The best leaders set themselves apart by executing tasks quickly


Pichaya Changsorn, The Nation May 21, 2015 1:00 am


Joseph Folkman, one of the original designers of the 360degree survey assessment and a founder of two successful leadershipdevelopment firms, Novations and Zenger Folkman, has reaffirmed his study that great leaders have great results.


One competency that can make a difference between a great and a notsogreatleader in today's hectic work environment is the skill to execute tasks quickly, writes The Nation's Pichaya Changsorn.


AT A SEMINAR held recently with his Thai partner, Slingshot Group, Joseph Folkman kicked the session off with a question to his audience: "You wouldn't hire an accountant who didn't know accounting, would you?"


Likewise, Folkman believes a company should not appoint a leader who doesn't possess adequate leadership skills, because research has confirmed an "absolute" clear correlation between such skills and business success.


"Dissatisfied employees have resulted in dissatisfied customers, which [has an] impact on sales and profits. And the No 1 factor that causes dissatisfied employees is the boss," he said.


The impacts that leadership effectiveness can have on the engagement and commitment levels of staff and eventually to the firm's bottom line are so great that investments to improve leadership skills have a "huge payoff".


Folkman described the successful case of a large company with annual sales per staff of US$1 million that had the intention to be "underresourced" in staffing, in a bid to fire up "discretionary efforts" of their staff.


To improve their leadership effectiveness, most people will tend to go to their "todo list" with an aim "to be perfect" and to fix all their weaknesses. This situation is quite familiar when people are doing their annualperformance review. However, Folkman argued that the right approach was to focus on one's strengths rather than his weaknesses and to pick only a few "profound strengths" to improve.


"If you chase two rabbits they both will escape," he said, citing a Chinese proverb that suggests focusing on one target at a time.


Profound strengths are defined as the competencies that one can do very well (at the 90th percentile). Increasingprofound strengths will raise leadership effectiveness.


A Zenger Folkman study has showed that a leader with one profound strength has a leadership effectiveness at the 64th percentile, those with two strengths are at the 72nd percentile, and three, 81st percentile.


Like products, people have few differentiation qualities. But why are people willing to pay five times more for aniPod than for other MP3 players that produce indifferent sound quality? It is a few other things that make people perceive an iPod as doing a better job than an ordinary MP3 player. Likewise, a few profound strengths can result in one's leadership effectiveness making a big leap, he said.


Pace of change is accelerating

In contrast to John Maynard Keynes' prediction that his grandchildren's generation would be working only three hours a day, organisations are looking for ways to "do more with less" partly because of populations ageing, as headcounts are declining in developed economies. The pace of change is also accelerating.


A study has found that the annual number of communication messages that one executive has to deal with exploded from 1,000 in the 1970s to 9,000 in the 1990s when email was created, to 25,000 messages in the 2000s and 30,000 messages today.


Seventy per cent of managers who took part in a Zenger Folkman survey agreed that they fall into this category: "I feel I am often expected to move faster and do more."


Folkman said the speed of leadership had a "tremendous impact" on leadership effectiveness and employee engagement.


"There is no downside to speed. The faster you are, [the more] your effectiveness increases. So, if you're already fast, keep it up."


Among job functions, sales executives are the most speedy in their executions, while humanresourcetrainers are the slowest, a survey revealed.


Most people feel pressure to pick up their pace but some intuitive approaches such as talking faster, runningeverywhere, eliminating small talk, or "telling people you should be able to do that in five minutes" may not work.
"The key is how to increase speed without becoming frantic and annoying," he said.


Folkman has recommended eight "companion behaviours" that leaders can use to increase their speed: innovation, a strategic perspective, courage, stretched goals, communicating powerfully, external focus, taking initiatives, and knowledge and expertise.


Sandy Ogg, an executive of Blackstone Group, has said the scariest resource in any organisation is its chief executive's energy, but much time is usually wasted in meetings that are not accomplishing the value objectives of the organisation, and no one dares to complain about that.


Addressing this issue, Folkman suggested "steps to managing brief interactions" as the following:

1. Set expectations (I only have a few minutes).

2. Pick up pace if you're in the driver's seat.

3. Gently guide others when they initiate the meeting.




Source : The Nation 1 ก.ค.58