The Engaging Leader

The Engaging Leader

Engagement matters

Most organisations know that engagement matters. To take one example, the Gallup organisation has measured engagement for decades with their framework (Gallup q12) and tracked the impact of engagement on business performance. Their 2016 analysis included data on 1.8 million employees across 82,000 business units and showed that top-quartile business units outperform bottom-quartile units by 10% in customer engagement, 21% in profitability and 20% in productivity.

There are only a small number of factors that drive engagement, such as working for an organisation that has a deep sense of purpose. And key amongst these factors is the quality of the relationship an employee has with their immediate manager.

So, this leads to the question: what is it about some managers that means they get higher engagement scores? What is the distinctive pattern of their strengths?

Engaging or charming?

Who comes to mind when you think of a charismatic leader? Maybe the great orators? But also, maybe those who charm their way out of tough situations, who seem able to get people to like them even against their better intentions. We talk about a magnetism in their character, an ability to pull people towards themselves and their ideas. Engaging? Definitely, but in a particular way.

If we work for a charismatic person, we find their charm can soon cloud if they have a need to stand in the sun all the time, to be the centre of attention, for everything to be a reflection of themselves.

In our CharacterScope data set we see a quieter, less egoistic and more deeply engaging version of the charismatic character: that of the Charismatic-Servant leader.

Their spirit is nicely captured in this quote attributed to Queen Victoria, contrasting her experience of working with two of Britain’s key political figures of the 19th Century:

When I left the dining room after sitting next to Mr Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest man in England. But after sitting next to Mr Disraeli, I thought I was the cleverest woman in England.

The charisma of Disraeli is turned back from himself into the other person. Rather than a need for his audience to find him interesting, he invests in finding what is interesting in the other person and thereby helps them believe the best of themselves. It’s an experience we can’t help but find engaging at a level that goes far beyond immediate charm.

Where are your Charismatic-Servant leaders?

The Charismatic-Servant profile is a combination reasonably frequently seen in our data-set, but do you know where they are in your organisation? The chances are you won’t, because they are not likely to post their achievements in neon lights on the wall behind their desk.

The Charismatic part of their profile means that they enjoy pulling people towards them, that they enjoy engaging and even charming people. The Servant part of their profile brings a really interesting balance: they get their own ego out of the way and focus instead on the team and people around them. So yes, they engage people, but engage people around shared goals and people’s strengths, rather than around their own ego or personal needs.

When we work with someone with this combination, it’s hard not to be engaged! But there is a quietness to the profile that means they will often be off the radar of senior leaders looking for indicators of future talent, which often bias towards more obvious indicators such as having a quick mind, self-belief, and a strategic outlook.

Instead, if you really want to find where they are in your organisation, just take a look at your engagement scores. Of all the Leader types, the Charismatic-Servant leader has the strongest correlation with high feedback scores on ‘Engages people’ and ‘Creates trust’.

The twist

Not only is the psychological make-up of the Charismatic-Servant leader one which means that they tend not to promote themselves, our data-set shows that they are significantly more likely to be female than male, by a ratio of 2 to 1. Gladstone, in his compulsion to demonstrate his intellect, is probably more typical of male leaders, and Disraeli the outlier. Yet if engagement drives business performance, and the particular pattern of strengths of the Charismatic-Servant leader drives engagement, it’s worth wondering why more models of high potential aren’t explicitly built around their distinctive strengths.

For now we’ll pick out two signature strengths of Charismatic-Servant leaders: their Zest and Other awareness.

Perhaps men feel less comfortable with the outward display of enthusiasm and positivity that is the hallmark of zestful people, but we’ll save that for a further article on the gender differences in our data. What is clear is that all leaders can improve their ability to be an engaging leader by building these key strengths.

So if you have a CharacterScope account, dig out your Solo and Viewpoints reports and take a look at where these strengths lie, and think seriously about signing yourself up to the Zest development plan.

If you’re not yet a CharacterScope account holder, just ask yourself this single question: being outwardly enthusiastic about life is as natural to a seven-year old as liking ice-cream; where did your zest go?

Beautiful, Critical Data

Beautiful, Critical Data

Beautiful data, critical to understanding people and teams

We live in a truly fascinating and complex world. People, in particular, never cease to surprise us – both in good and bad ways! At CharacterScope we embrace the complexity and diversity of people, and we’re naturally curious about what data can tell us about them. We can’t help but look at a network diagram of our viewpoints ‘universe’, below, without wondering what causes the patterns and trends that we can see clearly emerging before our eyes. (Click on the image to explore it in full 3D)

3D network visualisation of the CharacterScope Viewpoints Network. Click the image to explore in full 3D.
Beyond curiosity, there are also pressing, urgent questions that our work asks of us. Challenges that we face around performance, diversity, and growth. And often, the answers lie in our people. But figuring out the right answers as business leaders can sometimes feel like divining for water. It’s so tempting to look for clear-cut answers. But genuine data on real people is rarely clear-cut: it’s rich, nuanced, beautiful, and subtle. Trends and correlations tend to be modest. Rather than shouting at you, the data whispers. But by listening carefully, with an open mind, it can give you a significant edge. Not clear-cut answers, but a 20%, 60%, or 70% edge.

