How Would You Do If You Were Ranked By Your Former Employees?

I saw and interesting article this week about a Glassdoor survey which shows that the highest rated CEO is Tim Cook of Apple.

His approval rating was a whopping 97 percent. That rating even beat out his former boss, Steve Jobs. And as so many have reported, Jobs was pretty challenging to work for.

That was not what surprised me, though.

I wondered about how we, as leaders and managers, would be rated by our former direct reports. How would we fare?

Staying connected with former colleagues

This week I heard from two of my former direct reports that I have stayed in touch with over the years. As a matter of fact, since my college days I have been working to stay connected with former co-workers and direct reports, some more than others.

My conversations with the two I talked with this week centered on their careers, and basically, which turn should they take? My advice is always simple and straightforward: take the turn that leads you toward your destination. If you don’t have a destination, any turn will get you there.

I am sure that if my former direct reports were polled, I would get a fairly good, passing grade.

There is lots of discussion lately about senior managers “connecting with their workforce.” John Hollon here at TLNT did a great piece last week tying engagement to senior leadership.

But let’s walk out of the C-Suite and head down the hallway, or maybe up the stairs.

The Grand Canyon gap analysis

How would your staff rate you if you were to leave or if they were to leave? Rating ourselves, and having someone else rating us, may create a gap as wide as the Grand Canyon. Nothing is more helpful than finding out how others see you. If you can conduct that exercise in an impersonal manner, you find information you simply can’t get any other way. It’s like doing consumer research.

Many times I have counseled managers who think that books should probably be written about their leadership style. They just know that they are the greatest. They think that they have it going on! But as I continue the process of surveying their direct reports, I get a different picture.

My friend Marshall Goldsmith, who is a world renowned executive coach, tells the story of working with a high profile CEO at the board’s request. This leader talked about his prowess as an executive and how his executive team sees him as a great manager. In his eyes, he had it going on. As part of Marshall’s coaching model, he interacts with the CEO’s immediate family as well as the executive team to get their feedback

When he talked to the wife and kids, they all said almost in unison that he was a jerk. He knew EVERYTHING, He was always RIGHT; it was always HIS WAY OR THE HIGHWAY.

When he talked to the executive team, the picture they painted was almost the same. This is what I call, the Grand Canyon gap analysis.

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We are never as good as we think we are, and in a lot of cases, not as bad as we think are.

Modeling good behavior

I worked for a CEO at one time named Sharon Patrick, the founding chief executive of Martha Stewart Living. She was a marvel to watch in action. You could walk down the halls and hear her voice echoing out from just about any department.

Most amazing to me was seeing her sitting in the mail room. Yes, the mail room. She would stop in and grab a chair to talk about the game or just shoot the breeze. She was so approachable. She thought nothing of sticking her head into any conference room meeting and just grabbing a chair to see what was going on. She was amazing.

This was a paradox for me because I had just joined the company from IBM, and let’s just says that something like that would never happen there. NEVER!

Managerial characteristics to live by

So here’s my list of managerial characteristics and behaviors that I have always tried to live by:

  • Coach privately and constructively;
  • Praise publicly and generously;
  • Always maintains a positive attitude – never lose your cool;
  • Actively foster a creative and fun work environment;
  • Listen sincerely, speak thoughtfully;
  • Hire great people and focus on developing them;
  • Care about every employee’s career;
  • Be quick to take blame if something goes wrong, but credit others when things go well;
  • Never gossip or complain about a manager or co-worker; and,
  • Try to treat every employee with respect.

Check yourself

Sometimes I would falter on some of the things on my list, but I always used it as an anchor to keep me grounded.

So next time you read or hear about how someone is ranked, whether as a senior executive or manager, before you pass judgement, think about how you would stack up.

You may just may be in for a big surprise.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.


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