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Finding the balance between getting things done and getting to know your people

By Shelley Flett


As leaders, we are influencers – and as influencers, we must encourage, enable and empower others to perform in a way that leads the business to success. We must do this while fostering a healthy workplace culture and to do it efficiently requires a different kind of balance. The most effective and successful leaders are those who can balance getting things done while nurturing their relationship with their people.

Take a look at Howard Schultz who is a great example of a leader who has perfected this balance. Schultz took charge of Starbucks in the 1980s and turned a regional coffee company into one of the world’s top brands. Howard’s net worth today is $4 billion so he’s clearly capable of getting things done and yet his focus has always been around people and building a company that “honours and respects the dignity of work and the dignity of all men and all women”.


Imbalance is the enemy

So why do so many leaders struggle to find this balance? Naturally, each of us have a preference of either getting things done or getting to know people and will gravitate to one or the other without giving it too much thought. And while both focuses are equally important, an over-focus in one area is often to the detriment of the other.

When a leader over-focuses on task and under-focuses on people it can result in:

  • Short term and unsustainable results driven by control, consequence or rewards (like overtime or bonuses)
  • Unrealistic pressure on the team and elevated stress on individuals which can increase absenteeism
  • Disengagement or the loss of trust by employees who may believe their leader doesn’t care
  • Impatience and frustration with conversations that aren’t task focused
  • Struggle for employees to connect with their leader who appears to be super-human with no weakness, vulnerability or fear of failing


Similarly, when a leader over-focuses on people and under-focuses on task it can result in:

  • A fear of upsetting others and therefore avoiding conflict or having vague conversations with implied consequences that are often misunderstood by employees
  • Saying yes and agreeing to unrealistic expectations – often to their own detriment
  • Being perceived as ‘soft’ or not serious about delivering results
  • Taking too much responsibility and justifying poor performance with peers and senior leaders


Why finding the balance matters

When a leader can get the balance right and pay just as much attention to getting things done as they do to getting to know their people, they will:

  • Create deeper trust and stronger relationships – regardless of the current challenges
  • Communicate and consistently manage expectations of what success looks like for both the individual and the business
  • Experience more open and transparent conversations, robust debate, challenging of ideas and innovative thinking
  • Gain greater respect for differing perspectives and encourage curiosity about alternative ways of working
  • Empower others to make decisions – including where, when and how work is performed


Creating the balance between task and people starts with awareness, of your own preference, and then consciously shifting your focus evenly across task and people.

Once you find this balance it’s not something you unlearn or forget – it becomes your way of leading and even your way of living.

In Schultz’s departure message to employees, he maintained the balance between task and people, writing “success is not an entitlement; it must be earned every day through hard work and teamwork. Try to listen with empathy, respond with kindness, and do your best to perform through the lens of humanity”.

When a leader can generate a culture of accountability and deep trusting relationships then they move to a position of influence!


Shelley Flett is an expert in leadership development and team performance, with more than a decade of experience in operations and call centres across banking and telecommunications. She is focused on maximising efficiency and building high performance team cultures. Shelley is the Author of ‘The Dynamic Leader: Become the leader others are inspired to follow’ (Major Street Publishing RRP $29.95). For more information visit


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