• About the Author: Joseph Folkman

    Joseph Folkman is the president of Zenger/Folkman, a leadership development consultancy. He is also a co-author of the October 2011 HBR article “Making Yourself Indispensable,” and The Ins…

    Full Bio

01 Nov. 2017 | Comments (0)
Leaders Aren’t Great at Judging How Inclusive They Are
Many organizations today are making concerted efforts to become not only more demographically diverse but also more inclusive and welcoming of difference. The latter is much harder to measure than the former. It’s not that hard to count the percentage of women or people of color in your organization, but how can you tell if leaders in your organization are genuinely welcoming?

08 Aug. 2017 | Comments (0)
Why Do So Many Managers Avoid Giving Praise?
Given how unpleasant giving critical feedback can be, perhaps that isn’t surprising. But what we were surprised to see is that even more people admitted that they avoided giving positive feedback! 37% of the people who took our self-assessment conceded that they don’t give positive reinforcement.

20 Jun. 2017 | Comments (0)
How to Improve at Work When You’re Not Getting Feedback
Too many managers avoid giving any kind of feedback, regardless of whether it’s positive or negative. If you work for a boss who doesn’t provide feedback, it’s easy to feel rudderless. It can be especially disorienting if you’re new in the role, new to the company, or a recent graduate new to the workforce. In the absence of specific guidance, is there any way to know what the average boss would want you to work on?

19 Jun. 2017 | Comments (0)
How Managers Drive Results and Employee Engagement at the Same Time
Is it possible to be a high-standards, results-driven leader while at the same time building an engaged, fun-to-work-with team? Many people would contend that doing either of these things well makes it almost impossible to succeed at the other. And yet our examination of 360-degree assessment data from more than 60,000 leaders showed us that leaders who were rated in the top quartile of both skills ranked in the 91st percentile of all leaders.

17 May. 2016 | Comments (0)
Do Women Make Bolder Leaders than Men?
A common stereotype is that men have a tendency to be bolder than women. And numerous studies have shown that male business leaders do tend to take more risks. But looking through our database of 360-degree assessments from 75,000 leaders around the world, we noticed that on average the women were bolder than the men.

20 Apr. 2016 | Comments (0)
The Countries with the Boldest Business Leaders
Fortune favors the bold, goes the old Roman saying. Our research suggests fortune is not alone in this: so do the Americans and the Chinese. But although some cultures do like boldness in their leaders, and reward it when they see it, this isn’t universally true.

22 Oct. 2015 | Comments (0)
7 Things Leaders Do to Help People Change
Ever tried to change anyone’s behavior at work? It can be extremely frustrating. So often the effort produces an opposite result: rupturing the relationship, diminishing job performance, or causing the person to dig in their heels. Still, some approaches clearly work better than others.

08 Oct. 2015 | Comments (0)
What Younger Managers Should Know About How They’re Perceived
The 360-degree feedback instrument we use collects data on 49 leadership behaviors. When we matched the scores of the two groups on these 49 characteristics, the younger group ranked more positively on every trait. This is excellent news, indicating there are talented younger leaders in our organizations who will be capable of stepping into key roles.

25 Sep. 2015 | Comments (0)
What Separates Great HR Leaders from the Rest
HR seems to have become every manager and employee’s favorite corporate punching bag, vying with IT for the dubious title of most-irritating function. We have seen a parade of articles recently calling for HR to beblown up, split in two, or at the very least, redesigned.

18 Jun. 2015 | Comments (0)
Are We More Productive When We Have More Time Off?
We were recently working with a company in Amsterdam, and having difficulty getting a summer meeting scheduled because of the number of executives who were on vacation. Experiencing some frustration, we began to wonder how this company actually got its work done.

25 Feb. 2015 | Comments (0)
Research: 10 Traits of Innovative Leaders
Many organizations would like their leaders to create more innovative teams. But how exactly should they do this? The fact of the matter is that people who excel at something aren’t usually very good at pinpointing exactly what accounts for their skill.

