HBR Research on Complexity of Promoting High-Performers to Management Roles...

The best widget-maker becomes the widget-maker manager.  Which means we promote the people who are best in the functional area role, right?

And sometimes it's an absolute disaster.  We've all been there.  We promoted someone because they were strong as an individual contributor, then they became a manager and it turned into an absolute dumpster fire.  That's when we pledge to look at manager competencies differently.  Then we get busy and forget about it.

It's widely accepted that we promote strong individual performers into manager roles.  But there's little data to actual prove it - but HBR recently took a look and the results are interesting.

More data on the Peter Principle from the Harvard Business Review:

While the Peter Principle may sound intuitively plausible, it has never been empirically tested using data from many firms. To test whether firms really are passing over the 220px-Horrible_Bossesbest potential managers by promoting the top performers in their old roles, we examined data on the performance of salespeople and their managers at 214 firms. Sales is an ideal setting to test for the Peter Principle because, unlike other professional settings, it’s easy to identify high performing salespeople and managers—for salespeople, we know their sales records, and for the sales managers, we can measure their managerial ability as the extent to which they help improve the performance of their subordinates. The data, which come from a company that administers sales performance management software over the cloud, allow us to track the sales performance of a large number of salespeople and managers in a large number of firms. Armed with these data, we asked: Do organizations really pass over the best potential managers by promoting the best individual contributors? And if so, how do organizations manage around the Peter Principle?

First, we found that sales performance is highly correlated with promotion to management. For salespeople, each higher sales rank corresponds to about a 15% higher probability of being promoted to sales management.

Second, sales performance is actually negatively correlated with performance as a sales manager: when a salesperson is promoted, each higher sales rank is correlated with a 7.5% decline in the performance of each of the manager’s subordinates following the promotion. We found similar results regardless of whether salespeople were promoted to their own team or to new teams. In other words, firms tend to promote top sales workers into management, even though they become the worst managers.

 Does that mean we are promoting the wrong people?  Maybe.  Or maybe the performance of the team comes up as a new manager gains experience and understands what's required in the role.  

In our data, among people who were actually promoted, better salespeople ended up being worse managers. But if we could observe the managerial potential of all salespeople, and not just those who were promoted, would we still find a negative correlation between sales performance and managerial performance?

Answering this question is difficult because the promoted managers we observed in the data weren’t promoted at random. For example, if firms promoted by flipping a coin, then poor salespeople could get promoted because they were lucky, rather than being promoted because their employer observed qualities that overcame their deficiencies as salespeople. Although people aren’t getting promoted by coin flips, they are more likely to be promoted if they happen to be in the right place at the right time: using variation in the promotion rates across industry over time to act as our coin flips, we still find that better salespeople tend to be worse managers.

We also found that firms underweight other indicators that a salesperson would be a good manager. In particular, we found that salespeople whose sales credits were shared among a large number of collaborators become very effective managers. Credit sharing for enterprise sales is typically a mark that the salesperson was involved in large, complex deals requiring collaboration. This type of collaboration experience positively predicts managerial quality.

What do you do with all that?  I think the choices are pretty simple.  You can:

1--Do a better job assessing who in your company has the DNA of a manager.  There's a set of skills - much like the collaboration element cited above - that can tell you who is naturally inclined to the do the job.  Find a great provider like Caliper to help you dive in.

2--You can actual train your managers of people to get better in the most important conversations that drive business results.  If you're looking for that type of training series, don't forget about the BOSS Leadership Series I've put together at Kinetix.

3--You can keep doing what you're doing.  Godspeed.

Hit me in the comments with what you think about the research from HBR.


The Self-Sabotaging Nature of Loving Drama In the Workplace...

"Some men just want to watch the world burn"

--Alfred in Batman


Short post today as you go into the holidays, shut it down and think about 2018.

You've got people in your professional life who love drama.  They're wired to create angst, conflict, infighting and many times, they're not even aware Batmanthey're doing it.  It's how they are genetically wired behaviorally.  Rather than observing, learning and maximizing themselves in any situation, they create chaos by inviting others to react to their presentation of facts - which are usually drawn to create a reaction - otherwise known as drama.  They do this even if it hurts them long term.

If you think about all the players in your life, you can probably identify who these people are.

I'm here today with a new year's resolution for you - don't allow people who love drama to draw a reaction from you in 2018.

