Sunday, March 27, 2011

What Can We Learn From the World’s Most Admired Companies?

Here's a guest post from Jeff Shiraki, Vice President at Hay Group.  You can follow Jeff and his colleagues on Twitter @ Hay Group.

FORTUNE magazine recently released its annual list of the World’s Most Admired Companies and as we do every year, my colleagues and I at Hay Group took a deep look at the companies that made the list to determine what makes them “tick,” how they earn the admiration of their peers, and what organizations and leaders can learn from the practices of the “Most Admired” companies.

This year, three key leadership principles emerged that can be learned from these first in class organizations:

- Executing the ‘basics’ is critical – but today, the ‘basics’ include identifying and addressing problems before they occur and fixing things that aren’t yet broken
- Efficiency is important, but in order to increase productivity over the long-term, you must involve your employees in the effort
- Investing in employee development isn’t a “one and done” process. Organizations must focus on the growth of their employees as an ongoing process

Executing the ‘basics’ is still critical

When I talk to leaders from the Most Admired, what I often hear is that great leadership is not about doing extraordinary things. Instead, great leadership is about executing the ‘basics’ very well. This is backed up by the practices of the Most Admired: Apple, Google, Southwest Airlines, FedEx, McDonald’s – different companies in different industries, ‘old economy’ businesses and ‘new economy’ businesses that all have learned to focus their attention on executing some core business practices very well.

Our research found that the World’s Most Admired Companies do a better job than their peers of ‘addressing problems before they occur’ and ‘fixing things that aren’t broken.’ While you may think all companies should have learned that the best way to solve a problem is to prevent it in the first place, this is apparently still easier said than done. Most leaders I talk to say that great leadership isn’t about discovering ‘the next big thing’ – it is about executing the ‘small things’ consistently every day.

Increasing efficiency is important, but you must involve your employees in the effort

Surprisingly, the Most Admired actually rate simplifying work processes to increase efficiency as a slightly lower priority than their peers. However, there is a lesson to be learned from ‘how’ the Most Admired companies go about squeezing more productivity out of their operations. For example, the Most Admired are more likely to solicit ideas from their employees than their peers. When I talk to leaders in the Most Admired, they really do see people as their most important asset, and they leverage their human capital to get the most from their fixed capital.

One of the biggest differences identified in the research is that the Most Admired companies report that they are more likely than their peers to encourage managers and employees to take reasonable risks to increase effectiveness. That is not to say that companies are ignoring safety, security, quality, and other important risk management activities. Rather, as one executive said it, “My primary goal is to teach my employees to understand what a ‘reasonable risk’ is and to empower them to act in the best interests of their customers, fellow employees, and the company.”

Investing in the development of your people should be an ongoing process

It looks like people still do matter – and not only to the Most Admired. Almost all companies believe they are doing a good job hiring and placing employees. However, there is a big difference when it comes to ongoing training and development. The Most Admired place more emphasis on ensuring employee skills keep up with changing job demands. That’s because the Most Admired see their workers as assets worth investing in, and are paying more attention to the continuous improvement in the skills and capabilities of their employees. As one executive I know says, “We weathered the downturn not by slashing and burning our workforce, but by figuring out what skill sets we needed for the long term and continued to invest in building the skills of our employees to position us for greater strength as we exited the recession.”

So what did we learn?

Well, you can be encouraged to know that what it takes to make a company a Most Admired one is not ‘rocket science.’ Executing the basics, involving your employees in improving the efficiency of their work, and investing in training and development are concepts that have been around for a long, long time.

You don’t have to be a large, global company to implement these practices – the principles are equally applicable to small, family-owned businesses, non-profits and government agencies. However, what might be discouraging is that so many companies still struggle with getting these practices right. That said, we should be encouraged that many leaders have figured this out, are willing to share the secrets of their success, and continue to put competitive pressure on other companies to catch up.

