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November 25, 2015
A few years ago my wife made the mistake of allowing our oldest son to go to an early Thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s home. He came home raving about “the best meal he had ever had in his life.” Well the time came for our family Thanksgiving dinner, which my wife had spent days preparing, and all my son could do was compare every dish to the masterpiece he had devoured earlier. This, of course, put her in a very sour mood. It was especially sad because our meal tasted fantastic. But all anybody could hear through that Thanksgiving holiday was that no matter how good the meal in front of them was, someone else had done it better. It resulted in my wife not getting the recognition she deserved for her great execution and work.
The vast majority of us don’t recognize others often enough. If you need data on the power of recognition, just think about the last time someone said, “You did a great job!” or, “You really do that very well!” It’s a great feeling to be recognized.
But in the spirit of the holiday, I looked at an assessment where we measured the extent to which leaders recognized others (along with 56 other behaviors). We looked at 5,000 evaluations of 331 leaders. We looked at the direct reports of leaders and found that 11% rated their leader as needing to improve in recognition. Twenty-five percent indicated their leader was okay. Sixty-four percent said recognizing others was their leader’s strength or even a significant strength. Looking at that data it seems obvious that about one third of the population could benefit from improving their ability to recognize others. Continued on Forbes.com.
November 10, 2015
We Like Leaders Who Underrate Themselvesby Zenger Folkman
The Stanford Graduate School of Business asked the members of its Advisory Council which skills were most important for their MBA students to learn. The most frequent answer was self-awareness — possessing an accurate view of your skills, abilities, and shortcomings, as well as understanding how other people perceive your behavior.
Much of the research literature on emotional intelligence published in the last two decades reinforces the importance of self-awareness. For instance, academic researchers have found that people are happier and more well adjusted when their view of themselves accords with others’ views of them. And Korn-Ferry has even published research suggesting that a company’s financial performance is related to the level of self-awareness of the firm’s leadership team.
But is self-awareness always a good thing? And how many managers really have it?
We decided to find out. We delved into 360-degree feedback data describing 69,000 managers as seen through the eyes of 750,000 respondents at hundreds of firms. We found that leaders’ views of themselves generally don’t fit with how other people perceive them. Continued on Harvard Business Review.
September 30, 2015
What Younger Managers Should Know About How They’re Perceivedby Zenger Folkman
As new managers fill vacancies created by retiring Boomers, how do their skills compare with the seasoned older managers they replace?
Naturally, our assumption was that veteran managers would be more effective on almost every front. To test this out, we explored the data we’ve accumulated on more than 65,000 leaders. We focused on managers 30 years of age and younger (455 leaders) and compared them to leaders over 45 years of age (4,298) to determine the distinguishing characteristics of each group.
Forty percent of the younger group were female compared to 38.5% of the older leaders. This partly satisfied our desire for similarity between the groups. Yet the very fact that the younger managers were promoted to managerial positions at a relatively young age indicated that they were primarily high potential individuals. To be elevated into management at an early age is not common. So already, these individuals stood out. Of the younger group, 44% ranked in the top quartile for overall leadership effectiveness when compared to all leaders in our database. In contrast, the older group had only 20% in the top quartile. This finding sends an interesting message about senior managers.
The 360-degree feedback instrument we use collects data on 49 leadership behaviors. When we matched the scores of the two groups on these 49 characteristics, the younger group ranked more positively on every trait. This is excellent news, indicating there are talented younger leaders in our organizations who will be capable of stepping into key roles.
However, we also identified a group of behaviors and perceptions that challenge the younger leaders we studied. Continued on Harvard Business Review.
September 24, 2015
Probably yes. I’m not suggesting the kind that would draw blood or inflict real harm. But the great majority of us need something to grab our attention and cause us to change in a positive way. Why do I think this?
I became convinced of this need when I saw the data that compared older, more experienced managers with their younger counterparts. Bottom line, managers on average don’t become more effective with age. They become experienced, but not more effective. My colleague Joe Folkman and I had noticed many indications of this as we had analyzed our 360-degree feedback data. We saw long ago that many older managers become less receptive to feedback over time. And when we compared them on a wide range of competencies, it became clear that younger managers received higher scores on virtually everything.
Yet most people, whether professional specialists or managers, have the assumption that as their careers progress they will receive increasing compensation. They believe and hope they will be traveling on an escalating ramp that will provide them with progressively higher salaries until the day they retire. That isn’t happening, and it may be in part our own fault. Continued on Forbes.com.
September 18, 2015
Infographic: The 6 Leadership Leversby Zenger Folkman
Discover the six leadership behaviors that distinguish extraordinary leaders from all others!
Leaders have a dramatic impact on the productivity of those they lead and on the organization’s bottom-line results. Zenger Folkman’s research discovered six key behaviors that extraordinary leaders leverage to influence others and improve their organizations.
