While passing through ORT on Tuesday evening on my way to London and I picked up the latest Finweek which was an excellent read.
I was intrigued to read the reflections of Discovery Group CEO Adrian Gore around the topic of “success”, “leadership”, “dream fulfilment” and ultimately the management of mindsets (if indeed you can “manage” a mindset) in the Gordon Institute of Business Science advertorial (pg 51, 16th August 2012). Much is written about success and leadership. It is an industry in its own right and is rightfully a critical and intriguing subject. The sadness is that the great consulting companies along with the Business Schools cash in on what is effectively sloppy thinking dished up to a fascinated but largely uncritical audience.
I have worked in major blue chip multi-nationals both in South Africa, Europe and Globally in senior Human Resource and Management and Organisation Development roles (Hewlett-Packard, Philip Morris, PwC and Lufthansa). For just on 30 years I have both participated in leadership and observed the behaviour of leaders executive levels in different business sectors and national cultures. In my last role I worked with 3 different Boards in a major European-based business and observed first hand the profound impact that leadership behaviour has on either creating, or destroying value. In one instance I observed how a dysfunctional Board went about destroying around $700 million of value. The core problem was, as always, “behavioural”
While Adrian Gore taps into some valid and truth-carrying themes he is right off the mark when he asserts that “success” is attitudinal and not “behavioural”.
He may be interested in the following information about behaviour. We know – and this is frequently misunderstood or poorly comprehended by Human Resource professionals (and regretfully Boards) – that behaviour can be very accurately measured (see Spencer and Spencer: Competency at Work, Wiley 1993). This includes “leadership” behaviour. I know. I have worked for over 20 years with one of the top 5 behavioural economists in the field of competency profiling. I have implemented behaviourally based profiles across a wide range of strategic roles in the blue chip organisations referenced above. This profiling, by the way is the intellectual and practical base for the recent craze and interest in Emotional Intelligence, another arena which provides lucrative consulting revenue by the consulting organizations! Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence was trained by the people I work with.
But back to the measurability of “behaviour”. The data on real people, doing real roles based on real research and operationalised through my responsibility to create high performing organisations indicates the following:
1. Behavioural profiles built on a statistical sample of one standard deviation high performers generate extremely high predictive outcomes when hiring or placing competent people in the role. We usually cite a predictability of over 70%. We will never claim a formula for success (as suggested by Adrian Gore). However, predictability levels higher than 70% is not bad when your subject matter is the fickle, apparently difficult to predict human being!
2. When you replace average sales people with a behavioural profile statistically generated on high performing one standard deviation sales people, you usually will see a 120% increase in measured outcome.
3. There is confusion (sloppy thinking and intellectually lazy) between the words “success”, “positive attitude” and “behaviour”. I would propose that “success” is simply the measured outcome of behaviour against a predetermined standard. ”Positive Attitude” is indeed the outcome of a deeper behaviour that is rooted in motive patterns which can be measured.
4. Behaviour has been isolated as a “single cause” influencer of a business result at around 40%. The leadership dimension is around 16% and organizational culture a further 20%. All together these elements all reside within the human being or are fruits of human interaction and relationship. A whopping 76% of the ultimate business result is all down to human agency. Interesting and sad then to realise that most Boards are clueless, intellectually sloppy or illiterate when it comes to the management of the key resource that has the most influence on the bottom line result.
Adrian Gore is a dream manager with some superb aspirations. He is so right when he asserts that ”a man without a vision perishes” and, I would add that by extension, this truth applies to a larger community of purpose (which is after all what a business is). People also thrive on a positive world view – it is called “hope” – so long as it is communicated with truth as opposed to “spin doctoring”. His insight is obviously built on personal reflection and experience. In the spirit of intellectual challenge though, he has only scratched the surface and some of his assertions need more rigour before they get the imprimatur of the Gordon Institute of Business Science. The interesting news is that you can predict performance to a very high degree. One of the known behavioural elements in the mix is the “ability to see opportunities” which Adrian sees as critical to achieving one’s dream. It really does come down to behaviour which can be observed, measured and quantified.
** Simon Middleton is a global leadership consultant
*** Adrian Gore will be speaking at the Discovery Invest Global Leadership Summit. If you would like to find out how to win tickets to this world-class event please click here.