10 Feb. 2015 | Comments (0)
Why Middle Managers Are So Unhappy
Who are the unhappiest among your workers? And what’s driving them crazy? They may not be who you think they are. They aren’t who we would have thought. To find out, we gathered data from the most unengaged and uncommitted employees from more than 320,000 employees in a variety of organizations.

18 Dec. 2014 | Comments (0)
9 Habits That Lead to Terrible Decisions
Several years ago we came up with a great idea for a new leadership-development offering we thought would be valuable to everyone. We had research demonstrating that when people embarked on a self-development program, their success increased dramatically when they received follow-up encouragement.

24 Nov. 2014 | Comments (0)
The Skills Leaders Need at Every Level
Are some skills less important for leaders at certain levels of the organization? Or is there a set of skills fundamental to every level? The skills people reported needing depended not only on their level in the organization but also on the job they held and their particular circumstances.

20 Nov. 2014 | Comments (0)
Most Managers Think of Themselves as Coaches
As a manager, do you think of yourself as a leader or as a coach? Do you feel it’s important that your staff see you as an expert or do you prefer to create an egalitarian environment? Results of a survey indicate a stronger desire to display coaching attributes than we were expecting.

05 Sep. 2014 | Comments (0)
Finding the Balance Between Coaching and Managing
Ask 100 people if they have good common sense, and more than 95% will tell you they do. Ask them if they are good coaches, and almost as many will say yes. Executives assume that if they’re good managers, then being a good coach is like your shadow on a sunny day. It just naturally follows.

11 Jun. 2014 | Comments (0)
The Behaviors that Define A-Players
Individual contributors sometimes ask themselves, “What will it take for others to recognize my potential?” They may simply want acknowledgement of the importance of the work they do. Or they may aspire to move into management.

08 May. 2014 | Comments (0)
Do You Need to Lighten Up or Toughen Up?
is always good to hear, but 57% preferred to hear constructive criticism. There’s no mystery why. Practically three quarters of them thought their performance would improve and their careers advance if their managers gave them corrective feedback.

09 Apr. 2014 | Comments (0)
Develop the Leaders You’ve Been Overlooking
Say the word leader and most people immediately think of those with business cards that says “manager,” “director,” or other such lofty title. That is, the people who hold positions of stature within a company’s hierarchy, and to whom several individuals report.

07 Mar. 2014 | Comments (0)
Your Employees Want the Negative Feedback You Hate to Give
Would you rather hear positive feedback about your performance or suggestions for improvement? For the last two weeks, we’ve been compiling data on this question, and on people’s general attitudes toward feedback, both positive and corrective.

30 Jan. 2014 | Comments (0)
Overcoming Feedback Phobia: Take the First Step
You’re sitting at your desk when an e-mail pops up from your boss that cryptically states, “Please come to my office; we need to talk.” What’s the first thing you think? For most people it’s, “Oh no – what did I do now!”

09 Jan. 2014 | Comments (0)
Will Your Bad Boss Make You a Bad Boss, Too?
One of the best predictors of whether a person will become an abusive parent is if he or she was abused as a child. On the face of it, this is puzzling. Certainly, as children, these people did not say to themselves, “This is how I want to treat my kids.”

31 Oct. 2013 | Comments (0)
Keep Your Name Off That Layoff List
A very important meeting is held, and you’re not invited. At this meeting, a senior leader announces that since targets were not reached, 150 managers will be laid off. The question is, “How do you keep your name off that list?”

07 Oct. 2013 | Comments (0)
Nice or Tough: Which Approach Engages Employees Most?
It’s probably no news to most people who work that poor leaders produce disgruntled, unengaged employees. Our research also shows convincingly that great leaders do the opposite — that is, that they produce highly committed, engaged, and productive employees.

05 Sep. 2013 | Comments (0)
The Eight-Minute Test That Can Reveal Your Effectiveness as a Leader
How can I determine if I am a good leader, or perhaps even a great one? What are my strengths, and do any rise to the very highest levels? I know I have some weaknesses (as everyone does), but are any of them so appalling as to derail my career?

