09/17 2010

“Leadership Derailment” – and What Can Be Done to Manage It

Much recent attention has been focused on the topic of “derailment” – loosely defined as dysfunctional behaviors that negatively impact a leader’s overall effectiveness. Certainly, recent headline-making examples of corporate misdeeds have further increased the attention on these derailment behaviors – Enron or Bernie Madoff, anyone?

Some researchers have attempted to provide a framework for categorizing these derailment behaviors. Research by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) has provided the following taxonomy listed below. CCL believes that the behaviors listed below will serve to stall or stop a person’s career:

  • Problems with Interpersonal Relationships
  • Difficulty Building and Leading a Team
  • Difficulty Changing or Adapting
  • Failure to Meet Business Objectives
  • Too Narrow Functional Orientation

CCL measures the above behaviors via a 360⁰ survey process, where leaders receive anonymous survey results in the above areas from their supervisors, their peers, and their subordinates. Survey responses from all of the above respondent groups are collected and compiled, and a feedback session to explain results and ongoing coaching sessions to improve performance are then offered.

Psychometric tools are also used to measure derailment tendencies. For example, psychologists Robert and Joyce Hogan have developed a report known as the “Leadership Challenge Report” that provides feedback to test-takers in the following derailment areas:

  • Excitable – being overly enthusiastic about people or projects, but then becoming disillusioned easily, and not showing a high degree of perseverance
  • Skeptical – Lacking trust in others, and being cynical and overly sensitive to criticism
  • Cautious – being resistant to change, reluctant to take chances, and being indecisive
  • Reserved – lacking interest in and/or being unaware of the feelings of others
  • Leisurely – having an elevated independent streak, and being procrastinating & uncooperative
  • Bold – having elevated arrogance, and being unwilling to admit mistakes or learn from experience
  • Mischievous – being risk-taking and excitement-seeking, and being different for the sake of being different
  • Colorful – demonstrating attention-seeking behavior, being dramatic, and not allowing input from others
  • Imaginative – being creative, but not demonstrating sound common sense or good judgment
  • Diligent – being too much of a perfectionist, and focusing on minutia and not delegating
  • Dutiful – being eager to please and unwilling to act independently

For Hogan, individuals with elevated test scores in any of the above areas are seen as being at risk for exhibiting the behaviors shown. Interestingly, Hogan believes the above behaviors are most likely to be shown when an individual is under pressure or stress.

Some research suggests that the base rate of failed leadership in US corporations exceeds 50%, suggesting that derailment behaviors like those described above are pretty rampant. Given this, what should leaders with derailment tendencies to for development?

As with any type of development effort, self-awareness is the initial step in making needed changes. Either the CCL 360⁰ survey or the Leadership Challenge Report can provide this critical self-awareness.

Once a leader is aware of their tendencies, they can reflect upon past instances when they have exhibited any of these behaviors, and through this process can learn to identify any common “triggers” that prompt these behaviors. Recognizing these triggers – and actively taking steps to correct the derailment behaviors that might automatically follow – can help the leader avoid demonstrating these behaviors.

In addition, leaders are encouraged to seek-out a trusted peer or colleague who can help provide ongoing feedback on their progress. By letting a colleague know that they are working on avoiding a specific behavior, the leader makes it OK for the colleague to provide real-time feedback on their progress – a true key to any leadership development effort.

09/17 2010

What We Know About “Emotional Intelligence” – And Why It Is Important

Research shows that Emotional Intelligence (EI) is a key ingredient to success in both work and non-work settings. In fact, the EI variables contribute significantly more to success than does a person’s cognitive ability (or IQ).

While a person can be ineffective in a job if s/he does not possess the cognitive ability required by the position, simply possessing high cognitive skills does not guarantee job success. Conversely, possessing high levels of EI is correlated with job success, regardless of job level.

Daniel Goleman popularized the EI term in his 1995 book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. Goleman’s model outlines the following four EI domains as being important for managers and leaders:

  • Self-Awareness (the ability to read one’s emotions and recognize their impact)
  • Self-Management (controlling one’s emotions and impulses)
  • Social Awareness (the ability to sense, understand, and react to other’s emotions)
  • Relationship Management (the ability to inspire and influence others while managing conflict)

How can organizations assess EI in job candidates? Assessing EI normally involves the use of standardized assessment instruments, along with behaviorally-based interview questions that allow the candidate to demonstrate situations where s/he has demonstrated high levels of EI.

Ideally, the results of the assessment tools are incorporated into the interview process itself, allowing for a more in-depth evaluation of each job candidate.

Can EI be developed or trained? The answer is both yes and no. Briefly stated, a person’s EI is largely determined by previous life experiences, but does change over time. As with many types of development initiatives, self-awareness is an important part of changing one’s EI preferences and tendencies. Individuals working to change their EI behaviors need to actively solicit candid feedback on the behaviors they wish to change, and also need to be committed to changing behaviors that may be automatic and long-standing.

This type of change is not always easy – and it does require both the learning of new behaviors, and the discipline to apply these newly-learned behaviors. Therefore, individuals without the discipline to change – and those without feedback or reinforcement mechanisms in the workplace — will be particularly challenged to change.

08/2 2010

What is “Talent Management” — Why Is It Important?

The term “Talent Management” (TM) is the latest iteration of the name of activities that are associated with identifying, managing, and developing the human capital of the organization.

In earlier times, such activities were regularly labeled as “Personnel” activities. In the 80’s, the term “Human Resources Management” was adopted to reflect the reality that the human capital of the organization was, in fact, a “resource” that required as much care and attention as the other resources possessed by the organization (such as capital, equipment, etc.). The term “Talent Management” is now used to describe the broad scope of business activities that are undertaken in this arena.

A recent survey by the Institute for Corporate Productivity found that the nine areas listed below were common TM activities that were being undertaken by organizations:

  • Leadership Development
  • Succession Planning
  • Career Planning
  • Performance Management
  • High Potential Programs
  • Learning and Training
  • Competency Management
  • Retention Strategies
  • Professional Development

In addition to the scope of the activities listed above, TM initiatives are also distinguished by the following:

  • Each of the above activities are viewed from a “systems” perspective – meaning that the activities above are inter-dependent with each other, and are linked in their design and application
  • TM initiatives are focused on the future — meaning that organization looks ahead to the business and staffing challenges it will face 3-5 years into the future, and will focus on developing the TM strategies needed to meet the hiring, training, and retention challenges of the future

It is important to note that successful organizations will not confine TM activities solely to the Human Resources Department – nor will they have these activities simply be the responsibility of Department Heads or teams of executives. Instead, both groups will contribute expertise to address talent management issues — Department Heads and executives will contribute insights into the business challenges and skill requirements needed in the future, while HR leaders and training professionals will be responsible for developing the strategies and methodologies to prepare employees to meet these challenges.

Posted in New Articles
08/2 2010


This is the PDP Corner, where you can find informative articles on Human Resources, and other interesting studies on modern business.