To learn more about the Most Admired companies and how they stand out from their peers, you can visit Hay Group’s microsite on the study at

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I’m Your Boss, Not Your Friend; 10 Reasons Why Your Boss Shouldn’t be Your Friend

Is it ever OK for a manager to be friends with their employees?

Believe me, this isn’t just a question brand new managers struggle with (and most of them do). It’s an issue a lot of experienced managers are questioned about as well, and many of them don’t think it’s a problem at all.

The issue of “buddy to boss” might not be as black and white as you might think. Conventional management and HR 101 wisdom would tell you it’s absolutely not OK. In fact, some companies might even try to outlaw it through “cronyism” policies.

However, in the real world of work, emotions and relationships can’t be governed by policy. Workplace relationships are can be extremely tricky, just as personal or family relationships can be.

Managers are not robots – they have feelings and emotions. Sometimes you can’t help but like one employee more than another. Sometimes workplace romances blossom between managers and employees (that’s a whole other issue). So how can they be expected to just turn those emotions off when they enter company property?

Maybe it would be helpful to take a look at the definition of “friend”. According to Merriam-Webster, a friend is “one attached to another through affection or esteem; one that is not hostile, a favored companion”.

Hmmm, I’ve been a manager for a long time, and that would be how I would describe A LOT of my employees. In fact, I would even use stronger words to describe my relationship with some past employees – words like close, supportive, caring, trusting, warm, fun, and respectful. I really enjoyed spending time with my employees, individually and in a group. We laughed, we cried, and we fought – just like friends, right?

I’ve said to more than one employee “You know, if I wasn’t your manager, I bet we could be great friends!”

Have I muddied the waters enough or raised a shadow of doubt?

Actually, this is one of those issues that as muddy as it may be, it turns out the conventional management and HR 101 wisdom is right on.

No matter how close a manager may feel to an employee, it should never be confused with a real “friendship”. You might be a “friendly” boss, and maybe even share some of the characteristics of a true friendship. You might even call it “a friend with boundaries”. However, the role of a manager transcends friendship and creates a boundary and potential scenarios that would never exist between true friends.

There are at least 10 reasons why it’s a bad idea for a manager and employee to call themselves friends, including:

1. It will create a perception of favoritism. Even if you think you’re being 100% fair and un-biased, you’ll always be subject to being second guessed.

2. You may not even realize it, but other employees are probably letting your “friends” get away with more, thinking that you’re going to protect them or side with them.

3. If you allow yourself to get emotionally attached to one employee – for whatever reason – but not another, those emotions will consciously or unconsciously influence decisions around raises, layoffs, assignments, promotions, etc….

4. If you see an employee as a “friend”, you’ll have expectations of that employee that are unrealistic or inappropriate for an employee. “Well gee, a friend would never do that, or should do that, or should tell me everything, etc…”

5. On the other hand, your friend employee may have expectations of you that are unrealistic or unprofessional, such as sharing confidential information, or always giving them advance notice, or doing special little “friendly” favors for them.

6. As a manager, part of your job is to judge your employees, to give constructive feedback, and sometimes to discipline them, even fire them. Does this sound like something a friend would do to another friend?

7. Although this threat never seems to scare managers, yes, it’s true – you and company could get sued. You are exposing yourself and your company to the risk of discrimination lawsuits. Don’t think it never happens… it does. That’s why HR people are so crazy about the issue – they are trying to protect your backside.

8. ALL employees need to complain about their bosses now and then, even the best managers. You’re kidding yourself if you think you’re immune from this. However, if you see your employees as friends, you’re more likely to take it personally.

9. Friends let their hair down outside of work and sometimes do silly things with each other. Managers are supposed to set examples and be role models. So, as a “manager-friend”, you’re either going to be a boring uptight, friend, or an unprofessional, immature manager. You pick. And oh by the way, your own manager may not appreciate those pictures of you and the gang all over employee Facebook pages.

Can you socialize with your employees? Or go out for a drink? Sure, but just make it a habit to stick to one drink and be the first to leave (to give them time to complain about you), or at least not the last to leave.