What these people hate most is not getting the reaction.  There's also learning that goes on as you deny them the combustion they seek.  After the 2nd or 3rd time you deny the drama queens and kings the reaction they seek, they'll stop trying to get it from you, and your life will improve.  

So that's the resolution.  Stop letting the drama people stoke you up.  Try giving them a "hmmm" when they stoke you, and instead of participating in a communal rant, try saying the following:

"I'm going to think about that"

"That's interesting. I'm going to ponder that a bit"

"Get the #### out of my office"

That last one is a joke, because that actually creates drama.  You should avoid reacting when they try to suck you in at all costs.

Measured response is a good leadership technique, both for the drama lovers and also for people who are bringing you bad news, observations and gossip.  Don't get sucked in.  Stay calm.

Of course, if you're a leader, of the things you'll have to deal with is drama kings/queens spinning up other drama kings/queens as a normal course of business.

But that's for another day.  For today and moving into 2018, the thought is this - don't allow people who love drama to draw a reaction from you in 2018.

Why Limited Feedback Points Are Crucial in Corporate Coaching...

You're a coach in the corporate world.  That means you know a lot - about a lot of things.  

It also means you've been trusted - whether formally or informally - to share your observations, thoughts and wisdom with others about their performance.  With that comes great responsibility.  I'm assuming you're good at what you do and have what it takes from a Subject Matter Expertise perspective to coach effectively.

So allow me to tell you where you're going to #### it up:

You're going to give your coaching recipient 10 things to think about the next time they perform the subject of your coaching.

Maybe 5 things.  The number is important, but also meaningless once you go above 2-3 items you attempt to coach on in a single session.  Let me explain what's out there in business books and then give you my own experience.

If you read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, you'll see the best in any field have 3 things present as they develop into world-class performers:

--They spent the time practicing - the 10,000 hour rule

--They had access to facilities/tools to practice the skill in question

--They had access to a coach/system that could provide immediate feedback

What's most interesting to me these days is the coaching part of that loop.  The older I get and the more coaching I do, the more I'm convinced that coaches have to be very selective in the feedback they give.  As SME's in whatever we do as coaches, it's easy to unload a list of things that a person should do in order to improve they next time they perform a task/service/etc.

You're a common sense person, so when I tell you "don't give the subject of coaching 10 things/points of feedback", you get it.

What if I told you that 3 points of feedback are too many? 

That's harder, right?

In my outside life away from business, I serve as a basketball shooting coach for some good to great players at a variety of ages.  The research Gladwell cited in Outliers certainly hold true for my students - they have to have a desire to put in the hours, they need access to an indoor gym and they need immediate coaching and feedback, which is where someone like me comes in.

In my basketball coaching life, experience rapidly brought me down to a coaching 3 points of feedback - base/feet, hand placement and speed through the zone/finish.  That's all I coach on, because different players have different styles and it's my job to maximize them - not change something that will take them backwards.

But experience as a coach in hoops has taught me something else - while it's OK to have culled my coaching package down to 3 things, when the player is getting reps in, 3 points of feedback is way too many.

What I've learned is that I can go into a coaching session thinking that we need to work on two of the three, but on a rep by rep basis, I can only give feedback on one.

One point of feedback per rep.

If I give feedback on more than one point of my package, it becomes so overwhelming to the recipient - you guessed it - improves on nothing at times during the session.

You're a good coach in the corporate world.  Check yourself before you wreck yourself when it comes to how you give feedback.

Coaching more than one point of feedback in a session?  It's bad for everyone's health.


VIDEO: Dealing with Sidetracks In Coaching Conversations...

Featured today - an interview I did with Tim Sackett for Talent Talks (a great series brought to you by Saba Software) on Dealing with Sidetracks in Coaching Conversations...

You know what sidetracks are even if you don't know them by name...  You know you need to coach a direct report on an issue, so you engage, only to get blown back by the employee with all the reasons the current situation (the one you're coaching on) exists.. It's them, it's their tools, hell, it's even you.

Yes, you! Sidetracks are so dynamic your direct reports can use them to throw you under the bus!!

Take a look at the video below (email subscribers may need to click through to see player) for ideas on how to deal with sidetracks.  If you like what you see, make sure to visit Saba Software- and don't forget to like the video or throw us a comment!

The Power of Self-Diagnosis In Corporate Coaching...

We've all been there as coaches in corporate America for our team.  

