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July 20, 2017

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3 Signs You Are A Counterfeit Bold Leader And How To Improveby Zenger Folkman

After writing several articles about the benefits and positive impact of bold leaders, I received pushback from a number of people who had observed bold leaders that did not create the same positive impression. These leaders were perceived as being bold but created dissatisfaction and frustration within their organizations.

While on the surface these leaders may appear to be bold, I identified three characteristics commonly found among bold leader counterfeits:

1. Aggressive leaders are hyper focused on their own needs and successes. They take extraordinary steps to make themselves look good, often at the expense of others. They will look for ways to blame others and are unwilling to accept responsibility for errors.

2. Autocratic leaders rarely ask for input or advice from others, desiring to make all the decisions alone. They prioritize maintaining control over providing opportunities for others to grow. They expect orders to be followed and no one is allowed to question the decision or solution.

3. Arrogant leaders are always “right.” They are not teachable and believe that others’ decisions and solutions are inferior to their own. Because they resist feedback from others, they become defensive when challenged. Their business decisions are often centered in ego and personal agenda.

Leaders who engage in these behaviors have the façade of being bold, but truly lack the many positive benefits of genuine bold leadership.

In analyzing data from over 50,000 leaders, my colleague Jack Zenger and I discovered that genuine bold leaders were rated as more effective, had more positive performance reviews, and were more likely to be a high potential leader. They also had significantly more satisfied direct reports who were not likely to think about quitting their jobs. Overall, these leaders were very effective, well liked, and generated engagement across the organization.

The reason some leaders utilize the counterfeit bold behaviors of aggression, an autocratic style, or arrogance, is that in the short term these behaviors generate results. However, employees end up being motivated out of fear rather than respect or inspiration and will abandon ship as soon as possible. What we have found in our research is that it is possible for leaders to develop a genuinely bold style, but only if they avoid these three destructive leadership behaviors.

Genuine Bold Leadership

Through our firm’s ongoing leadership research, we came to a consensus that a series of seven behaviors effectively described the characteristics of a genuinely bold leader. The seven behaviors are:

1. Challenges standard approaches.

2. Creates an atmosphere of continual improvement.

3. Does everything possible to achieve goals.

4. Gets others to go beyond what they originally thought possible.

5. Energizes others to take on challenging goals.

6. Quickly recognizes situations where change is needed.

7. Has the courage to make needed changes.

In a further look at our data, we identified the leaders who were in the top 10% in terms of their boldness as rated by these seven behaviors. We then compared the results for these leaders against all other leaders in our database to understand what was different about their behavior. We found that they were rated significantly more positive on the following characteristics:

• Persuaded, instead of demanded, others to stretch.

• Constructively challenged rather than aggressively challenged.

• Inspired and energized others rather than expecting others would accomplish difficult tasks simply because they were assigned.

• Helped others understand rather than simply telling people what to do.

• Found ways to improve others’ new ideas rather than forcing their ideas on others.

Developing genuine boldness is a worthy goal for any leader. It can inspire others to peak performance, invite innovation, and spark new growth for organizations. By carefully assessing if behaviors could be perceived as aggressive, autocratic, and/or arrogant, you will easily be able to identify if a leader, or your own style, is counterfeiting bold leadership. If you are curious about your preferences around bold leadership behaviors, I invite you to take a quick self-survey by clicking here.

This article was originally published on Forbes.

July 12, 2017

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Ep. 98: The Urgency of Developing More Women Leaders! — How to Leverage Their Unique Strengthsby Zenger Folkman

We've all heard speculation about the ways leadership styles vary between women and men. Our survey of 7,280 leaders in some of the most successful and progressive organizations in the world confirms some long-held assumptions about gender differences in leaders in the workplace… and holds some surprises!

During the podcast, Joyce Palevitz and Jack Zenger will discuss:

  1. The fallacy of stereotypes that would have us believe that female leaders only excel at certain competencies
  2. The research that shows at every level, women were rated as better overall leaders than their male counterparts and why that might occur
  3. The possible rationale for why men outscored women significantly on only one management competence in this survey
  4. Conclusions from the research about what organizations, leaders and managers should do with these findings

Join Joyce and Jack to learn why every organization should be leveraging the leadership strengths of women!


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June 29, 2017

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6 Keys To Having It All: Outstanding Results And Engaged Teamby Zenger Folkman

Recently a client mused, “Is it possible to be a high-standards, results driven leader; while at the same time building an engaged, fun-to-work with team?" Many people would contend that doing either of these things well makes it almost impossible to succeed at the other.

To explore this question further, my colleague Jack Zenger and I examined 360 assessments from more than 60,000 leaders. The assessment measured both a leader’s ability to drive hard for results and his or her people skills. We isolated leaders who were in the top quartile on both obtaining results and people skills.