10. Some employees may find your attempts to be friends as personally intrusive, or inappropriate. They might even find your “advances” to be creating a hostile work environment, and again, exposing yourself and your company to that old lawsuit thing.

What do you think? Is it ever OK for a manager to be friends with their employees?

Need some help becoming a great leader or developing your organization’s leaders? Contact me to discuss leadership assessment, coaching, consulting or training. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Meaning of Respect

I’ve been a part of or led countless leadership team meetings where lists of values are created. There’s usually a lot of brainstorming, discussion, some polite debate, and eventual consolidation. Someone agrees to type up the list, distribute it, and then they move on to the next topic.

Sometimes there may be some discussion around why having a list of organizational values is important to have. The reasons are usually:

1. They help guide decision making

2. They help drive behaviors and actions

3. They define an organization’s culture

4. They can help in employee selection

5. They can help with recruiting and marketing

6. Because everyone else has them

Unfortunately, it’s been my experience that there’s rarely enough discussion around what those values really mean.

Let’s take respect, as an example – one that’s near and dear to me. Respect means a lot of things to a lot of different people. For me, when I think of what respect means as a leader, I think of positive and negative examples I’ve seen demonstrated by leaders. The following are true stories that helped define who I am as a leader:

Story #1: Situational respect?
I was having dinner with a group of executives one night. One executive, Bill, shared his value around how he treats everyone the same, no matter who they are. I remember being invited to a corporate golf tournament, and being a junior manager and last minute fill-in, I felt a little out of place amongst all of the big-wigs. Then, Bill walks up and welcomes me, offered me a cigar, spends 5-10 minutes talking to me, and introduces me to a few people. I NEVER forgot that, and whenever I had the chance, went out of my way to support Bill.

The other executive, Paul, had a different opinion. Paul was the consummate politician. He believed that you needed to pick and choose who you paid attention to, always making sure you were prioritizing your time and energy on those that could help you achieve your individual or organizational goals. I had a few opportunities to be on Paul’s low priority list, so I knew exactly what he was referring to. As I listened to him describe his strategy, I was tempted to “accidentally” spill my drink on him. I have to admit; I did get a little bit of satisfaction when Paul ended up hitching his wagon to the wrong horse and went down in corporate flames. Not a lot of people lined up to throw water on him.

Story #2: The stable hand’s son.
One of my all-time favorite leaders, Marty, was promoted to vice-president. We were working on a project together, and we needed to pick a venue for an off-site meeting. Being a VP, he could have just picked up the phone or fired off an email, and some poor minion would end up having to drop everything and scramble around trying to figure out what he really wanted. Instead, he gets up, walks down two flights of stairs, finds the person responsible for that function, asks if she had a moment, then proceeds to pull up a chair next to her and collaborate with her on venue selection. No, he didn’t just tell…he asked, and seemed to sincerely value her opinion.
I asked him about it later, and he told me that when he was a kid, his father was a stable hand at a horse-breeding farm. He saw how some of the rich and powerful treated his father, and swore that if he ever reached a position of power and status, that he would NEVER treat anyone like that. He made it one of his strongly held values to treat everyone with respect, to value each and every employee’s contributions, and never get too full of himself.

Story #3: Got a light?
There was a CEO named Dan that was at my building for a meeting one day. It was about 6:00pm, the meeting had long ended, and I could see him out my window heading to his car in the parking lot. There was a group of maintenance workers having a smoke break outside the building, and I saw Dan stop and start asking them questions and listening to what they had to say. I had no idea what the discussion was – it could have been about the weather, sports, or corporate strategy – the topic didn’t matter, the point is, from my window I could tell that he was engaged and doing most of the listening.

Story #4: The barista
This one’s just a little thing, but it left a big impact on me as a leader. I was in a building for a meeting that I had never been in. I stopped by a break room to grab a cup of coffee, and someone in front of me was in the process of pouring the last cup. When he turned around and saw me waiting, he introduced himself and proceeded to make a fresh pot of coffee for me. He even got a cup and poured it for me. So what? Well, it turns out my barista was the president of the business unit.