September 9, 2015
In my research on what defines a great leader I’ve found that the ability to communicate powerfully and prolifically is an essential skill for success. However, most people assume this skill primarily involves talking. A leader can use words to motivate or sway people to act. But true communication involves much more than one person speaking powerfully. As author George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
When people think about improving their communication skills, their knee-jerk solution is to talk to people more often, send more messages and provide more information. In other words, they believe the solution to better communication is to do more telling. While it is true that telling is an important aspect of communication, great leaders have learned what good marriage partners understand well: when your spouse says, “We need to talk,” they typically do not want you to do the majority of the talking.
In addition to speaking fluently and frequently, the most effective communicators are equally good at asking the right questions and listening. To understand the impact of these three skills (telling, asking, and listening), we look at data from 2,867 leaders who were assessed by their managers, peers, direct reports and others on their effectiveness at communicating powerfully, asking effective questions, and listening well. We wanted to understand which skill, by itself, would have the greatest impact on a leader’s perception as an extraordinary leader (e.g., at the top 10% of leaders overall). Continued on Forbes.com.
August 17, 2015
How much can you learn about someone from a silly question? Since last year we have been collecting data from the business and professional leaders who read our blogs. The question we asked was this, “If you were given a choice of two special powers, which would you prefer? A. Ability to fly or B. Power to be invisible.” Believe it or not, the answer to this question provides some interesting insights into business and professional leaders around the world.
We have collected data from 7065 leaders across the globe. 63% of the data comes from North America, 13% from Europe, 16% from Asia and the remainder from other geographies. With a difference of almost three to one, 72% of our leaders chose the ability to fly over being invisible (28%). When we looked at the data by position we discovered that 76% of top managers selected the ability to fly, as compared to only 71% of individual contributors. Continued on Forbes.com.
July 20, 2015
7 Things Leaders Do to Help People Changeby Zenger Folkman
Ever tried to change anyone’s behavior at work? It can be extremely frustrating. So often the effort produces an opposite result: rupturing the relationship, diminishing job performance, or causing the person to dig in their heels. Still, some approaches clearly work better than others.
We reviewed a dataset of 2,852 direct reports of 559 leaders. The direct reports rated their managers on 49 behaviors and also assessed the leaders on their effectiveness at leading change – specifically, the managers’ ability to influence others to move in the direction the organization wanted to go. We then analyzed those who had the highest and lowest ratings on their ability to lead change, and compared that with the other behaviors we’d measured. We then analyzed the behaviors that correlated with an exceptional ability to drive change. We found eight that really help other people to change. Continued on Harvard Business Review.
July 3, 2015
Are We More Productive When We Have More Time Off?by Zenger Folkman
We were recently working with a company in Amsterdam, and having difficulty getting a summer meeting scheduled because of the number of executives who were on vacation. Experiencing some frustration, we began to wonder how this company actually got its work done. But their VP of HR assured us, “I am confident that because of the rest and break from work that our European executives get more accomplished in their working days than those in the U.S. who burn themselves out.”
This seemed worthy of some research. Because European executives get significantly more vacation time than their U.S. counterparts, we theorized that studying the two groups would essentially give us a control group and a test group. (Of course, this is not perfect as there are other cultural differences between countries, but for our purposes it seemed like a reasonable proxy.)
In a dataset of 2,310 respondents, we looked at data from the 20 countries with the most paid vacation days (247 respondents) and compared them to respondents in the United States (1,151). The 20 countries with the most vacation ranged from Australia, with 28 days allotted, to Sweden and Brazil, with 41 days. By contrast, the United States has no law requiring paid time off, and the average full-time worker with a year of service gets 10 paid vacation days (and only 25% of Americans take their full allotment, according to another survey). Continued on Harvard Business Review.
June 25, 2015
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If you think that receiving corrective feedback is stressful and difficult for you, then you might be surprised to learn that your leader is experiencing many of the same feelings. All of this stress and anxiety on both sides makes it very difficult to have a meaningful and productive conversation. Let’s examine the assumptions that many bosses make that may be counterproductive to having a successful discussion.
Assumption 1: People don’t realize there is a problem
A recent study by Zenger Folkman, which had a global sample of 3,875 people, asked if employees were surprised or did not know about the problem when they were given negative or redirecting feedback. I was taken back to discover that 74% indicated that they were NOT surprised and already knew about the problem. So often when we see someone performing poorly we say to ourselves, “If they only realized they had a problem then they would do better.” The reality is that in the majority of cases people do realize the problem, but they have not realized how serious it was, or they have not figured out how to do it better.
Assumption 2: It is best to get it over quickly
Because both the person giving the feedback and the person receiving the feedback are anxious, they both want to get it over quickly. The human organism is wired to avoid pain. This leads to a burst of talking and very little listening.
Our article in Harvard Business Review shared a global study were we asked respondents to rate their manager on the extent that they “carefully listened to the other person’s point of view about the problem before giving them feedback.” The graph below shows that respondents who strongly disagreed with this statement rated their manager significantly lower on providing honest and straightforward feedback on a regular basis. Respondents who rated their managers as highly effective at listening felt more positive about the manager’s ability to provide excellent feedback. Continued on Forbes.com.