The verdict: We found only 13% of leaders in the overall dataset were in the top quartile on both. We were fascinated to see what insights we would gain from understanding what this group of 7,800 leaders did differently than the other 87%.

Characteristics Of The Rare Group Who Does Both

In a recent Harvard Business Review article we shared that leaders who are under 30 years of age are 2-3 times more likely to be effective at both results and engagement than their older compatriots. Nearly one-third of the group under 30 years achieved both priorities well. At around age 40, it seems, leaders appear to have made their choice between being results driven or interpersonally strong. From there forward, only 10% of leaders in any age group would do both things well.

This prompts some questions. If someone early in their career is able to do both things, could they recapture that ability? Could we preserve that flexibility of being both results oriented and engaged if we began at an earlier age to offer appropriate development?

The Impact Of Position

Supervisors are much more likely to carry both capabilities, we found. In fact, supervisors are twice as likely to do both things well. In this case we did see some decline in both skills with age, but people skills declined more than the “drive for results” as leaders moved from supervisor to top management. Both skills decline with age, and age and position are strongly correlated with each other.

What Makes Leaders Well Rounded

To understand how and why some leaders are able to perform both capabilities well, we compared the results for the group in the top quartile on both skills to all other leaders in the dataset. We analyzed 40 behaviors and performed a statistical test ( t-tests) contrasting both group’s results. Then, by analyzing the items showing the most significant differences, we performed a factor analysis and identified six clustered groups. These appear to be the behaviors that enable that 13% of leaders to consistently use both sets of leadership skills.

We labelled these clusters “Behavioral Bridges,” because the evidence suggests they enable leaders to simultaneously “drive for results” and practice good interpersonal skills. Obviously, these outcomes single leaders out as possessing six powerful skills that allow them to perform at a much higher level than those who lack these traits. 

1. Communicates Clear Strategy And Direction

Drives For Results People Skills
Top results rely on everyone having clarity about the direction and understanding the strategy to achieve it. Confusion leads to frustrated and dissatisfied employees. Leaders who communicate well and provide well-defined direction have a much more involved team.

2.Inspires And Motivates

Drives For Results People Skills
When a leader has the ability to drive hard for results and at the same time to inspire high effort and performance they are much more likely to achieve results. Inspiring behavior unleashes the energy within people to do their best work. Leaders who can inspire and generate loyalty, commitment and enthusiasm in their team members excel at creating a optimistic work environment. 

3. Establishes Stretch Goals

Drives For Results People Skills
If you want to get others to work harder and raise the bar, than get team members to set stretch goals. When stretch goals are collaboratively set with a team, amazing things happen. Everyone is “all in.” People feel valued and competent.

4. High Integrity And Trust

Drives For Results People Skills
Team members who do not trust their leaders struggle to support the stretch goals that they set. A key component of building positive relationships with others is being trusted. To be trusted leaders need to walk their talk.

5. Develops Others

Drives For Results People Skills
Leaders who care about the development of subordinates and who also take the time to develop these people reap the benefits in the results produced. Most people want the opportunity to develop new skills and competencies.   Developing others has the two-fold impact of elevating performance and also creating a culture that is fun and engaging.

6. Coachability

Drives For Results People Skills

Leaders who resist feedback are much like the emperor with no clothes. Since they do not seek or want feedback, people see do not speak up. Problems fall in the cracks. Deadlines are missed.

However, if a leader seeks feedback and is receptive to advice, colleagues will not stand by if they see that leader about to make a mistake.

Leaders who ask for feedback from others and work to make improvements are highly respected. Their coachability is an example to everyone.

The ability to drive for results paired with excellent people skills is a very powerfully combination — so powerful, in fact, these leaders rank in the 91st percentile for overall leadership effectiveness. Your lesson in this should be clear: Identify at least one of two of these “Behavior Bridges” to help you develop these behaviors yourself.

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3 Reasons To Recruit And Select More Female Leadersby Zenger Folkman

In the U.S., since 1970, 26% of the growth in GDP has been directly attributable to having more women in the workforce. Hiring women has clearly been beneficial, but the benefits don’t stop with a mere headcount. Companies are in need of strong individuals in key leadership positions. Women are a huge and largely untapped resource that is often not recognized. Vik Malhotra, a senior partner at McKinsey and Co., has said, “For women, the corporate talent pipeline is leaky and blocked.”

The graph below echoes this sentiment that even though women make up more than half of the workforce they are surprisingly sparse at the top.

  1. Women leaders are highly qualified.

A few years ago I shared a study on Harvard Business Review in response to the question “are women better leaders than men?” My colleague Joe Folkman and I looked through our database of over 60,000 leaders and found that according to our 360 analysis, women outperformed men in 12 of the 16 competencies we measured.

