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Giving your leaders a toolkit for peak performance and productivity

Giving your leaders a toolkit for peak performance and productivity

Leadership development has traditionally focused on helping leaders develop the traits and behaviours required to level up their performance.

The aim is to create Extraordinary Leaders in organisations, who will develop the capabilities necessary to step up, lead a team and work towards achieving the wider business objectives.

However, developing a fitter, more agile workforce that has greater resilience and adaptability to the world as it is today is a priority.

Leadership is about being effective with others. It is also necessary to complement this with gaining control and power over ourselves.

A leader may be highly adept at many of the behaviours required to operate at a higher level, yet their inability to control their emotions or react negatively when situations change creates stress for themselves, those around them and ultimately undermines their authority.

Being able to handle change, think clearly and deal with pressure are all traits worth developing.

Developed over 25 years and forged in the training rooms of corporate leadership, our 7 Natural Powers framework has helped 3,000+ executives and leaders take control of their personal and professional well-being.

Using proven methods and strategies to master each of the 7 Natural Powers, our Power Up program helps lay the foundation for creating a working culture that not only promotes more agile ways of working, but gives people the confidence to adapt to constant change and courage to deal with the emotional pressure that inevitably follows.

Are you in the 16.6% Club?

Are you in the 16.6% Club?

What is the 16.6% Club? The 16.6% Club is a way of description a blend of leadership traits seen in a small proportion of leaders – 16.6%.

According to research from Zenger Folkman, leaders who display these two specific leadership traits are likely to embody more effective leadership. The surprising element is that these two traits are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

What are they? Coachability and Grit.

Coachability is the ability to be coached, openness to seeking feedback and a willingness to adapt to improve performance. There is a growing awareness of the importance of coachability as a key trait as an effective leader.

On the other side there is Grit. Grit is defined as the relentless and determined pursuit of your goals, while maintaining high standards and pushing to go above and beyond.

On the face of it, it would seem that a strong trait like Grit would dominate the equation, yet it is clear that the inability to listen to feedback and a lack of humility in accepting improvements can be made could result in a leader demonstrating Grit to rush towards outcomes that do not meet the right objectives.

The 3 myths about strengths-based leadership coaching (and why they’re wrong)

The 3 myths about strengths-based leadership coaching (and why they’re wrong)

At Natural Direction, we have always advocated an approach to building upon a leader’s strengths, driven by the data-backed research and insights from our strategic partners Zenger Folkman.

But there are still myths that circulate around this approach.

Here are three myths about strengths and why they’re wrong:

Myth #1 – Focusing on strengths is a fad – this couldn’t be further from the truth. As Joe Folkman points out in a post on the subject, Peter Drucker was making the case for a strengths-based approach to leadership as far back as 1967.

Myth #2 – Strengths taken to extremes become weaknesses – it’s hard to ‘overuse’ a strength so that it ends up a weakness. It is more likely that an individual is overdoing a behaviour associated with the strength that gives the impression of being ‘extreme’.

Myth #3 – Strengths and weaknesses go together - strengths and weaknesses are not connected in individuals. Based on Zenger Folkman’s 360 degree feedback, it is unlikely that strengths and weaknesses coexist in the same person. The more strengths you have, the less likely you are to have a fatal flaw and vice versa.

Every organisation knows the importance of trust and its impact on leadership

Every organisation knows the importance of trust and its impact on leadership

Without trust there is no leadership. A leader who is not trusted by their team faces significant challenges which impact the wider organisation. Workers doubt the judgment and ability of the individual leading them and productivity and engagement falls as it becomes clear that trust has been lost.

It can even lead to good talent leaving the organisation.

But there is a difference between understanding the importance of trust and knowing exactly what contributes to building trust. For organisations, understanding the behaviours of leaders who are most trusted vs leaders who fail to inspire trust is highly valuable in securing the success of the organisation and retaining talent.

After surveying the behaviour of leaders, leadership research organisation Zenger Folkman identified just three behaviours among hundreds of potential behaviours that account for higher levels of trust in some leaders than others.

These three key behaviours of trusted leaders are:

  1. Demonstrating expertise and sound judgement
  2. Exhibiting consistent actions
  3. Cultivating meaningful relationships

Identifying these behaviours allows organisation and leaders to focus on the actions and improvements that really move the needle.

