Bakari Akil II, Ph.D.

Bakari Akil II Ph.D.

Communication Central

Glee Club – Results Oriented vs. Process Oriented Approaches

Glee Club – Results Oriented vs. Process Oriented Approaches

Posted Jun 13, 2010

If it were up to me I probably would have never watched Glee. I have nothing against this program and in fact, every time I watch it I am shocked and thoroughly entertained by how mean the characters are. My wife, however, loves the show and it's on her radar so when she watches it, I do too.  

That aside, what stands out for me on Glee is that character Sue Sylvester, played by Jane Lynch. Although most likely new to most of the Glee audience, Lynch has been a regular in guy movies and TV shows such as The 40 Year old Virgin where she offered to de-virginize Andy Stitzer (played by Steve Carell) and Two and a Half Men where she plays a smart mouthed therapist.

In Glee, Lynch's character Sue Sylvester is the coach of the 5-time National Champion cheerleadering group "The Cheerios." She plays the nemesis of Will Schuester, a former Spanish teacher turned glee club director who is unwillingly locked into competition with her for school funds because her program sucks every extra dollar available from the school's budget. Lynch's character never lets Schuester forget that she is a 5-time National Champion and that the glee club can't even win Regionals.

What strikes me most is the methods that each character uses to compete. In communication and psychology the terms Results Oriented and Process Oriented are used to describe people's approach to communicating with others, completing tasks and competing. Although neither approach is inherently good or bad, it is best to know which approach is more useful in a situation.

Results Oriented people are concerned with the outcome. They want another victory in the win column; to be called champion and most importantly they don't want to lose. Their desire to win is so great that the Results Oriented person may adopt a win at any cost approach and not consider who is hurt or damaged in their pursuit of success. Results Oriented people can sometimes be the in your face, no excuses type.

The Process Oriented person, although concerned with success, is also concerned with how that success occurs. They are concerned with their performance during their pursuit and will ask themselves questions such as: Did I perform better than last time or did I improve in the areas I was focusing on? I won, but did I play by the rules and show good sportsmanship? If I keep improving the way I am will I be a champion?

You can also say that Results Oriented people focus more on the now while Process Oriented people focus more on the future.

As you can guess Sue Sylvester follows the Results Oriented approach. She's willing to win at any cost and will do whatever she has to in order to motivate her cheerleaders to win. She insults, threatens, bullies and doesn't give compliments or nurture. Nothing is ever good enough. On the episodes that I have watched I have seen Sylvester push students into lockers and grab a student from behind by his backpack and fling him to the ground. She uses terror to get what she wants.

In her effort to retain her current level of funding she blackmails the principle by sneaking into his bedroom and snapping pictures of her in the bed with him while he sleeps. Sylvester threatens to show the pictures to his wife if he doesn't capitulate to her demands. She also tries to break the glee club director's spirit by continuously pointing out his deficiencies. In one episode where she actually saves him from losing his job, she can't even bring herself to admit it and tortures him while he is packing up to leave before telling him the truth. Here's what she said as she enters the room:

Sue Sylvester: It's as barren as me in here Will.----- Moving on to greener pastures?

Will Schuester: You just come to gloat Sue?

Sue Sylvester: Mostly.

Will Scheuster (sternly): Well, Congratulations. You got what you wanted. ------ I should shake your hand.

Sue Sylvester: Not unless you got some hand sanitizer. ------------------ I've seen that car you drive --- I don't want to catch poor.

(You may not agree, but I thought that exchange was hilarious!)

On the other hand, Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison), the glee club instructor follows an entirely different approach. He cares about his students. He's nurturing and implores them to not cheat by sneaking in to watch the practices of their rivals, Vocal Adrenaline. Schuester's approach to teaching is to make sure the students have fun and be in Glee club not for the stardom but for the love of singing and dancing. He also gives them the opportunity to choose the numbers they want to perform with little guidance. Because of this approach, Sue Sylvester views him as a bona-fide loser and while Schuester tells his students that they are highly talented, they have very little proof in the way of competition wins and trophies to disprove Sylvester's claims.

But in reality, both approaches can be successful and of course there are winners of all types. Although Sue Sylvester on Glee follows the Results Oriented approach and is the winner 'hands down' in everything she does, in the end it's just a television show. In order to be effective people have to reflect and consider what approach would be better for them and the consequences of each.

Common sense would dictate that when communicating with your mate you have to use a Process Oriented approach because you have to respect each other's feelings and treat each other how you would like to be treated. However, when trying to stop your child from running into a busy street you have to use a Results Oriented approach and shout for them to stop and scold them for not stopping on the curb and looking both ways before crossing.

In other areas it may be a little cloudy. Let's use a basketball coach as an example. In the regular season you want to make sure that every player gets the opportunity to play (Process Oriented). Yet, during the district championships you may decide that the starting five and the sixth man may need to play most of the game in order to win or you may adopt a "Hack-a-Shaq" policy in order to put the man with the worst free throw percentage at the free throw line in a close game (Results Oriented). Which approach is best?

In the end the approach you take depends on the context and on you.


Bakari Akil II, Ph.D. is the author of Pop Psychology - The Psychology of Culture and Everyday Life! You can also check out his page on Twitter.