This realization was very intriguing and we have spent a good deal of time trying to learn more about women in leadership and how they can better leverage their unique strengths.

Our 360-assessment takes reports from managers, direct reports, peers, and others. It turns out women had the most positive ratings from Managers. In the graph below you can see the difference of men and women in all the rater levels.

2. Women are more likely to seek out opportunities to learn and improve throughout their career.

We looked at men’s and women’s scores on self-development in our assessment and found that early on in their careers there is no significant difference between their scores. However, you can see in the graph below that as their careers progress, females did not decline like males did over time.

Our data showed that increased effectiveness occurred because most women chose to continue to learn and develop. The point is not about males versus females, but rather the power of development and continuous improvement.

  1. Organizations benefit more from a mixed gender workplace.

A study done at MTI showed that teams with mixed gender are more productive and creative. In fact, the economists found that simply moving from an all-male or all-female office to one that was evenly split could possibly increase revenue by 41 percent. How? Their research found that “greater social diversity implies a greater spread of experience, which could add to the collective knowledge of a group of office workers and make the unit perform more effectively.”

Again, my point is not to say that one gender is better than the other. Rather, both are effective and with the rising shortage of senior leaders, both are needed. For example, Kevin Kelly, a CEO of Heidrick and Struggles, found that “40% of executives hired at the senior level are pushed out, fail or quit within 18 months.” Organizations can greatly benefit from putting more emphasis on identifying women in their ranks, and working to develop them for senior roles they can succeed in.

In all, our findings should be clear: Companies need the diversity and benefits women leaders provide. Every company can benefit from placing much greater emphasis on getting more women in its leadership ranks.

June 21, 2017

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Ep. 97: The 6 Ways To Inspire and Motivate Top Performanceby Zenger Folkman

Despite all research about the nature of leaders, practitioners and scholars still acknowl­edge that many aspects of leadership remain a mystery. In this podcast, Dr. Joe Folkman addresses one of the key mysteries that seems to consistently defy traditional analysis: how to inspire and motivate others.

Often, leaders are identified as possessing a remark­able quality that sets them apart from others. It causes others to be attracted to them and enables them to achieve remarkable outcomes. That quality has most frequently been labeled “charisma,” a term that comes from the Greek word meaning “gift.” In ancient times people believed this quality was a divine gift bestowed upon some and not others. We intend to prove the following:

  1. There are different approaches to inspiring leadership that go beyond having “charisma”
  2. The ability to Inspire and Motivate Others is a behavioral skill that anyone can develop.

As we dove deeper into analysis of what makes leaders inspir­ing and motivating, we fell into the seemingly logical trap of thinking that charisma, as the term is most often used, is simply a synonym for “being inspiring”. That is no longer our view. We have concluded that being charismatic helps in a small way, for some people in some circumstances, to be perceived as inspiring and motivating. But there are countless leaders who are identified by their colleagues as highly inspiring who are definitely not charismatic.

Read Joe Folkman's Forbes article, "Everything Counts: The 6 Ways To Inspire And Motivate Top Performance."


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June 7, 2017

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Ep. 96: The Unlikable Leader: 7 Ways To Improve Employee/Boss Relationshipsby Zenger Folkman

There is a secret to becoming a more likable leader. It doesn’t have to do with how tall and charming you are, or how often you give employees a raise. In fact, we have evidence that the majority of the behaviors displayed by the most likable leaders have to do with the way they interact with employees on a day-to-day basis. But first, does being liked by your employees even matter?

In a study of 51,836 leaders, we identified 27 who were rated at the bottom quartile in likability but were in the top quartile for overall leadership effectiveness. That equates to approximately 1 in 2000 cases that a boss who is highly unlikable appears in the top quartile of overall effectiveness. Apparently, being liked by your employees does matter…a great deal! So, if you choose to be more likable, what can you do?

Join Jack and Joe to learn the 7 key actions that our research shows will substantially increase your likability score! Register and attend the webinar and you’ll have the opportunity to take our complimentary “Likability Self-assessment."


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May 25, 2017

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Infographic: 360 Assessments – Don’t Fear The 360by Zenger Folkman

Zenger Folkman, has spent years researching and creating a best-in-class 360-degree assessment that measures an individual’s strengths and potential fatal flaws, and correlates those results to significant business outcomes like employee engagement, retention and bottom-line profitability. Our 360-degree assessments deliver results that others simply can’t match.

Download the infographic to learn more about our 360 assessments. For further learning, visit the 360-Degree Assessments Page

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May 23, 2017

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Ep. 95: A 15-Year Overnight Success – From the Basement to $2.5 Billion (feat. Ryan Smith, CEO of Qualtrics)by Zenger Folkman

Ryan Smith, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Qualtrics, joins Dr. Jack Zenger and Dr. Joe Folkman in this edition of the Zenger Folkman podcast series to discuss the story of Qualtrics, a company started in his dad’s basement with a valuation of $2.5 billion 15 years later. Ryan tells the story of Qualtrics, its values, and what makes it unique.

