Zenger Folkman blog

May 14, 2015

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Nine Behaviors That Drive Innovationby Jack Zenger

Screen-Shot-2015-05-13-at-9.23.26-PMEarlier this year the Conference Board released the results of a survey of CEOs to identify their most critical challenges. The hands-down winner was the challenge of human capital, especially leadership. Second was the challenge of innovation. For every region of the world, innovation was among the top five issues identified. Asia placed it first.

Innovation is an ascending issue around the world. In our own practice, we believe these two challenges are intertwined. Peak levels of innovation are extremely dependent on the quality of leadership in the organization. When leadership is strong, these organizations seem to invariably lead on the innovation dimension as well.

One finding from the research my colleague Joe Folkman and I have done on approximately 60,000 leaders who had received 360-degree feedback data from nearly 830,000 colleagues was that innovation usually sits in the middle of the competencies we measure. However, the bosses of our participants placed it lower. They consistently ranked innovation at 13 out of the 16 competencies we most frequently measure.

What do successful leaders do that elevates innovation to a higher level? By parsing out the people who received the highest scores on innovation, we were able to see what other behaviors align with high innovation. Because nearly every organization seeks to escalate innovation , this understanding is a valuable insight.

We found several behaviors that appear to drive innovation. Continued on Forbes.com.

April 30, 2015

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The Assumptions That Make Giving Tough Feedback Even Tougherby Zenger Folkman

APR15_30_Andersson_feedbackWhat’s it like to be on the delivering end of a tough feedback conversation? In a recent conversation we had, a leader described his experience:

Q: What do you do to prepare when you have tough feedback to deliver to a subordinate?

A: I am super focused. I keep telling myself “be honest, and be totally direct.”

Q:Is it easy to be totally direct and honest with another person about their performance?

A: No, I want to tell them what they want to hear, but they need the truth. They need to clearly understand what’s really going on and how that affects me and everyone else in the team.

Q: Are you assuming that they don’t realize there’s a problem?

A: Of course! If they realized there was a problem then I would not have to straighten them out.

Q: Are you nervous? Do you find this difficult?

A: This is the absolute worst part of my job – I really have a hard time doing this. I can’t wait for it to be over.

Q: What’s your plan for the feedback session?

A: Shock and Awe! Get in the room, deliver my message, tell them what needs to change, and then get them out of my office!

When you consider how difficult it is to receive corrective feedback and then how hard it is for your boss to deliver it, you begin to see how truly challenging it is for both of you to have a meaningful and constructive conversation. A good place to start, we believe, is to examine some of the unwarranted assumptions our research shows many bosses have made that make the job even harder than need be. Continued on Harvard Business Review.

April 28, 2015

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Sense And Nonsense In Leadership Developmentby Jack Zenger

StethoscopeThere is a great deal of nonsense that has been written about leadership. It includes meaningless statements such as, “Managers do things right; leaders do the right things,” or, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way,” and goes downhill from there. The torrent of clichés and non-actionable ideas is never ending.

If we are to really advance the practice of leadership, I believe we must adopt the fundamental premise that propelled the reform of medical practice as well. In 1972, Dr. David Eddy began a crusade to bring more science to the practice of medicine. Estimates had been made by objective observers that only 15% of what physicians did was based on scientific evidence. Eddy, who had been a practicing cardiologist, decided to return to school, obtain a degree in applied mathematics and statistics and led the charge on moving that number to a higher level.

Medicine had been strongly shaped by practitioners passing on their ideas and treatments to their colleagues. Some of these ideas were sound; but a good many were not. As an example, an obstetrician believed strongly that once a woman had a child delivered by Caesarean section, she could never give birth in the traditional way. He lectured at obstetrics and gynecological seminars and taught this idea for years. There were many examples to the contrary, and there was no scientific basis to support his belief, yet the notion persisted for years.

So what percentage of what we do as leadership development practitioners is based on good science? Continued on Forbes.com.

April 10, 2015

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Why You Should Watch Out for Your 5-Year Job Anniversaryby Zenger Folkman

APR15_10_186875275_sMost of us begin a new position with energy and a desire to impress. Our effort is high. Our passion is infectious. Our enthusiasm helps us to excel quickly.

But for some, work becomes mundane and repetitive. They lose some of their passion, and their work can begin to feel like a chore. Eventually some of those executives who had initially loved their careers enter the dimension we call the “day prison.” As they enter their workspace, they feel the metaphorical bars close around them in a zone where they are unmotivated, dissatisfied, and much less productive than they could be.

To better understand this phenomenon we examined data from 970 such people in a single organization. They were between 35 and 44 years old (the typical range for the onset of a mid-career crisis), and they all rated their engagement at work in the bottom 10%.

How did these “day prisoners” compare with the rest of the organization? Continued on Harvard Business Review.

April 2, 2015

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5 Steps To Turn Bad Coaching Aroundby Jack Zenger

forbes_logoWe all get bad feedback from bosses – but sometimes undeservedly so. That’s when it hurts. And when unfair feedback comes from out of the blue, it is very tough to respond in a way that corrects the record and fixes the problem.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article my colleague Joe Folkman and I shared an example of a customer service manager in a tough situation. A very important customer had requested some product modifications and was unhappy with the answers the manager gave him. Soon a senior business development executive, after hearing negative feedback from the customer, chewed out the customer service manager. Naturally, the executive isn’t pleased to receive the complaint, but he wrongly assumes the manager is at fault.

Imagine, for a moment, you are in this manager’s position. This senior executive isn’t your boss and probably hasn’t inquired about what might have gone wrong. But he assumes it’s your fault, that you’ve treated the customer poorly, and that you’ve seriously damaged the company’s relationship with the customer.

