Issue 201 - December 2019
During a break in a recent leadership development workshop, I talked with the HR Director (let's call him Rich) about all the work they were putting into revamping the organization's promotion and performance management system. Rich said they were basing their promotion process on their performance appraisal and rating system. Their big problem is getting managers to complete performance appraisals. They planned to push harder and provide some training. This, despite growing evidence that performance appraisals are being abandoned by most companies because they don't work.
Rich's company was doing nothing about changing their culture. They were doing the same thing but expecting different results. In a classic case of 'do-what-I-say and not what I do,' Rich said he's been there three years and never had a performance review. And Rich was failing his executive team by not providing strategic HR leadership.
I had this conversation just after returning from Zenger Folkman's international partner conference in Utah last month. Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman spoke about the updated research detailed in their new book, The New Extraordinary Leader. Having just finished the book, Zenger Folkman's new section on key organizational factors in building leadership capacity came to mind in talking with Rich. One of those chapters, "Embed Leadership Development in the Culture," rang especially true to our conversation. We can dip leaders in a development event, but if what's expected and rewarded back on their job hasn't changed, neither will participant behavior. Doing the same thing, but expecting different results...
Most leadership development efforts should be accompanied by a giant flushing sound. They suck time and money down the drain. Jack and Joe cite a McKinsey study showing the depth of the problem:
High-performing organizations get dramatically better returns from their development investment. The New Extraordinary Leader reinforces key steps proven to maximize return on development. These include tailoring development to the organization, hitting critical mass by developing the majority of leaders at all levels, ensuring active executive role modeling and support, using learning methods based on evidence for behavior change, developing organizational culture and leadership skills in lock-step, and building a robust process to follow through and sustain development efforts.
This issue features background on, and a review of, The New Extraordinary Leader. This new work includes three new leadership competencies and fresh insights emerging from Zenger Folkman's updated research.
You'll also read about the communication confusion trapping many managers and nine ways to increase communication effectiveness. As Jack and Joe explain from their research,
Hope you catch a few key leadership nuggets to keep you growing.
Almost 20 years ago, Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman began a two-year research project to review 360 assessments on over 20,000 leaders. They sought to pinpoint the leadership competencies differentiating the top 10 percent of leaders from the bottom 10 percent of leaders. Jack and Joe correlated assessments of the best and worst leaders against organizational results such as employee engagement, retention, quality, productivity, safety, customer satisfaction, sales, and profitability. From dozens of leadership competencies, they found 16 that reliably predicted those outcomes. The first edition of their book, The Extraordinary Leader: Turning Good Managers into Great Leaders, published in 2002, formed the foundation for a unique 360 strengths-based assessment and development process.
In 2012 Jack and Joe continued to update their work and condensed key learning and applications in their book, How to Be Exceptional: Drive Leadership Success by Magnifying Your Strengths. That was the same year Jack and I reconnected and renewed an old partnership.
Last month, McGraw Hill published Jack and Joe's latest update in a third edition to this ongoing work. The New Extraordinary Leader reaffirms previous research and draws new lessons from a database now over five times bigger than the original; 1,500,000 questionnaires by direct reports, peers, bosses assessing over 121,000 leaders.
Some of the original 16 competencies are revised and reworded. However, their impact on results continues to reliably correlate to organizational outcomes. Three new competencies emerged; making decisions, risk-taking, and valuing diversity. As before, research shows that a leader doesn't have to be great at 19 competencies. Top performance in 4 to 5 competencies elevates leadership performance to the top 10 percent of leaders delivering outstanding results. Cross-training to leverage strengths is the fulcrum.
Here are the additional insights emerging from Zenger Folkman's latest research:
Bestselling leadership author, Jim Kouzes, "fell in love on page one" with The New Extraordinary Leader because it attacks unsupportable assumptions about leadership through exceptional research. It's not "a hackneyed rehashing of tired nostrums." Executive coach and best-selling author, Marshall Goldsmith says the book goes beyond anecdotes or war stories to build on comprehensive research and is "destined to be a classic in our field."