31 Jul. 2013 | Comments (0)
Three Myths About Your Strengths
One of the most dramatic changes in leadership development in the last decade has been the shift in focus from correcting weaknesses to identifying and expanding on strengths. As this movement continues to catch hold, three myths have emerged that deserve to be dispelled.

18 Jul. 2013 | Comments (0)
What Inspiring Leaders Do
What do top executives want from their leaders? IBM recently asked this question of 1,700 CEOs in 64 countries. The three leadership traits that most mattered were the ability to focus intensely on customer needs, the ability to collaborate with colleagues — and the ability to inspire.

27 May. 2013 | Comments (0)
I'm the Boss! Why Should I Care If You Like Me?
Our 360 data show clearly that most people rate themselves more likable than their bosses, peers, and direct reports do. How can you bridge that gap?

03 May. 2013 | Comments (0)
New Research Shows Success Doesn't Make Women Less Likable
In a recent interview, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg recounted this story to underscore the importance of a body of research that she cites in her book Lean In indicating "that success and likability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women."

26 Apr. 2013 | Comments (0)
The Ideal Praise-to-Criticism Ratio
Which is more effective in improving team performance: using positive feedback to let people know when they're doing well, or offering constructive comments to help them when they're off track?

05 Mar. 2013 | Comments (0)
How Poor Leaders Become Good Leaders
In our previous blog, Bad Leaders Can Change Their Spots, we described a group of 71 leaders who were able to elevate their leadership effectiveness from the 23rd percentile to the 56th percentile — that is, from being poor leaders to good ones. While many readers were impressed that it could happen, many more were curious (and even doubtful) about how it could happen.

25 Feb. 2013 | Comments (0)
Bad Leaders Can Change Their Spots
We have many ways to describe the common belief that a person's behavior is relatively fixed: "A leopard can't change his spots." "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." You could probably add a few more old saws yourself. This view, we've found, seems especially prevalent in relation to senior leaders with noticeable weakness, like an uncontrollable temper or a marked tendency to be rude or unreasonably demanding.

24 Oct. 2012 | Comments (0)
Can You Take Your Strengths Too Far?
For the past decade, leaders have been encouraged to focus on developing their strengths rather than always gravitating to working on a weakness

05 Oct. 2012 | Comments (0)
Getting 360 Degree Reviews Right
There is one thing we've personally seen that profoundly and consistently changes lives — the 360-degree feedback process. We had an up-close view of many people who were teetering on the edge of job termination, and have seen them blossom into extremely valuable contributors.

27 Aug. 2012 | Comments (0)
Are You Sure You're Not a Bad Boss?
When we analyzed the behavior of 30,000 managers, as seen through the eyes of some 300,000 of their peers, direct reports, and bosses on 360-degree evaluations, we found that the sins of the bad boss are far more often those of omission, not commission. That is, bad bosses are defined not so much by any appalling things they do as by certain critical things they don't do.

08 Aug. 2012 | Comments (0)
How Damaging Is a Bad Boss, Exactly?
What's the one factor that most affects how satisfied, engaged, and committed you are at work? All of our research over the years points to one answer — and that's the answer to the question: "Who is your immediate supervisor?"

03 Aug. 2012 | Comments (0)
Are You Creating Disgruntled Employees?
You can't make every worker happy, surely, and should a business even try? Evidence from our recent research suggests, actually, that the answer is yes.

22 Jun. 2012 | Comments (0)
The Data's In: Honesty Really Does Start at the Top
It's hard to reach the 90th percentile in anything, of course, and honesty is no different. So when we ran across one of those exceptional individuals, we wanted to have a word with him.

24 Apr. 2012 | Comments (0)
Gender Shouldn't Matter, But Apparently It Still Does
The response to our HBR blog "Are Women Better Leaders than Men?" has been dramatic, to say the least. Clearly, women in leadership is a topic that bears examining in greater detail. As follow up, we've delved deeper into our data in search of further answers.

21 Mar. 2012 | Comments (0)
Are Women Better Leaders than Men?
We've all heard the claims, the theories, and the speculation about the ways leadership styles vary between women and men. Our latest survey data puts some hard numbers into the mix.