Those four experiences were defining moments for me, and helped shape my own interpretation of what it means to demonstrate respect as a leader. To me, you treat everyone with the same degree of respect, regardless of rank, title, status, or tenure. You don't have to "earn my respect" - but you can lose it. It's not something you only give away when it may serve your needs.
Asking people for their ideas and listening is the ultimate demonstration of respect. And finally, don't ever take the last cup of coffee and walk away without making a fresh pot. (-:

So what’s the point? Values are nothing but words on a plaque unless a team and every leader is clear on what they really mean and demonstrates them in their day-to-day behavior. Your own stories of respect or lack of could be completely different than mine, and what's important to you may not be the same as whats important to me.

The next time the topic of values comes up, why not take some time as a leadership team to list on flipcharts what each value looks like and what it doesn’t look like. Then, go back and have a conversation with each of your team members, asking them to describe what each value looks like to them. Finally, take a good look in the mirror and decide what you are going to try to start, stop, and continuing doing.

I once heard of an organization that actually handed out small rewards when they saw a value being demonstrated and tickets if they saw a values “violation”. Corny? Maybe, but at least it’s a visible demonstration that values are part of an organizations operating rules, not just part of a recruiting brochure. When you see that happening, especially amongst an organization’s senior leaders, then you know they take their values seriously.

How about you? What does respect mean to you? What were your own defining moments that helped shape that meaning?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Every Army Needs Officers.

Here's a short guest post from Jennifer Prosek. While I would take issue with her last point about great players making great coaches, she's certainly earned the right through her accomplishments to have a say on Great Leadership. (-:

Every Army Needs Officers. By Jennifer Prosek

In my development of an Army of Entrepreneurs™ strategy, I made sure to include an element of officer training. Great leadership can’t begin and end in my office. It has to be part of the management system throughout the company. That’s critical because it allows the company to grow and yet remain connected to the core values I’ve worked to instill.

So how do you go about training officers for an Army of Entrepreneurs?

Look within. Often your best managers are growing up organically within your company. The trick is spotting them. Don’t assume great leadership skill will “just happen” over time. Target your officer prospects and put them on personal training programs to develop the skills the company will need. We had an experience in our company in which we could see great potential in one of our staffers – but he wasn’t so sure he wanted to change his ways and move up into management. We developed a training program that targeted the specific skills he needed to build. That way he could feel more confident and we could take advantage of his natural talent.

Recruit from outside. This is harder than training an inside candidate. Sometimes, we fall for the great resume and think we can make the perfect hire who will waltz into the company and be a savior from Day One. But that’s usually not the case. When recruiting from outside the company, look for potential managers who buy into the entrepreneurial culture, demonstrate entrepreneurial skills and voice a willingness to learn the unique Army of Entrepreneurs style.

Always reach for the best. Whether you recruit from outside or train from within, always look for a track record of excellence. A study produced by Cornell University’s ILR School found a direct link between individual technical success and later leadership potential. Great players make great coaches. It’s true in business, too.

Recruiting and training managers is probably one of the most important activities I pursue as my company grows. One of the things that worries me most as we expand is keeping the important elements of our entrepreneurial culture alive for all the staff. If I can’t talk to everyone every day, if I can’t stop by their desks and chat or join them in a meeting or speak to them in the hall, how can I make sure that spark remains?

The answer is officer training. Choose, train and trust other leaders to join you in your march forward.

Jennifer Prosek is the CEO of CJP Communications and the author of Army of Entrepreneurs™: Create an Engaged and Empowered Workforce for Exceptional Business Growth.
You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The March 2011 Leadership Development Carnival

It's March Madness, the ides of March, the March of Dimes, the March equinox, the March on Washington, Fredric March, National Frozen Food Day, National Woman's History month, and Mardi Gras, all rolled into one big fat March Leadership Development Carnival!!

