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Executive competencies - how to really develop them

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Most companies have development programs designed to turn employees into managers. Such further training then explains, for example, how the personal role of the manager will change from a technical expert to an employee coach.

After switching to the leadership role, there are regularly further seminars in which the leadership qualities are to be further sharpened. Companies spend an average of more than € 2,000 per manager for manager development (USP Consulting). Nevertheless, employees in Germany are far from really satisfied with their managers (kununu). Doesn't classic leadership development work? Are managers not taught the right skills?

The answer to this can be found in psychology.

Managerial competencies don't pull 1: the overconfidence bias

Surveys show that 90% (sometimes more) drivers think they would drive cars above average (Svenson, 1981). Which brings us to the topic: The overconfidence bias is the constant overestimation of our own abilities, to which we are all naturally subject & #8211; Men tend to be stronger than women (Jakobsson, Levin & Kotsadam, 2013). 

We all know this situation: we are sitting in a seminar or workshop and an example situation of suboptimal leadership is mentioned. At the same time we switch off a little and think: & #8222; That would not happen to me. & #8220; But is that so? Tends not to & #8211; the overconfidence bias has struck. We take the examples from the seminars with us, but we don't consider them relevant in our context, because we are caught up in our positive image of ourselves (Pallier et al., 2002).

How is it that we are often not even aware of our own failures? Another bias comes into play here.

Managerial competencies don't pull 2: the confirmation bias

The confirmation bias ensures that we actively perceive facts that fit our self-image or worldview (& #8222; confirming evidence & #8220;), whereas we tend to ignore facts that disprove our worldview (& #8222; disconfirming evidence & #8220;).

It is therefore easy for us to interpret situations in such a way that they confirm our view of the world and ourselves. For example: “It's a good thing that I accompanied the project from start to finish, otherwise it would have ended in chaos because nobody else feels responsible.” 

At the same time, all project members feel patronized and have lost motivation to get actively involved. So it is not necessarily wrong that the person in the example can actually organize well. But she forgets to increase the motivation of the team by developing a project vision and distributing responsibility. This knowledge would be much more valuable for the person than the constant confirmation of their organizational ability.

In this way, (not only) executives develop so-called & #8222; blind spots & #8220;, ultimately an inaccurate or even wrong self-image. These blind spots mean that theoretical knowledge from seminars is not put into practice due to a lack of self-reflection.

Overconfidence leads to & #8222; blind spots & #8220; & #8211; a weakness, as Luke Skywalker (Star Wars) knows.

How can we protect ourselves from these effects?

The key to solving this challenge and promoting leadership skills lies in feedback. If we are regularly confronted with the honest feedback from our colleagues and we can compare and discuss our self-perception, a learning process that is relevant to practice actually takes place.

We have to develop a mindset that - like in science - is not just about collecting clues that confirm your own view of the world. We should also look for clues that disprove it. 

With the advantageous difference that - based on this - in contrast to science - you can write the rules for your personal development yourself.

The 360º feedback

A tool that is & #8211; when used correctly & #8211; has proven itself is the so-called 360º feedback (also called multi-rater feedback; see Wikipedia). In the case of 360º feedback, your own employees, colleagues and your supervisor provide feedback on certain behaviors and, if applicable, personality traits of the feedback recipient.

This feedback is likely to differ in part from the self-perception of the feedback recipient, as Christian Schön in his article shows. Often, even the perceptions of employees, colleagues and a manager's superior diverge & #8211; without someone being wrong.

Each feedback giver bases his assessment on other situations and can thus help the feedback recipient to allow these individual situations to be incorporated into his self-reflection.

You already thought it: Echometer can also be used 360º Feedback implement. We use our psychological know-how to stimulate the self-reflection and thus competencies of the managers through targeted feedback in an online workshop - of course, taking into account the scientific Recommendations for 360 degree feedback.

If you are interested, please contact us! #KeepGrowing


Jakobsson, N .; Levin, Minna; Kotsadam, Andreas (2013). Gender and Overconfidence: Effects of Context, Gendered Stereotypes, and Peer Group. Advances in Applied Sociology 2013. Vol. 3, No. 2, 137-141

USP Consulting (2003): “Best Practice in Management Development & #8211; Interim Report "

kununu management report 2018

Pallier, G. et al. (2002). The Role of Individual Differences in the Accuracy of Confidence Judgments in The Journal of General Psychology 129 (3): 257-99 August 2002

Svenson, O. (1981). ARE WE ALL LESS RISKY AND MORE SKILLFUL THAN OUR FELLOW DRIVERS. Acta Psychologica Volume 47, Issue 2, February 1981, pages 143-148

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