Qualtrics is the world’s leading enterprise survey technology provider, serving more than 6,000 enterprises worldwide, including half of the Fortune 100, and 97 of the top 100 business schools. Qualtrics helps enterprises, academic institutions, and government agencies capture real-time customer, market, and employee insights that inform data-driven business decisions.

Download the free ebook for A 15-Year Overnight Success - From the Basement to $2.5 Billion (feat. Ryan Smith, CEO of Qualtrics).


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eBook: A 15-Year Overnight Success: From the Basement to $2.5 Billion (feat. Ryan Smith, CEO of Qualtrics)by Zenger Folkman


Ryan Smith, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Qualtrics, joins Dr. Jack Zenger and Dr. Joe Folkman in this edition of the Zenger Folkman podcast series to discuss the story of Qualtrics, a company started in his dad’s basement with a valuation of $2.5 billion 15 years later. Ryan tells the story of Qualtrics, its values, and what makes it unique.

May 10, 2017

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How to Improve at Work When You’re Not Getting Feedbackby Zenger Folkman

Too many managers avoid giving any kind of feedback, regardless of whether it’s positive or negative. If you work for a boss who doesn’t provide feedback, it’s easy to feel rudderless. It can be especially disorienting if you’re new in the role, new to the company, or a recent graduate new to the workforce. In the absence of specific guidance, is there any way to know what the average boss would want you to work on?

While everyone will have different strengths and weaknesses they need to work on, when we examined our database of performance evaluation information for more than 7,000 individual contributors and 5,000 managers, we noticed a reliable pattern. There were five behaviors that managers most often associated with high performance:

Delivering results. The strongest, most consistent correlations were skills that focused on achieving results. When individuals were able to achieve goals on schedule and did everything possible to get results, managers were impressed. Another critical component was the quality of work. The person needed to deliver outputs that met high standards.

Being a trusted collaborator. High performance ratings went with being trusted. Being trusted emanates from good interpersonal skills. Strong collaborators were excellent communicators and were held up as role models. Some individuals strive to stand out by working independently, so that it’s clear who deserves the credit. Our data suggests those individuals typically fail. The highest performers, on the other hand, cooperated with other groups and were trusted in making decisions.

Having strong technical/professional expertise. For both managers and individual contributors, technical/professional expertise drove their performance evaluation. People devoid of a deep understanding of the technical issues facing the organization work at a significant disadvantage. Some come into an organization with fresh expertise but, by coasting, become obsolete over time. Technology changes quickly. Keeping up-to-date is essential.

Translating vision and strategy into meaningful goals. The best performers understood the organizational strategy and were able to apply that understanding in their job to make a contribution. Those who did not make the effort to connect their work to the company strategy appeared to work in a vacuum. Often, their decisions were based on personal preferences rather than on being aligned with the vision. Understanding the strategy impacted performance ratings for both managers and individual contributors.

Marketing their work well. If someone is frustrated or disappointed with their performance rating, they often lament and think: “My work should speak for itself.” Good products are successful usually because they are not only a good product — they have been marketed well, too. The fact is, good work rarely speaks for itself. Managers are surrounded by hundreds of shiny objects seeking to grab their attention. Good work needs a little marketing.

As you read through this list, think about how you stack up on each of these. Do you have strong expertise but need to work on your collaborative skills? Are you a great team player who needs to learn to toot your own horn? How much output do you generate, compared with the rest of your team, and how is the quality of what you turn in? You can try asking peers for feedback on these areas if you can’t get any feedback from your boss.

If you’re a manager, our data dive revealed two additional qualities to focus on:

Speed. We have been tracking this dimension for several years. It’s become a critical factor influencing individual success. Information is flowing faster, competitors are coming out with new products, global dynamics are changing preferences, and the need to move work at a fast pace is a key differentiator between good leaders and great leaders. In researching our book Speed: How Leaders Accelerate Successful Execution,we found compelling information that leaders who were speedy were rated as being two times more effective as leaders, had significantly more engaged employees, and were more likely to get promoted.

The ability to inspire and motivate others. We have rated the effectiveness of this skill for more than 85,000 leaders, and found that, compared with 15 other leadership competencies, this is rated the lowest. Yet when we asked more than 1 million respondents which competency is most important, “inspires and motivates” ranks number one. Fifty years ago, people might have worked for money alone, but today people want to be inspired.

We might also humbly suggest that if you’re a manager, you try to get a little better at giving feedback.

Read the article on Harvard Business Review.

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