Correctness or style?
There’s a world of difference between correctness and style. Obvious you might say yet it seems to be a distinction that’s easily muddled when we’re leading people, and one that cramps capability, squashes potential and wastes a lot of time and resource.
‘Correctness’ is important, it’s about outputs that meet the objectives, answer the question posed, are fit for purpose. ‘Style’, on the other hand, is about how the work was done – the process of getting there – and how the work is presented. And this is where is gets ‘muddy’. Process and presentation may be essential components of being fit for purpose and ‘correctness’. Often, though, they are not. At times we can, as leaders hold too tightly to having things done exactly as we would do them when that’s unnecessary, when a different approach would serve the purpose equally well.
I am struck by how often leaders report struggling with overload and frustration that their people don’t get it/aren’t cutting it. Yet the issue is often created by the leader themselves because they haven’t got the correctness/style distinction clear. Because in fact, fit for purpose outputs land on their desk to be rejected and reworked by the leader themselves because it doesn’t look how they would have done it.
In taking this approach we can kid ourselves that we’re doing a great job, ensuring a quality output, even have a sneaky hero moment going on. What we’re doing, though, in restyling the work in our image, is wasteful on so many levels. Taking up time that could be better invested elsewhere, of course. More of problem though is the impact on those who did the work originally. Disempowerment will pretty soon become disengagement. Both quality and capacity will diminish.
If we want our people, our team and our organisational capability and capacity to grow we need to let go of fixed ideas of how things should be done and focus on the results of those efforts. In doing so we’ll be building new levels of trust and empowerment and releasing a whole new level of capability and capacity in the process.