Diversity of teams

We work with a lot of teams, and naturally we get to see a great deal of diversity and richness. We see ‘teams’ which might perform better as separate cohesive sub-teams; teams oozing diversity but lacking a shared foundation; teams with a clear set of shared values but lacking resilience and diversity in an environment where it’s clearly needed. Data, whether it be a team solo or viewpoints report, a visualisation or bespoke analysis, prompts the conversation and leads to action where it’s needed.

Showing a team their ‘similarity’ network, like the one below, is truly fascinating. It’s a chance for a team to have a conversation about their specific diversity – a conversation grounded in fact. What does the structure of the team feel like? I look like an outlier; what does that mean to our team in practice? We’re thinking about hiring X; how would that look, and what would it mean for us as a team? Network diagrams like this are great for showing clusters, cohesion, diversity and outliers. Like the greatest teachers and coaches, well-presented data won’t give us easy answers, but it can prompt us to ask the powerful questions that need asking.

Network Similarity Diagram for the CharacterScope Core Team

This is the ‘similarity’ network for our core team at CharacterScope, simply showing members who are more similar in character as closer together, and those more different as further apart. You might say that the team is grounded at one end by our key founder, Mark Loftus. But there are so-called ‘outliers’ – like Lisa and Dan, who work quite differently, with different and complementary sets of strengths. This team functions well because of that diversity. Interestingly, we have noticed that dissimilar pairs tend to work remarkably well within a team (a subject for another time)!

Organisational insight

Stepping up a level from teams to the organisation, we get a different perspective. Teams become points of reference, individuals become anonymous but crucial ‘data nodes’, and we can look at our people in a number of fresh ways. As business leaders, we can start to ask questions about the relationships between teams and, crucially, about the effectiveness of our organisation as a whole. What are our key strengths? Our gaps? The violin plot below gives an example of how we might understand our organisation’s critical ability to maintain direction, compared to another division or organisation.


Spot the difference – a violin plot comparing ‘Sets Direction’ across two organisations
The power of data

Exploring data, especially in a visual way and with an open mind, can truly open us up to insights and lead to effective action. We know that it grounds us in reality, and if we stay honest, it can give us the ‘brutal facts’ (to coin James Stockdale’s phrase) that free us to actually make the best decisions. That might mean adjusting the way you hire, re-imagining your performance review process, having fresh conversations as a team, or deciding to take your own personal growth in a new direction. At least with the right data, the power is in your hands.

Want an innovative team? First define what innovation means

Want an innovative team? First define what innovation means

Every entrepreneur or manager has a mental image about how they’d like their workforce to look but, in many cases, they’ll expect duplicates of themselves which isn’t always good for an organisational culture. As we discussed before, diversity is a key weapon in a company’s armoury – it leads to better business performance and also promotes an inclusive environment. (What does innovation means?)

Innovation is a prime area of focus for many businesses today. So, if the vision for the staff body is that they all work innovatively, that’s great. Having goals is fundamental, but so is having the skills to hit the back of the net. Just because the boss may be innovative doesn’t mean staff will automatically become creatively-minded. Similarly, if managers aren’t innovative, then they definitely shouldn’t expect staff to think inventively.

The first step in this instance is considering why you want innovation and what it looks like to you. It’s easy to buy into innovation itself because it’s such an omnipresent buzzword but you should know what you want from its implementation. Is that the use of new software to help improve business processes? Is it workers using more out-of-the box thinking? Whatever it may be, focusing on leadership development will be your starting point.

How the team leader thinks and operates will play a big role in building an innovative team. On top of your personal desires, what does innovation mean to your business overall? If the answer is not much, then you’ll need to look at changing organisational culture and that’s a top-down process, which isn’t always straightforward, but the reward will certainly be worthwhile.

Communication in this instance is what’s required to get going. As a leader, you must outline to yourself precisely what you want from the team and then translate that to them. Remember, the staff aren’t mind readers. The crucial thing following this is to lead by example. An old saying it may be but, the head of the team must ensure they practise what they preach in order to demonstrate how they would like specific tasks to be handled.

PwC’s 2018 study on preparing for tomorrow’s workforce surveyed business and HR leaders globally and, unsurprisingly, innovation was raised. 79% of respondents placed a collaborative environment as either highly important or important, agreeing “our working environments are designed to encourage teamwork, collaboration and innovation.” Seemingly you can’t have one without the other – to foster innovation means is to foster teamwork and collaboration.

Elsewhere, the report also detailed that in terms of innovation specifically, 76% claimed “we have avenues present for employees to offer innovative ideas and support them in turning these ideas into action.”

As a leader, you’re in the driving seat to encourage effective teamwork, but a roadmap is needed, so tell your passengers where you’re all heading – or, even better, ask them if they feel like there’s any other routes that should be taken on the way. Ensure they’re not sitting in silence for the journey and in doing so, the results will speak for themselves as innovative ideas will come.