The solid, evidence-based approach behind all the extraordinary leader books and development approaches, and their strength-based process are major reasons The CLEMMER Group partnered with Zenger Folkman. The New Extraordinary Leader updates that research and brings practical, how-to applications to boosting leadership effectiveness.
Jack and Joe discuss their new book in a webinar on December 4. There's no charge to join. Click here for details and registration. Here you can also learn about the only public workshop of The New Extraordinary Leader we've scheduled for 2020.
Does your organization need to improve communications? Would you like to get more e-mails?
Almost every hand goes up when I ask that first question in a workshop. Rarely do any hands go up when I ask the second question. But what do most managers do when they hear people in their organization want more communication? They send more e-mails.
German sociologist, Hartmut Rosa, calculates that since pre-modern times, communications have increased by a factor of ten million times and information transmission by ten billion.
It's not clear how Rosa delineates information and communication. There is a crucial difference between them. Many managers confuse the two.
We're drowning in information while thirsting for communication. As with management and leadership, we need both.
From their research with people in more than 100 companies, Harvard professor, Boris Groysberg, and communications consultant, Michael Slind's declare that Leadership is a Conversation. "Traditional corporate communication must give way to a process that is more dynamic and more sophisticated. Most important, that process must be conversational (their emphasis)." Managers talk at people; leaders talk with people.
When you're talking with a friend or family member, you're engaged in a two-way discussion. You're giving and getting perspectives, perceptions, and feelings. You're projecting your emotions while reading and reacting to their emotions. Your conversation ebbs and flows.
E-mails or texts can be wonderfully efficient and extremely useful. They're great information tools. Sometimes they enhance discussions and foster conversations. But often they hurt rather than help with reading emotions and making heart to heart connections. It's very hard to sense intentions, empathize, or reach a mutual understanding to build trust, deepen learning, and strengthen bonds.
Overwhelmed and overloaded managers need to get much more strategic with information and communications. Rather than cramming more information into a slide deck or sending more e-mails, effective leaders cut through the information torrent to talk with people. Listening and learning is as important -- perhaps even more so for engagement and trust-building -- as telling and selling.
How's your communication-information balance? Do you need to do less informing and more communicating?
Bob was clearly frustrated. "I keep telling them, but nobody listens," he fumed. As we looked at his 360 feedback on his communication practices, it was clear why nobody was listening to him. Bob's communication skills were awful.
Bob scored quite high on technical expertise and analytical skills. A big part of his communications problem was that Bob believed logical arguments were all he needed. But his analytical approach often created an emotional tone that felt cold and uncaring. His feedback showed Bob often didn't try to learn from others or understand their point of view.
Many leaders like Bob over-inform and under-communicate. They're drowning people in information who are thirsting for communication.
Communion and communication share the same roots. Oxford dictionary defines communion as "the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially on a mental or spiritual level." This deeper connection is what people are craving today in workplaces with a higher purpose.
Here are some ways you can increase communion through improved communication at work:
In a study of over 2,400 leaders, Zenger Folkman looked at their skills in asking good questions, listening well, and telling or sharing information. Their direct reports rated how well they felt their leader communicated with them. Those leaders who didn't practice any of these three skills were rated below average in communications. If the leader practiced one skill, their direct reports rated them as slightly better than average in communications. If the leader was skilled in all three, they were rated near the top quartile in communications. Zenger Folkman concluded, "Effective communication is about more than simply giving a good speech. Great communication that both informs and persuades is a two-way conversation where leaders ask good questions and take the time to listen carefully."
How's your communication working? Are you informing or communicating? How do you know?
This section summarizes last month's LinkedIn Updates and Twitter Tweets about online articles or blog posts that I've flagged as worth reading. These are usually posted on weekends when I am doing much of my reading for research, learning, or leisure. You can follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JimClemmer and connect with me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/jimclemmer
My original tweet commenting on the article follows each title and descriptor from the original source:
The items in each month's issue of The Leader Letter are first published in my weekly blog during the previous month.
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