Simply focusing on cultivating these three key behaviours in leaders can have a profound impact across an organisation. More importantly, it gives organisations a clear path to developing leaders in the right way.

How much does relationship-building influence performance

How much does relationship-building influence performance

A large body of work suggests that the ability to build relationships significantly influences improved performance in a role.

Some assert that relationship building is one – if not the biggest determiner – of better performance.

In exploring the link between relationship building and performance, Zenger Folkman analysed data from 12,299 individuals. Individuals were rated on 59 behaviours and their level of productivity and effort to produce a performance ranking.

The results challenged the suggestion that relationship building had the most significant influence on an individual's performance ranking.

Instead, the research identified seven other capabilities with a greater influence over how well an individual performed. The seven capabilities are:

  1. Establish stretch goals
  2. Drives for results
  3. Inspires and motivates others to high performance
  4. Displays high integrity and honesty
  5. Takes initiative
  6. Technical or professional expertise
  7. Solves problems and analyses issues

However, the same analysis also demonstrated that individuals with poor relationship-building skills were significantly less effective in all seven skills.

Although these behaviours boosted productivity and performance, individuals lacking in the skill of relationship building were significantly less effective.

What does this mean? Taking the time and effort to develop strong relationship skills pays off by positively impacting every behaviour that drives excellent performance.

The case for inspiring leadership

The case for inspiring leadership

When teams aren’t just engaged but inspired, businesses can achieve incredible things.

Our approach is to help inspirational leaders make the most of their resources by igniting the natural strengths of those around them. Inspired employees are more productive, go the extra mile, act more confidently, and are willing to take greater ownership of their results.

An analysis by Zenger Folkman of more than one million assessments on 75,000 leaders revealed 170 statistically significant competencies that differentiated good from great leaders. Using average mean scores, researchers identified 16 differentiating competencies in those perceived as extraordinary leaders.

Of these, the stand-out competency above all others was the ability to inspire and motivate others. Its also the most significant when correlating to high engagement scores.

Research proves that the ability to inspire and motivate is critical beyond becoming a successful leader. It is central to landing in the top 10 per cent of all leaders. Yet it is the one area where most leaders struggle to attain high competency scores.

Historically, this makes sense. Businesses typically invest more heavily in nurturing and promoting employees with solid technical competencies more directly associated with driving the bottom line. The focus is on supporting employees who show professional expertise, are results-focused and set a clear direction.

While this has merit in maximising the strengths and potential of the individual, it does nothing to magnify the wider team's success by encouraging and supporting the ability of leaders to inspire others.

It has been proven time and again that the ability to inspire and motivate is the overriding competency stated by direct reports as being the most compelling leadership quality of all.

Mastering this one competency creates successful business leaders who drive teams and companies to exceptional levels of performance by inspiring their people to do great things.
What behaviours encourage an honest workplace

What behaviours encourage an honest workplace

How do you bring more candour and honesty to the workplace?

When senior leaders rely on candour and honesty to gauge how well things are going ‘on the ground’, they often express frustration that employees don’t share important information. Conversely, employees are often unwilling to express their honest opinions for fear of reprisal or a belief that nothing will change.

An honest workplace is vital to a high-performance business.

Honesty builds trust in a work environment and encourages confidence in a leader. Honesty sets the tone of the office culture and strengthens relationship-building. It helps build confidence between coworkers and allows team members to support each other when limitations or concerns are shared.

Organisations can support leaders to encourage greater candour and honesty to deliver these benefits. But what behaviours do organisations need to shape in leaders to achieve this?

Through an analysis designed to measure the degree of candour from approximately 10,000 employees, Zenger Folkman discovered several clear enablers within the organisation that encouraged candid behaviour. These include:

  • Involving others
    Leaders should ensure employees are involved in the decisions that impact them directly. This helps them grow in confidence and feel comfortable raising concerns.
  • Being a role model
    Leaders should challenge procedures that don’t add value, speak up when they see an issue, and question decisions so the team can see their candour and understand they should feel empowered to act the same way.
  • Asking for suggestions
    Asking for input and suggestions from the team helps leaders build trust and encourage workers to have the confidence to speak up.
  • Valuing differences
    Taking advantage of a diverse workforce and the opinions and preferences they share. Differences can help an organisation succeed and even offer a competitive advantage, but only if workers feel comfortable speaking their minds.
Driver or enhancer: how leadership style affects productivity and engagement

Driver or enhancer: how leadership style affects productivity and engagement

It’s nearly impossible to navigate a career without coming into contact with managers who are either very good or very bad.