From your perspective, the feedback is unfair. But the executive is clearly agitated. What’s the best way to proceed? The key is preparation. Continued on Forbes.com.

March 23, 2015

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8 Ways To Get Work Done Fasterby admin

Screen-Shot-2015-03-23-at-8.24.43-AMJohn Maynard Keynes, a famous economist in the 1930’s, predicted that his grandchildren would have a three-hour workday. Sadly, it did not happen–In fact, we now have the reverse! Organizations are looking for ways to do more with less, the population is aging, and the pace of work is increasing.

When Zenger Folkman polled a group of more than 1,600 leaders, 81% felt they are often expected to move faster and do more. In the chart, you can see the perceived number of “hurry up” messages executives receive every year. A Harvard Business Review study found that in the 1970’s executives received about 1,000 messages per year. If you contrast that with the 30,000 messages executives received in the 2010’s, you can see the expectations emerging through more than 120 messages per workday. Clearly there is a great need for speed in today’s workplace.

As organizations look at competition and shorting deadlines there is a great need for increased speed. In our survey we asked respondents the impact of increased speed. When we looked at the data we examined the differences by position (e.g., Top, Senior, Middle and Supervisors). Continued on Forbes.com.

March 6, 2015

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New Research: To Reach Full Work Potential, Hone In On Your Strengthsby Jack Zenger

Michelle-The-Strengths-Resolution-Infographic-v61-603x1940I first learned of author and researcher Michelle McQuaid a year ago, when she famously determined in a study of 1,000 American executives that 65% would rather have a better boss than a raise.

As a fellow researcher of strengths based development McQuaid’s newest endeavor, the 2015 Strengths@Work Survey with the VIA Institute on character, caught my attention as well.

Inspired by various findings on how much more engaged employees become when managers recognize and appreciate their strengths, McQuaid initiated a new study. In a nutshell, yet again, the evidence shows profoundly that recognizing and honing in on a person’s greatest strengths is far more effective than grinding in on their greatest weakness (unless, of course, the weakness is a fatal flaw.) Continued on Forbes.com.

March 4, 2015

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What To Do When the Boss Gives You Baseless Feedbackby Zenger Folkman

MAR15_04_baselessdailySuppose you’re a customer service manager and you’re getting chewed out by your boss, the head of customer service. He’s heard from a key customer who’s unhappy about answers he’s received to a request for product modifications. Naturally, he’s not pleased to be on that end of the call. He probably hasn’t made any inquiries into what might have gone wrong. Nevertheless, he assumes it’s your fault, that you’ve treated the customer poorly and now have seriously damaged the company’s relationship with him.

You don’t agree. From your perspective, the feedback is wrong and unfair. But your boss is clearly agitated. What’s the best way to handle the situation? Preparation.

We suggest several steps:

1. Don’t react immediately. Certainly don’t erupt or summarily reject the feedback. Assume that there will be a follow-up meeting for which you’ll be fully prepared to respond, but don’t even think about doing that at this moment. Act as calmly and respectfully as you can. Nothing is gained by showing anger or escalating the issue even more. Continued on Harvard Business Review.

February 26, 2015

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You Have to Be Fast to Be Seen as a Great Leaderby Zenger Folkman

FEB15_26_126329906It’s obvious that business is moving faster and faster and that to keep up, leaders at all levels need to know how to pick up the pace.

That’s easy to say. But is it so? Is there a correlation between speed and perceived leadership effectiveness?

In a word, “yes.”

We recently analyzed 360 feedback evaluations on more than 50,000 leaders to assess the impact of speed on their colleagues’ impression of each executive’s overall leadership effectiveness. For this purpose, we created a “speed index” that measured speed in three simple ways: how well a leader can spot problems or trends early, can respond to problems quickly, and can swiftly make needed changes. (If you would like to evaluate your own pace and see how you compare, take our Pace Assessment by clicking here.)

We then looked to see how high scores on the speed index correlated to overall leadership effectiveness ratings by focusing on the exceptional leaders in the pool (those rated in the top 10% in leadership effectiveness by their colleagues).

What we found was that of these 5,711 top leaders, 2% were judged particularly fast but not exceptionally effective (that’s about 114 of them); 3% (some 170) were judged to be highly effective (that is, people trusted them to do the right thing) but not particularly fast. And fully 95% (that’s more than 5,400 of them) were judged both particularly effective and particularly quick. That is, being good is only marginally better than being quick, but the fact is both are necessary, and neither alone is sufficient, to be perceived as an exceptional leader today. Continued on Harvard Business Review.

February 20, 2015

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5 Business Payoffs For Being An Effective Coachby Joe Folkman

coaching1As I look over the landscape of leadership development, here’s my conclusion: nothing much is new in the way of leadership principles. There are new tactics, but not many new principles. A good friend of mine used to say, it’s like “Old wine and new bottles.” And despite the sizable amount of research that exists on the tactics to improve leadership effectiveness, there are still many leaders who don’t feel compelled to learn.

This reminds me of a county agent who went out to a farmer to invite him to attend some classes on better farming techniques. He gave the farmer the times and place and said, “Will I see you there? “

“ Nope,” said the farmer.

“Well, why not,” asked the county agent.

“Well, you see,” said the farmer, “I’m not half as good a farmer as I know how to be. So why should I learn anything more? “

This describes us all to a large degree. We’ve been talking about the advantages of employee involvement and participation for decades, yet sizable portions of our leaders don’t follow through. Why should they be interested? From our research, here are at least a few of the payoffs feedback and coaching can bring. … Continued on Forbes.com.

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