Zenger Folkman blog

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.

February 12, 2015

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The Question That Improves Leader Effectivenessby Jack Zenger

Leaders-are-more-effective-ask-feedbackMost of us would like to be seen as highly effective at whatever job we have. Beyond that, as we continue in any line of work, we’d like to know that we are not just treading water, but that we’re moving upstream and actually getting better at our work.

There are strong forces, however, that converge to put our habits into a rut. One of Newton’s Laws is that bodies at rest stay at rest until we apply major force. Likewise, bodies that are moving slowly stay slow until something serious kicks things up a notch.

For example, a study of clinical psychologists tried to discover why some excelled over others, and why some psychologists get progressively better while others performance is stuck. What made the difference? … Continued on Forbes.com.

January 27, 2015

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If Your Boss Thinks You’re Awesome, You Will Become More Awesomeby Zenger Folkman

JAN15_27_168014125If your boss thinks you’re awesome, will that make you more awesome? This question came to us recently, when we were working with the top three levels of management in a multinational. When asked to rate their direct reports on 360 evaluations, some managers consistently rated everyone higher, and others consistently lower, than the average. We wondered if this was a result of bias, and what effect it had on the people who worked for them.

To understand this better we looked at a larger set of 360 data to identify 50 of the company’s managers who rated their direct reports significantly more positively than everyone else on a five-point scale (that is, they gave a higher percentage of their subordinates top marks than their colleagues did, skewing the curve to the right, as in Lake Woebegone, where everyone is above average). We also identified 31 managers who consistently rated their direct reports significantly lower than their colleagues, skewing their curves to the left.

The difference is stark: Only 18.4% of the people working for the “positive-rating” managers, or the easy graders, were judged as merely “competent” (that is, just average) compared with fully 51.4% of those working for the “negative-rating” managers, clearly the harder graders. While neither group judged even 1% of their workers as truly problematic and in need of significant improvement, almost 14% of those working for the negative-rating managers were judged to need some improvement compared with only 3% of those working for the positive-rating bosses. … Continued on Harvard Business Review.

January 15, 2015

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Great Leaders Can Double Profits, Research Showsby Jack Zenger

Extraordinary Leaders Double ProfitsTo some extent, the connection between leadership and the bottom line has been made. Yet most evidence on this point comes merely from the personal treatises of famous and successful executives. While interesting, the variety of opinions we hear on leadership’s role in profit creation are incomplete and even contradictory. As a result, my colleague Joe Folkman and I have gathered research that supports the bold claim that leaders, good and bad, directly affect the bottom line of the organization

First we analyzed a substantial database of some 500,000 feedback instruments (commonly called 360-degree feedback reports) that pertain to approximately 50,000 managers. Our premise was simply that if you want to find out the effectiveness of a leader, ask the opinions of those who are led.

Through a study of these reports commissioned by a division of a Fortune 500 commercial bank, we discovered compelling evidence of the dramatic effect of leadership effectiveness on net income.

Fortunately, this was an organization in which the profit analysis was relatively easy. In this case we were able to isolate many of the external factors that exist for most of its leaders, clearly revealing the significant impact leadership had on its bottom line. … Continued on Forbes.com.

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.


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.

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