I'm pleased to host this month's collection of favorite leadership development submissions from a few of my favorite leadership blogging friends.

Happy reading!

First up is Mary Jo Asmus with a recipe for improving relationships: Conversation, Praise, Pizza, Books, and Chocolate, from Aspire-CS.

Jennifer V. Miller was in a generous mood and gives us 25 More Leadership Development Resources posted at The People Equation. Great stuff!

You may not win an Oscar for that last presentation you gave but, don't worry, neither did any of this year's Academy Award winners. Scott Eblin mines the Oscar ceremony for public speaking do's and don't's that every leader should keep in mind with Six Leadership Do’s and Don’ts From Oscar Night posted at Next Level Blog.

Here's a look at why selling out your culture in the name of hiring or keeping a star performer often means turnover—not productivity. Miki Saxon presents Rock Star Regrets posted at MAPping Company Success.

You've heard of the "Tiger Mom"? Wally Bock tells us about his "Tiger Teacher", Mrs. McKinley, at Three Star Leadership. She was really, really tough, but she was really, really good.

Here's Kevin Eikenberry's Six Ways to Build on Recent Success, from Leadership Learning. In this post, Kevin encourages leaders to help people move on from success to even greater success.

Becky Robinson gives us Fences, from her blog Weaving Influence, about work/life balance. In order to make a difference in the lives of others, leaders must successfully balance family and work priorities.

Class, pay attention: here's an important lesson from the Doctor, Bret Simmons: How You Kill Motivation At Work | Bret L. Simmons - Positive Organizational Behavior posted at Bret L. Simmons - Positive Organizational Behavior.

Or, for those of you that have a hard time paying attention in school, maybe you'll take advice from the bartender: Sharlyn Lauby, next month's Carnival host, presents HOW TO: Set Relevant Goals — hr bartender posted at HR Bartender.

Art Petty really nails it with this one: 4 Key Skills Leaders Must Develop to Succeed in Today’s Workplace posted at Management Excellence. Well said, Art.

Who knew Rochester, New York, was a such a blogging hot spot? Here's a couple great posts from two of my old neighbors:

Lynn Dessert presents Do we fear transparency or .... ourselves? posted at Elephants at Work,

and Steve Boese presents Winning Time posted at Steve Boese's HR Technology.

In a world where change is constant every company needs an anchor. In this short story, Santa, upon returning from his post holiday vacation, illustrates what should not change and what should. From one of my New England neighbors, Anne Perschel: Santa Inc. Announces Social Media, Branding & Diversity Strategies posted at Germane Insights.

From a couple of our past Carnival hosts:

Jane Perdue presents Tap into Your Creativity; Get Your Leadership BIG On! posted at Get Your Leadership BIG On!,

and Mark Stelzner presents JobAngels: The Journey Continues posted at Inflexion Point.

There's a difference between caring and care-taking. This post focuses on what it really means to lead from a caring perspective. Don't worry, it's not as warm and fuzzy as it sounds. Gwyn Teatro presents The Importance of Being Care-full posted at You're Not the Boss of Me.

Whether leadership or management all of us have a customer. The bigger point is that whatever field or role you are in... you should always know who your customer is! Benjamin McCall presents Customer Focus - Do you know who your customer is? | ReThinkHR - (ReThink Human Resources) posted at ReThinkHR - (ReThink Human Resources).

During this time of growing labor disputes, both in the private and public sectors, time to rethink the relationship between labor and management. Bill Matthies presents A Never Ending Struggle? posted at Business Wisdom: Words to Manage By.

S. Max Brown offers 5 questions about gender and leadership that spawned much thought and an interesting conversation on his site this month. Mike Henry presents Gender, Leadership, and CSV - Lead Change Group posted at Lead Change Group.

We need to learn subtraction at work: David Zinger presents Employee Engagement: Management Moxie Through Subtraction posted at David Zinger Associates - Employee Engagement.

