Friday, November 20, 2009

Leadership Development Lacking for Execs

It didn’t surprise me to learn that a recent survey by a top talent research firm revealed that only 37% of survey respondents (352 participants) would rate their executive leadership “excellent”, and less than 20% rated first-line supervisors excellent.

The study found that focused development effort is lacking for top executives. Not enough top people are getting “continuous improvement” of their leadership skills.

The survey report is titled Leadership Development Factbook: 2009: Benchmarks and Analysis of Leadership Development Spending, Staffing and Programs. It was produced by Bersin & Associates, and is available for purchase on their web site. You can download an executive summary at no cost.

I have some additional thoughts on why top leaders may fail to achieve excellent ratings. Several personality and psychological profiles have established that there is a distinct range of task vs. people/relationships. Some people are more task oriented, some more people oriented. Their behavior on this scale is mostly automatic – they manage in keeping with their preferred tilt on this scale.

In my 25 years in executive search and talent management consulting, I’ve seen many companies promote people up into the executive ranks based on production of specific results. This is fundamentally a good thing. People should get promoted based on producing results. However, the managers who are most driven toward results are usually more task focused. Often they lack strong people skills, and this is the area in which they need the most development. Hopefully, corporations, and even the leaders themselves will realize that investing in courses, coaching, etc. to improve leadership skills is very valuable to optimize corporate performance.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ethics and the Recession

This must be my year to be preachy. I’ve already written three blogs about lying!

I was thinking this morning about whether values, morals, ethics have shifted with the economic downturn, and my conclusion is that things are worse. People have understandably gone into survival mode, become more desperate, and are becoming inured to the traits that made us great as a nation. So I googled this topic, and sure enough, there is already a book on it. In The Ethics Recession: Reflections on the Moral Underpinnings of the Current Economic Crisis, author Rushworth Kidder (gotta love the name) makes the point that integrity has declined, but fortunately, there are many things we can do to turn this around. Many other speeches and essays have surfaced this year on the topic of values shifts in this recession, and I see this as a good sign – at least people are thinking about it.

Harvard Professor and former CEO of Medtronic, Bill George, said last week at a symposium on ethics: "Business leaders of today focus on personal gains and instant gratification." Citing a survey, George said that 66% of Americans surveyed believe we have a leadership crisis in the United States.

I believe the media perpetuates this two ways: Firstly, news stations sensationalize things done wrong by business leaders. When is the last time you heard a lead story about a leader standing up for what is right? Secondly, much to the delight of many and the chagrin of others, news outlets have become polarized, just like much of our population. The media have always been accused of bias, but now, they have an agenda, and much of what we see, hear and read is propaganda, not news.

I’m not sure what will turn this around, except individuals and organizations making a conscious choice. Kidder says we need “more ethical organizational cultures.” Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking."

The holidays are coming. A time of reflection. Anyone who has survived the past two years has a lot to be thankful for, and we can all look forward to better times soon. Let’s handle it responsibly.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

More on Lying…

Usually my blogs are meant to inform – today I’m going to vent a bit. I’m one of those people who says when I put my head on my pillow at night, I don’t worry about what I said to who – because I just tell everyone the truth. I’m beginning to feel like I’m in the minority.

In April, I wrote a blog on lies told by job candidates, with advice to employers on how to get at the truth. In the last six months, I have had an astonishing number of candidates lie to me. How do I know? They get caught!

Everyone engages in some “spin” in telling stories. Spin to me is a skillful, selective portrayal of the truth, that positions you well. An example: A job seeker felt that his last boss was a jerk, who provided no real empowerment, and no opportunity for growth. The “spin” on this is: “I realized I needed to be in an environment with a supportive, mentoring boss who would empower me to accomplish great things and advance my career.” The truth, told to the candidate’s advantage.

Telling a recruiter that you have or haven’t done something when the exact opposite is true and in fact verifiable is just stupid and dishonest. Stupid dishonest people will get caught. Say the title of this blog three times fast….
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