Zenger Folkman blog

January 7, 2015

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Infographic: 9 Habits That Lead To Terrible Decision-Makingby Zenger Folkman

Posted on Business Insider January 5, 2015

Pizza or salad?

Buy or sell?

Expand or cut back?

Our choices define us. And for those running countries or companies, routine decisions can have dramatic effects on people’s lives. So how can we ensure we’re making the best possible choices for ourselves and the people we influence?

The folks at leadership development consultancy Zenger/Folkman decided to study how people make decisions. Using feedback from 50,000 leaders and a statistical analysis, they uncovered the habits that lead to terrible decision-making. They are illustrated in the below graphic.

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December 12, 2014

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Lead Like Scrooge: The Surprising Research Resultsby Joe Folkman

mr__scrooge_by_ssdancer-d51nq3eEbenezer Scrooge, the cold hearted, miserable character of Charles Dickens’ 1843 novel, A Christmas Carol, was a very demanding boss. His catchphrase, “Bah, humbug!” suggested he was not only inconsiderate, but unlikable, too. Bob Cratchit, his only employee, was a very hard working employee, but clearly disengaged.

This Christmas season, what lessons in management can you learn from the iconic Scrooge character? You may even discover some Scrooges in your own organization.

Some people assume that Scrooge was just a fictional character who does not exist today. I started to wonder if we could identify Scrooges from within our database of more than 45,000 leaders. The Scrooge profile is a leader who is very high on drive for results and very low on consideration. We looked for leaders at the top and bottom quartile. From that definition, we found 83 Scrooges in our database of 45,000 leaders. … Continued on Forbes.com.


December 4, 2014

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The Holiday Gift Your Employees Will Valueby Jack Zenger

Screen-Shot-2014-12-03-at-10.13.09-PMEach holiday season I am struck by the way lights, trees, and colorful decor can enhance a lonely street or a simple room. The investment and time my remarkable wife takes to transform our home brightens the season and makes a difference. Likewise, a leader’s job is to enhance the performance of colleagues. It takes time and is an investment that is appreciated and does not go unnoticed. Many assume that this means performing some of the classic functions of performance management, such as:

  • Setting clear expectations for what subordinates are to accomplish,
  • Providing ample feedback on how well they are meeting those expectations,
  • Conducting periodic performance appraisals, and
  • Ensuring the individual receives ample development via formal training and on-the-job.

The problem is that merely doing those things doesn’t seem to improve the performance of most subordinates. For those who show signs of improvement, the magnitude of that improvement seems far below the potential the individual actually possesses. Often those traditional performance management steps cause short term bursts of effort and productivity (like most of us display as we are getting ready for a long business trip) that is not sustained over a longer time period. … Continued on Forbes.com.


November 28, 2014

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The 9 Top Causes For Uncommitted Employees (And How To Turn Them Around)by Joe Folkman

Screen-Shot-2014-11-28-at-9.12.43-AMRecently, I viewed an infographic on the worst traits of disengaged employees. As I might have anticipated, gossiping, lack of initiative, and other typical traits topped the list of offenses. But if engagement is as big a problem in organizations as some researchers believe, it stands to reason that disengaged workers may not be as easy to spot as you think. The irresponsible, unenthusiastic complainer in the cube next to you is not the only profile of worker that is defeating your company’s growth. So who are these disengaged workers, and what has caused them to become so disattached?

To find out, we gathered data from more than 320,000 employees from a variety of organizations to understand the characteristics and predominant sources of dissatisfaction from the most unengaged and uncommitted employees. We looked at the individuals in the bottom 5% for engagement and commitment.

When we looked at the demographic characteristics of these employees, we found people who were hopeless stuck in the middle of everything. The most common profile for the bottom 5% is as follows: … Continued on Forbes.com.


November 14, 2014

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The ’8 Great’ Accountability Skills For Business Successby Joe Folkman

indexHow is the issue of personal accountability viewed in your organization? Seasoned workers have undoubtedly seen their share of finger pointing, dishonesty, and “CYOA.” However, personal accountability is a critical step towards improving leadership. When people are accountable for their own decisions, work, and results, the effectiveness of an organization can greatly increase.

One of the greatest issues in accountability stems from the amount of control people actually possess in their work. When employees are in control of the what, when, and how of a decision, their accountability is sky high. On the other hand, when others are in control of how work gets done, accountability significantly decreases. Studies on control and influence in autocratic, democratic, and laissez faire organizations show that the most effective organizations have teams where everyone feels they have influence. When people feel like their voice is heard, their investment in their work increases far more than when they’re being told what to do and exactly how to do it. … Continued on Forbes.com.