But how do different management styles affect workers' commitment and productivity?

Looking at a study of 160,576 employees working for 30,661 leaders at various companies, Zenger Folkman noted the average level of commitment from those deemed to be working with the worst leaders was way below the average commitment of those working for the best leaders.

A lack of commitment indicates an unwillingness to go the extra mile. In contrast, committed workers are engaged and willing to put in extra effort.

Zenger Folkman identified two management approaches that foster the most engagement: ‘drivers’ and ‘enhancers’.

Leaders who are ‘drivers’ are those that set very high standards. Drivers set stretch goals and ensure their workers focus on high-priority goals and personal development.

Leaders who are ‘enhancers’ show concern for others, stay up to date with any issues, prioritise trust and develop their team by giving honest, helpful feedback.

In an informal survey, most people chose enhancers as their preferred type of leader for both employee engagement and commitment.
How great leaders avoid the trap of poor decision-making

How great leaders avoid the trap of poor decision-making

People often make poor decisions when under severe pressure or if they don’t have access to important information. They may be responding to pressure from above or are steered by their emotions rather than their heads.

It is important to understand the root cause of poor decision-making.

To understand what sits behind poor decision-making, Zenger Folkman looked at 360-feedback data from more than 50,000 leaders and compared the behaviour of those who were perceived to make poor decisions with those perceived to make good decisions.

Analysts identified several factors as the most common causes of poor decision-making:

  • Laziness: a failure to check facts, take the initiative, confirm assumptions or gather additional input.
  • Not anticipating unexpected events: a failure to consider what might go wrong or plan how to mitigate problems that might arise.
  • Indecisiveness: not having the courage to look at the data, consider the consequences and take action. Those who fear making the wrong decision avoid taking risks, leading to stagnation.
  • Remaining locked in the past: using the same old data or processes that have always been used and not looking for new processes that are likely to work much better.
  • No strategic alignment: failing to connect the problem to the overall strategy. When tightly linked to a clear strategy, better solutions quickly emerge.
Should leaders fear the culture of working from home?

Should leaders fear the culture of working from home?

Remember life before hybrid working when everyone was office-based and you had a tight grasp on exactly who was doing what, when and how?

It seems like an age away now.

Being together in person allowed a team to observe its leader as a decision-maker and someone whose direct input could be relied upon. The individual’s position as a leader was respected and their experience valued.

Then the pandemic came along and hybrid working blurred those lines.

When your team no longer has regular face-to-face contact and people are working more independently than ever before, there’s a worry some may ask, “Who’s the boss?”

For organisations, remote working structures can leave leaders feeling removed from what’s happening ‘on the ground’ and less in control. For workers, it can lead to questions about how well they are being led.

To further understand the impact of remote working on the perceptions of leaders, Zenger Folkman analysed 500,000 direct reports pre-pandemic and over 12,000 direct reports during the pandemic to find out how motivated and engaged they felt within their work environment.

The results showed increased engagement and commitment, with employees willing to work harder and feeling more satisfied when working remotely.

Further data was gathered on the perceived effectiveness of leaders both before and during the pandemic. Results showed staff rated leaders as more effective during the pandemic. 

These findings may run counter to what many believed would happen, but from these findings, it appears that increased independence brings benefits.

Personal development – why it really matters

Personal development – why it really matters

One of the most effective ways to increase employee engagement and retain talent is to make employees feel excited about development opportunities in their organisation.

People love to feel like they’re learning and improving each day. They get satisfaction knowing they are developing skills and making progress. They feel secure knowing they are building experience that contributes to their career path.  

Without development opportunities, workers worry they are ‘treading water’ or – worse still – are getting left behind.

When someone feels dissatisfied in a role or feels they aren’t making progress, they look for opportunities elsewhere. In a highly competitive job market, this can be a huge problem.

Zenger Folkman looked at data from more than 20,000 employees in two different organisations to better understand what leaders did to increase employee satisfaction with personal development. 

They discovered four vital key behaviours for successfully developing others. These are:

  1. A leader’s skill at performance management
    If employees felt their manager had done a good job reviewing and discussing their performance, providing regular feedback and giving them stretch assignments, they felt more positive about their growth and development.