In this post, Eric Pennington, gives reasons for finding the type of work and life that requires "you" to show-up. Sometimes inspiration comes from surprising situations. Eric Pennington presents What A Florist Taught Me About Life and Work posted at Epic Living - Leadership Development Career Management Training Executive Life Coaching Author.

A post on how you can get into the right mindset for success: Adi Gaskell presents Create the Mindset for Business Success! | Chartered Management Institute posted at The Management Blog.

Kevin Eikenberry, co-author of "From Bud to Boss," makes his second appearance on the Management Tips Podcast Series. With this tip, Kevin focuses on new leaders. He suggests that new managers have five very important conversations as soon as possible. If they do, their jobs will be much more effective and enjoyable. Listen to the podcast to find out more: Nick McCormick presents 5 Must-Have Conversations for New Leaders posted at Joe and Wanda on Management.

Here's an examination of why companies want to be on the 100 Best Places to Work list: Erik Samdahl presents Why You Want to be on This List posted at Productivity Blog.

An above average post from Anna Farmery: When you just don't want to be average..... posted at The Engaging Brand.

The always hard working girl Laura Schroeder presents Modern Workforce: Managing Remote Workers posted at Working Girl.

This blog post shares three simple steps to be positively critical: Dominic Rajesh presents Critically yours... posted at Dom's Blog ....

Observations on leadership from the Egyptian crisis: Robert Tanner presents Egypt - When Trust Fails, Leaders Fail! posted at Management is a Journey Blog.

Linda Fisher Thornton presents The Ethical Leadership Puzzle: A Broader View posted at Leading in Context.

We understand the art of influence. We understand the need to motivate and listen, and develop a working productive relationship with our colleagues. We collaborate with the team and find a way to make progress. Often this activity involves active listening more than active speaking. Elyse Nielsen presents Developing Effective Work Relationships posted at Anticlue. Hmmm, March must be national relationship month. (-:

In businesses every day, managers find ways (often unintentionally) to demotivate their employees. This post shares three common examples of where managers often go wrong:Andy Klein presents Three ways for managers to demotivate employees -- guaranteed! posted at Fortune Group Blog.

Mike Cardus gives us some important managerial selection criteria: They Can't Be Crazy! Plus 4 other necessary qualities of managerial leaders. posted at Team Building & Leadership Blog: Create-Learning.

Being a leader requires a certain level of humility if you even want people to follow you. This post covers how to be more humble: Mike King presents 50 Ways to Be More Humble and to Act Humbly posted at Learn This.

Well, someone always has to go last..... this post discusses key practices for businesses to remain productive during the downturn period: Charlotte Hird presents What if…you strengthened your core business? posted at Business Strategy and Executive Coaching with The What If? Specialist.

That's it for this month! The next edition will be on April 3rd, hosted by Sharlyn Lauby at HR Bartender. Please use the Carnival submission form on the sidebar of this blog if you would like to submit a recent post.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Most New Managers Are Clueless About What it Takes to be Successful

Here's an interesting new study by DDI, reprinted with permission. When it comes to new leader development, it looks like most companies are still using the old "sink or swim" model, and a lot of new leaders are drowning.
It makes me realize what a great job we did at my last company preparing new supervisors and managers well before they were promoted, through formal programs, shadowing, mentoring, and assessments.
It's not that hard to do, and it doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. If you're interested, please contact me. Or DDI. (-:


New DDI study finds that managers don’t know what it takes to succeed—and weren’t ready for what the job threw at them

PITTSBURGH - Finding that first rung isn’t as easy as it seems, according to a recent study from Development Dimensions International (DDI). In fact, most new managers are in the dark about what it takes to be successful.

Finding the First Rung—A study on the challenges facing today’s frontline leader, surveyed 1,130 supervisors and first-level managers to understand how they’re overcoming the challenges of their jobs and what is holding them back from being successful.