We know the adjustment we need our direct report to make. It's easiest to just tell them what to do with a side dish of "why". Self diagnose

That's prescriptive coaching, and it has its place.  But telling someone what to do is rarely the best path for long term results.  That's why tools I've talked about in the past, like the Please Shut Up 6-Step Coaching Tool, always involve you "shutting up" and forcing the recipient of your coaching to respond/talk/engage.

But there's a senior level to coaching strategy.  I call it Self-Diagnosis and it goes something like this:

1--You've got a long term investment in coaching someone on your team.  You've spent the time, they've heard how you want it done.  If you're really good, they feel like they have participated in that process.

2--Unfortunately, they're still ####ing it up.  They're not as good as you want them to be, especially since you've spent the time.

3--They have good intentions - they are trying, they just haven't put it together - the muscle memory isn't automatic, perhaps it's a reps (not enough practice or live situations) issue.

4--They mess it up. You want to tell them what to do.

5--You resist the urge and go into being a coach that has "self-diagnosis" as part of your package.

6--Next time the performance isn't there, instead of telling them what to do, you ask them to self diagnose what went wrong. Hopefully you've established a pattern of limited feedback points (3-4 things that they need to do given the task or situation).  The first time you ask them to self-diagnose, there will be silence - they're used to to you telling them what to do.

7--But, if you keep asking them to self diagnose, a funny thing happens - they start to develop the ability to evaluate their own performance, which is the true key to performance improvement.

Using self diagnosis is a powerful coaching tool.  You have to lay the groundwork with limited feedback points for the situation/task, as soon as you've done that, you can start using self-diagnosis.

If you haven't used self-diagnosis before, be patient.  It might take 3-4 sessions before the employee understands the expectation is clear - they have to self diagnose, and you're not going to bail them out.

You know you've won when they start self-diagnosing without you asking them to.

Or you could keep telling them what to do and see how that goes for you....


Is Behavioral Interviewing Dead? The Internet Said So...

Deep thoughts today, people... Deep thoughts.  

Was at a conference last week and heard a keynoter basically proclaim the following (I'm paraphrasing):

"Behavioral interviewing is dead.  Just google the term and you'll find thousands of pages designed to help candidates beat behavioral interviewing."

OK.  Let me break that general thought process down a bit.  There's one word that comes to mind when I hear a thought leader proclaim that behavioral interviewing is dead with that logic as the reason. Rationalize


People are tying to help candidates beat behavioral interviewing!!  That means it's ineffective as an interviewing technique, right?

Um, no.

When behavioral interviewing doesn't work well, it's because you haven't giving your managers the training they need to be successful.  Actually you might have given them the training.  What you haven't done is given them the gift of failure.

For anything related to manager training, failure=role play as part of your training.  You've got to give them real practice using the skills you're teaching them.  If they don't fail as a part of your training, there's ZERO chance they're going to try and use the skill in the real world.

If you don't force people to fail in your training, they'll never be effective in their real lives as managers.

Is behavioral interviewing the end all/be all?  No.  But it's an effective way to drill down on candidates (no hypotheticals! What did you do specifically in that situation?  Not the team - you!) if you give your managers the training they need.

I'm cool if you don't like behavioral interviewing - shine on, you crazy diamond.  Just don't fail to give managers what they need and then blame it on the Internet.  That's called rationalization not to train.

PS - If you're in the market for cool training your managers will actually like, check out my training series called BOSS - Leadership Skills for the Modern Manager.  It's full of stuff that will engage your managers and give them the skills (and initial failure) they need to get better!  Bonus - below is the first video we show as part of our behavioral interviewing training - featuring Vince Vaughn and Owen Willson (email subscribers click through for the video).

FAKE IT: Acting Interested in Corporate America Is a Succession Factor

Who's to know if your soul will fade at all
The one you sold to fool the world
You lost your self-esteem along the way

--"Fake it" by Seether

One of the biggest things that separates contenders from pretenders in Corporate America - across all functional areas - is the ability to fake interest and attention.

You're in a 7-hour training class.  Next week you're in a 3 hour ops review.  Boredom happens.

 If Darwin were a noted OD thought leader in business, he would write that an adaptation that allows some to survive and thrive is the ability to fake interest and attention with body language, eye contact and just enough participation to make it seem like they're engaged.

Does it matter?  Competition is fierce. Only if you want to get further than you are now.  The real players in corporate America look engaged - at all times - even when they aren't.  

Look around at your next meeting.  You'll know what I'm talking about.  Some people have this type of opposable thumb, some don't.