  2. Involvement of team members
    When leaders involve team members in decisions about their development, solving problems and providing input into organisational issues, they feel better about their opportunities for growth and development.

  3. Recognition
    Being recognised and appreciated for their hard work, effort and achievements makes employees feel valued and more positive about their future within the organisation.

  4. Right person, right job
    Managers who help individual team members recognise their strengths and match those strengths to suitable roles and responsibilities help them succeed.
Ensuring leaders develop these four key behaviours can increase employee engagement, increase job satisfaction and avoid workers leaving for pastures new because they always see more opportunities to grow on the horizon.
Are you managing change effectively?

Are you managing change effectively?

We live in turbulent times, and the challenge of managing change has never been greater.

Pressures on the economy, geopolitical uncertainty and a constantly evolving digital landscape conspire to keep leaders on their toes. Add to that the pressure to achieve diversity, inclusion and sustainability goals, it’s little wonder that effective change leadership is essential.

The more prepared leaders are to manage change, the greater the strategic advantage and the better the experience of customers and employees. However, there is often little or no training available when it comes to making a change effort work well.

Data was gathered from more than 100,000 leaders from around the world by Zenger Folkman to isolate the qualities in those rated as the most effective at leading change.

Zenger Folkman discovered five critical skills that would benefit any leader wanting to lead change.  These include:

  1. Fostering innovation by backing and supporting workers with good ideas
  2. Acting quickly and decisively when going through a process of change
  3. Maintaining a strategic perspective with an eye on organisational goals and aspirations
  4. Developing external perspective to keep on top of market or industry trends
  5. Inspiring and motivation - driving for results at the same time as inspiring and motivation

Support leaders in developing these five critical skills and you better prepare your organisation for the challenge of change.

Can you become a better leader by learning to listen?

Can you become a better leader by learning to listen?

Do you know someone who is a good listener?

It might be a family member, a friend or a work colleague who simply has the ability to listen when we need them.

Many of us think we’re good listeners; we don’t talk when others are speaking, we offer appropriate facial expressions and ‘mirror-back’ what we’ve just heard.

However, research suggests these behaviours fall short when it comes to good listening skills.

Poor listening skills increase the likelihood of information being misheard or misunderstood.  This can lead to confusion and frustration within a team. Poor listening skills may also lead to incorrect assumptions being made, which results in poor decision-making and costly mistakes.

In order to find out more, data describing the behaviour of 3,492 participants in a program designed to help managers become better coaches was analysed by Zenger Folkman.

Analysts compared those perceived to be the most effective listeners with the average of all the other people in the data set.

In doing so, there were four clear findings: 

  1. Good listening is not about staying silent, it’s about asking questions to promote discovery and insight
  2. Good listening included interactions that helped to build a person’s self-esteem
  3. Good listening was seen as a cooperative conversation with feedback flowing in both directions
  4. Good listeners tended to make suggestions, offering alternative paths to consider

Some of these points around what constitutes ‘good listening’ may be counter to what we have been told in the past. Rather than a passive activity, it is very much active and requires effort on the part of the listener. 

Uncover the behaviour of leaders with high-performing teams

Uncover the behaviour of leaders with high-performing teams

If you’re lucky enough to have worked in a great team, you’ll know that it can be an amazing experience - the energy, shared purpose, the sense of belonging, the simple camaraderie.

On the other hand, if you’ve worked in a team that wasn’t aligned, it’s a different story. Your days can be derailed by conflict, back-stabbing, verbal sniping and fear.

So how does team culture affect performance?

It’s simple. Great teams deliver great performance, while bad teams deliver bad performance. But what behaviours do team leaders need to exhibit to create great teams?

Zenger Folkman looked at data from 66,000 respondents who were asked to rate a series of leadership behaviours as well as their personal engagement and commitment.

Analysts evaluated the extent to which a team environment was a place where people wanted to go above and beyond.

They identified the following 5 factors which describe the behaviours of leaders who had high-performing teams:

  1. Team leaders inspire more than they drive - they push for results at the same time as creating energy and enthusiasm
  2. Team leaders resolve conflicts and increase cooperation - differences are addressed quickly and resolved
  3. Team leaders set stretch goals to keep teams engaged and generate a drive for results
  4. Team leaders communicate the vision and direction to keep teams informed, up-to-date and on track
  5. Team leaders are trusted to provide the right answers

As an organisation, if you can support your leaders in developing the behaviours outlined above, you increase the chances of building high-performing teams of which employees feel proud to be a part. 

