folks and their relational strength covers their task weakness, for a while at least. Top left are people who are great on task but will manipulate, steam-roller, use and abuse people in service of the task. When the task is done or the person is expendable they’re history. Think Gordon Ramsay or Alan Sugar. Efficient – yes. Popular – often not. Staff turnover will be high under this type of person. Top right is where we aspire to be – good on task and good with people. Not easily done as most of us will naturally bias one way or the other. I know my bias is toward task and I have to work extra hard not to see people as tools for my task.

So what can you do. Well, if you associate with bottom right perhaps start to get serious with your schedule. Block out time to work on tasks, to plan, to strategise, to read etc. Your temptation will be to pop in on that person or meet for a coffee. Take charge of your schedule and discipline yourself toward task. If you can (like me) associate with top left then you’re already good at scheduling – so schedule in time with people. Meet people for lunch at their place of work and listen to what life is like for them – with no agenda. Invite people round for Sunday lunch – with no agenda! Ask some guys to watch the footy with you  – with no agenda! Find ways to connect personally to demonstrate that you really do value people – you’re just not that great at showing it all the time.

The greatest ever leader once challenged a ‘high task’ guy with these words ‘Peter, feed my lambs.’ Two important insights from that: it’s not my task and they’re not my lambs – its an entrusted stewardship and as such, both the task and the people matter greatly.


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