October 31, 2014

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By The Numbers: Superior Leadership Produces Higher Return Than Superior Talentby Jack Zenger

forbes_logoDecades ago the sage Peter Drucker was talking about his work as a consultant to large organizations. He noted that senior executives would invariably tell him their organization had attracted extremely talented people, and this accounted for their success. He then went out to meet these extraordinary people. After meeting with many people throughout the organization, he came back to the senior people and told them that their work force did not seem significantly different from all the others that he’d encountered. They were about average as far as he could tell. The difference he noted was that some organizations operated in ways that enabled ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things.

Charles A. O’Reilly and Jeffrey Pfeffer elaborated the same theme in their book Hidden Value: How Great Companies Achieve Extraordinary Results with Ordinary People. They highlighted nine companies from various industries that had demonstrated a strong track record of success. Their fundamental conclusion was that these organizations had cracked the code on how to build healthy cultures in which people flourished.

While conventional wisdom would argue that success comes from being in the right industry, creating economies of scale, being at the forefront of technology, being a low cost provider or assembling extremely talented people; these companies had done just the opposite, and their results speak for themselves. Southwest Airlines receives more than 150,000 job applications annually for every 4000 available jobs. The SAS Institute receives 27,000 job applications for 900 openings and has an annual turnover rate of 2.3%. … Continued on Forbes.com.


October 16, 2014

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Why Leaders Give Innovation Low Marksby Joe Folkman

forbes_logoOne Saturday afternoon my son and I were given an impossible task by my wife to “remove the hideous hedge” from her sight. We sat on the porch gazing at the uninspiring sight of the pick and shovel that lay before us and dreading the hours of hard labor to come. “This is a really terrible idea,” my son said to me. “I know,” I said as my wife drove away blowing kisses, “but we don’t have choice.”

As we began the arduous process my mind was opened to a vision of my rusty 1988 Ford F250 truck. It is a wonderful vehicle that looks like junk, but has the heart of a lion. I stopped my son, “I have an idea. What if we back up the truck, attach my trusty tow rope to it and then we wrap it around those shrubs to rip them out.” A slow grin spread across my son’s face as he replied, “That will be fun.”

We were given a really hard, boring task that afternoon, but when we introduced innovation into the mix it suddenly turned into fun. It was still hard work and I won’t go into the damage we may have inflicted. But what I learned from this experience was that innovation has the ability to inspire and motivate all involved in a powerful way. … Continued on Forbes.com.


October 9, 2014

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What Do Your Employees Need And Value The Most?by Joe Folkman

forbes_logoHave you ever received a gift that you both needed and valued? I remembered receiving a wheelbarrow for Father’s Day some years ago. I needed a wheelbarrow, but it seemed like the implied message of this tool was; “Now you have no excuse for not doing the yard work.” The gift was needed but not valued. Conversely, my wife frequently wanted back massages, but because I was frequently traveling I rarely satisfied the need, so I bought her a massage chair. This gift was both needed and valued and years after I gave the gift, I still receive frequent thanks.

As leaders try to improve employee engagement and commitment, several things become clear. First, they can’t fix everything. No one has sufficient time or resources. Second, leaders hear a great deal about what employees need, but it’s more difficult to know what improvements would be the most valued. Sometimes the fixes that are needed the most are not highly valued by employees. … Continued on Forbes.com.


September 26, 2014

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When It Comes To Assessing You, Who Knows You Best?by Jack Zenger

forbes_logoWho understands you best? Who knows how well you perform? Who can most accurately predict your strengths and weaknesses? Some gurus contend that only you truly know you. They believe the best person to identify what you are good or bad at is you. After all, they argue, don’t you understand your motives, intentions and aspirations better than anyone else?

The temptation to mix personal intentions and actual behavior is one major downfall of any individual’s ability to accurately know themselves. After receiving a 360-degree feedback report, an executive in a workshop jokingly commented, “If only people rated me on my intentions! I would like to be viewed as genuine, kind, respectful, considerate and fair. Unfortunately, people rate me on my actual behavior.” … Continued on Forbes.com.


September 11, 2014

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Want To Become A Great Leader? Here’s The Keyby Joe Folkman

forbes_logoBy now many people are aware that as a leader, merely fixing your weaknesses will not make you great. However, for some the message has not quite taken hold. So today I am sharing some research that should give you pause when you’re tempted to focus on your faults instead of building upon what’s going right.

A few years ago, several groups of executives went through our company’s program, The Extraordinary Leader, at a large bank. A few months later we asked them to participate in a follow-up survey. We found that 88% of the participants indicated they were focused on building strengths. We then compared the responses of those focused on building strengths to those who were fixing weakness and found some interesting results. … Continued on Forbes.com.


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