Of course, faking it leads to learning because you're dialed in juuuuuust enough not to miss important shit. 

Seether video below, people.  Worth your time but a little NSFW. Happy Friday... (email subscribers click through for video)

The Trap of Non-Specific Feedback As a Replacement For Coaching...

If you look around long enough in your life - especially if you have kids - you'll see a pattern emerge.

People are trying to coach others as much as they can, but they default to non-specific feedback that is unhelpful at best and counter-productive at worst.

Want some examples?  Sweet!  Here you go:

"Try Harder"

"You Just Need To Work More"


"Be Patient"

"Give Them What They Want"

Read that list.  Odds are that you've used most, if not all, of these in the course of your day to day life coaching someone - a friend, a kid, a parent, a team member at work, and yes - someone you manage.

Those non-specific words feel like coaching, but they're not. They're proxies for you actually taking the time to figure out why someone is failing (big and small), as well as analyzing how they could help themselves.

Most coaching tools engage the person who needs coaching to ask them what they can do differently.  That's a start for getting to specifics that might make a difference.

But in the corporate world as well as non-work life, it's easy to be prescriptive and tell the person what to do in order to get better results.

That's failure #1 if you're responsible for coaching someone.  You didn't engage them, you told them what to do based on what you see.

Failure #2? Using any of the phrases above or anything similar.

You gotta really try harder.  Focus on it.  Be the ball, Danny.

Non-descriptive feedback sucks.  Stop telling people to focus and try hard. 

Lead them in a conversation about what they can do (specifics!) to get better results in any circumstance/scenario you're coaching them in.

Here's The Video I Send Team Members When I Think People Are Stupid...

If there's anything I've tried to live up to in my professional life, it's the need to communicate things to the lowest common denominator in any organization.  After all, life moves pretty fast, and if you don't stop to look around and consider whether all the people you are communicating to understand what you're saying, you're destined for failure.

So we (you and me) work to communicate to that lowest common denominator.  But sometimes you find yourself putting out a training guide on how to mute a call on the iPhone - because someone told you that was needed.

I've had that type of moment in the last month.  It was surreal, and I was part of putting out a guide so remedial that I could hear this Talking Heads song playing in the background.  

How did I get here?  The days go by...

Do some people need a guide for how to mute calls on an iPhone? (not the real situation, but work with me...)

No. No they don't.  We create these types of guides 10% of the time because people aren't intelligent enough to figure out what's in front of them.  The other 90% of the time?  We create these guides in response to people not using a technology/process because they're too lazy. 

So of course - we MUST create a training guide to take that excuse off the table.  

Then they don't use the tech/process moving forward and the managers in question never address it in performance.  Because you know, that's hard.

When all this goes down, I have a simple video I send the people I care about who are impacted by doing the aforementioned work that will be ignored.  It's called "Spelling Bee" from a comedian named Brian Regan (rare clean comedian) and the set is Regan making fun of how dumb he was in school.  Play the video below (email subscribers click through for video) to hear about his challenges in Spelling Bees and Science Fairs.  It's gold.

Soon you'll be sharing this with your own team and saying "IT'S A CUP...OF...DIRT.  I CALL IT CUP OF DIRT"....


CAPITALIST WEBINAR: 5 Signs Your Performance Problem is Actually a Manager Problem...

By now you’ve heard the news.  Performance Management is dead and we’re told SMART companies are killing the performance review altogether.

There’s just one little problem with that popular theme – a recent CEB study shows that across companies Image001that have eliminated the performance review, manager/employee conversation quality declined 14%. Managers actually spent LESS time on informal review conversations and employee engagement dropped 6%.

My take? You don’t have a review problem – you’ve got a manager/feedback problem.  That's why I'm doing a webinar entitled "5 Signs Your Performance Problem is Actually a Manager Problem".  What could go wrong, right?

Join Halogen and me (KD) on March 28 at 2pm EDT and we’ll explore the disconnect, including the following goodies:

· Why the managers you support fail to coach and provide feedback, formally or informally – even though they’ll tell you to your face they consider it to be critical.

· How you can make your performance management process more meaningful and lightweight by introducing agile coaching methodologies into your organization.

· How to link a coaching/feedback strategy to more formal items like goal setting and performance management.

·  A roadmap for how to make your managers more focused on the career advancement of their direct reports – the surest way to get the attention of employees on all things performance-related.

Your managers are the most important link to performance.  Join us and we’ll show you how to make them better coaches, whether they love or hate the performance review.