Do you struggle to deliver negative feedback?

Do you struggle to deliver negative feedback?

For most managers, giving positive feedback is simple: be brief, focus on what went well and if it’s heartfelt, all the better.

It genuinely feels great to give employees a metaphorical pat on the back. From a team member’s perspective, they feel appreciated and recognised for their work.

But what happens when you have to deliver negative feedback? For many leaders, a fear of confrontation can lead to sleepless nights, sweaty palms and stress. It can make you uncomfortable and resurrects playground worries that you’ll be unpopular and disliked.

Zenger Folkman carried out a survey of 7,631 managers to find out whether they believed that giving negative feedback was stressful or difficult.

Forty four per cent agreed that it was.

In fact, some managers actively avoid giving any kind of critical feedback to avoid stress. What’s more surprising is that in a different self-assessment survey, 37 per cent of respondents admitted they don’t give any positive reinforcement either.

Research shows that workers place great emphasis on receiving feedback and that its absence can be detrimental on many levels.

The conclusion? Managers should work on developing the skill of giving praise as well as criticism and help their team develop.

Do Women Make Bolder Leaders than Men?

Do women make bolder leaders than men?

Over the course of the pandemic, we’ve seen female leaders across the globe outperform male leaders in how they have conducted themselves.

Although time will tell how this leadership is viewed through the prism of history, it’s clear there is a major challenge to the stereotype that men have a tendency to be bolder than women.

How do we know? From its research and analysis of 360-degree assessments from 75,000 leaders around the globe, Zenger Folkman conclusive proof of the answer to the question posed above.

In fact, Zenger Folkman’s “boldness index” offers a useful insight into seven specific behaviours demonstrated by bold leaders.

In this article, discover whether women do make bolder leaders than men.

Innovation – A Leadership Skill We Seem To Forget

Has innovation become a forgotten leadership skill?

Everyone knows the value and importance of innovation. Innovation helps leaders inspire and motivate in a powerful way.

Having the freedom – and giving the freedom to others within the work environment – to create, discover and invent can be rewarding and valuable.

However, in many organisations, a culture of innovation is often stifled in favour of sticking to the rules or working within the boundaries.

The focus is more often on the immediate daily needs rather than longer term potential.

n a study by Zenger Folkman where 700,000 participants were asked to rank the importance of innovation among 15 other competencies. The results were not as expected…

The study is outlined in the article below that reveals how organisations can benefit by placing more focus on innovation.

3 Keys to Relationship Building that Separate Mediocre Leaders From the Brightest and Best

Behaviours of great leaders vs mediocre leaders

Relationship-building is one of the most important traits for a leader - but what separates the best from the rest?

The question is important due to the rapid transformation of organisations to deal with issues such as remote working, flexibility and a challenging, competitive recruitment market.

Leaders who are able to build relationships better and more effectively will invariably succeed and attract talent, improve relationships and make a greater impact.

According to research from Zenger Folkman, there are three key behaviours that determine a strength in relationship-building for a leader. These are:

  • The leader’s mindset and attitude
  • One-on-one interactions
  • The ability to create teams and networks

In this blog, Jack Zenger reveals the three traits and offers an insight into how to develop each one.


Study: Trusted Advisors are poor at assessing how much they are trusted

Recent research from Zenger Folkman on Trusted Advisors within organisations revealed that those people identified as Trusted Advisors struggle to understand the levels of trust in which their managers, peers and others see them.

The study gathered data from 2,571 contributors across a range of functions including marketing, operations, research and IT. All were asked to participate in a leadership development programme by their organisations, even though many weren’t in management positions.

Using Zenger Folkman’s 360-degree assessment, each participant was evaluated on their level of trust by obtaining feedback from others.

The level of trust from lowest to highest from all raters except self highlighted a gap between their own perceptions of trust. Those with the lowest trust didn’t realise they had a serious trust problem. Those with the highest didn’t realise how trusted they were.

Trusted advisors need accurate data on how they are trusted and how effectively they influence trust. The conclusion is that using 360-degree assessments with trusted advisors was the most accurate and consistent method to evaluate trust levels.

Joe Folkman
Co-Founder Zenger Folkman

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