The major findings of the study include:

• 42% of new managers don’t understand what it takes to succeed

• 89% have at least one blind spot

• Only 1 in 10 leaders were actually groomed for the job

• Half took the role an increase in compensation—only 23% actually wanted to lead others

• More than half of leaders learned through trial and error

Being Blind Sided

So why were leaders so surprised by the job? Since trial and error on the job (57%) was the number one most influential thing to achieving their leadership skills, it’s not surprising that these leaders were shocked once they were formally in the role.

And even if they’ve been in the role for a year or two, 30% of leaders still don’t understand what it takes to be successful—after six years, that number is still only 10% lower, with 1 in 5 leaders who don’t understand what it takes.

The result of this gap is leadership regret—1 out of 3 leaders surveyed regretted being promoted due to lack of preparation and or not knowing how to succeed.

Some of that distress can be attributed to how people got the job—11% of respondents said they became a leader because there was no one else for the job. These ‘accidental leaders’ regretted the promotion the most, were less likely to have wanted the promotion to begin with and more likely to question their ability to lead others.

“Management by default isn’t an effective promotion strategy,” Scott Erker, Senior Vice President of Selection Solutions for DDI said. “Companies need to do due diligence to select leaders who have the desire, motivation—and skills—to be a leader or you’ve failed the individual and the organization.”

Thrown into the Deep End—and Not Liking It

For the half of leaders who found themselves learning from trial and error (when compared to those who learned through manager support), they felt less supported, that they were getting fewer good learning experiences and were overall less satisfied with their development.

Managers learning through trial and error were 52% more likely to describe their first year on the job as stressful and twice as likely to describe it as overwhelming.

“While learning tension is good, the stress from having to navigate a complex role with little support takes a toll on morale and creates negative feeling from leaders,” Erker said.

In fact when you compare leaders who learned through manager support to those who learned from trial and error, the number of leaders who said they were less interested in being a leader more than doubled (9% manager support to 20% trial and error).

Lack of management support when transitioning to the role also took a toll on self-esteem as those learning from trial and error were a great deal more likely to rate themselves as poor or fair (18% compared to 7% with manager support) and were twice as likely to say they were unprepared to take on the job (20% compared to 9% of those with manager support).

“What can we learn from this? The manager’s role—and ultimately the company’s responsibility—in helping a new leader impacts everything from their perception of leadership to their perception of themselves,” Erker said.

All the Wrong Reasons

When asked about the top two reasons for taking the promotion, half of frontline leaders surveyed took the role because it would lead to great compensation—the number one reason for becoming a leader. What lagged behind? Broadening skills (39%), to advance their career (33%), making a greater contribution to the company (33%), and power and influence (21%). Surprisingly, wanting to lead others was almost at the bottom of the list of leader’s with only 23%.

“Leading others is one of the biggest changes for those transitioning from an individual contributor to manager,” Erker said. “But it’s a central part of the job, so the low motivation to lead should be concerning to organizations.”

What’s the downside to the financial motivation? They were more likely to become disillusioned by the job—they are 57% more likely to regret the promotion than those who wanted to make a greater contribution.

Seeing (blind) Spots

Can leaders see themselves clearly and identify their skill gaps? Even with the low confidence and regret reported, 87% of leaders rated themselves as good or excellent.

In separate data from 200 managers going through a frontline leader assessment, their self-ratings of their leadership skills were compared to their actual performance during the assessment. Nearly all of the managers (89%) rated themselves above their actual skill level on at least one leadership skill—and half rated themselves higher on at least three.

“These leaders clearly have blind spots about their own leadership skills—this is dangerous because they won’t seek development in these areas. Without insight into their development gaps, they’ll create problems for themselves and their teams throughout their leadership careers,” Erker said.

About DDI
Founded in 1970, Development Dimensions International, a global talent management expert, works with organizations worldwide to apply best practices to hiring/promotion, leadership development, performance management and succession management. With 1,000 associates in 42 offices in 26 countries, the firm advises half of the Fortune 500. For more information about DDI visit