At CharacterScope we’ve seen how powerful open dialogue is. And as our users have understood themselves and their leadership styles better, they’ve better communicated with their teams, who’ve better taken hold of their duties. By empowering yourself through continuous learning and leadership development, you can in turn empower your team as they learn from you.

One way of looking at it as an intrapreneur. This phrase refers to a manager who thinks like an entrepreneur – like a builder. As PwC found, “people increasingly want to feel that their contributions count.” Developing an innovative team, encouraging them to also think like intrapreneurs, can only be a positive thing that will work towards your goals.

Want an innovative team? First define what innovation means

Inexperienced managers? Developing employee leadership

As businesses scale and change, often at a ferocious pace, there is often a need to promote and recruit new and inexperienced managers to lead people and drive the company forwards.

This can bring with it a range of benefits. They often bring a fresh approach, appetite and enthusiasm. There’s also the added fact that they’re often young and can be developed and nurtured. However, if they joined the business as a junior, regardless of how perfect they were for their previous post, they won’t necessarily have the managerial experience their predecessor possessed. So, what are you supposed to do?

In many cases, companies just hope for the best. They hand over the keys to the promoted party’s position and let them learn how to lead on their own, which is not without its risks. The desire to move fast means that support comes more likely when things are broken, in the form of interventions, rather than being ongoing. When this goes wrong, it can have a huge impact on morale, culture and your organisation’s ability to attract and retain talent.

But an inexperienced individual joining the company wouldn’t be left to it, so why would you leave someone without experience of managing peers to chance? Ultimately, if you want your managers to manage, and manage well, you need to ensure they’re equipped and supported to do this as well as they can. The stakes are too high.

Sure, you don’t want to breathe down their necks every two minutes and nor do they want you to – they’re a manager now, right? But the necessary traits they possess that got them the step up the corporate ladder in the first place must be reviewed to see where improvements can be made in order to achieve the best outcomes for the team. 

At CharacterScope, that’s precisely what we’re built for – developing team leaders. Everyone is different and we know that. It’s not about changing who people are, but encouraging and helping them to be the best versions of themselves, sharpening their strengths while understanding where they can advance. You need strategy and direction to lead a business – why not have the same approach for leading a team?

Disrupting talent management is key to a companies development and helping inexperienced managers. Read our HRreview feature article here.

What do you want from a leadership culture? Read more here.

Want an innovative team? First define what innovation means

Want to be an inclusive company? That means understanding your staff

Diversity and inclusion (or D&I) is a topic you’ve undoubtedly read about over the past couple of years. Indeed, the conversation around it has grown considerably in that time as awareness has risen. But even if D&I isn’t something you’ve actively sought to facilitate within your own company yet, don’t worry – you’re not alone.

Although more businesses have begun recognising D&I as a workplace concept, the introduction of inclusive programmes has been less than speedy as many bosses are still unclear how these should be implemented, found McKinsey. But as part of a study released last year, the consultancy firm reinforced a fact that’s come up many times: gender and ethnic diversity is directly linked to a better business performance.

Elsewhere, in addition to improved financials, PwC has noted other benefits of inclusion. They comprise a better means of recruiting staff and more internal creativity, with people from different backgrounds naturally putting forward diverse ideas and possessing unique approaches to getting things done.

Indeed, there is an increasing awareness that the value of diversity doesn’t end there. Neuro-diversity, diversity of thought and a diversity of character are hugely valuable to an organisation. Within teams it offers complementary and different ways and perspectives to approach a range of problems and opportunities.

The professional services firm surveyed leaders in charge of D&I strategies at their companies and found that an inclusive culture was more likely to be found at global businesses than regional and local counterparts. However, worldwide organisations were also considered the type of businesses with the largest diversity barriers in the place for progression. Clearly, something isn’t adding up.

Inclusion effectively means opportunities for all, whether that’s during the recruitment stage, for job progression, team-building and so on – it’s something that ensures that people are heard, valued and contributing at their best, regardless of any differences. 

Seemingly the problem is that, in addition to the confusion McKinsey highlighted regarding the implementation of inclusion programmes, companies are misinterpreting both inclusivity itself and their employees. 

Look at the team leaders in your organisation. How well do you really know them? Are they securing fair opportunities to develop? What sort of dialogue has there been between you regarding their performance? If your answers are “Not very”, “No” and “Very little,” a change of tact could well be in order. After all, they’re the ones leading the rest of your workers.

Only by getting to really understand your staff – who they are as people and what their strengths are, can you be inclusive. This will ensure that your people are feeling fulfilled and your organisation is getting full value from them, both individually and in terms of the contribution they’re making to their teams. You will have an organisation full of people that feel understood and playing to their strengths – a culture that’s alive and inclusive.

You can only really know your staff if they know themselves. CharacterScope has been designed to help team leaders to understand and develop themselves and their teams, allowing them to recognise their strengths and to develop the ones that will best help them succeed. It helps them build, shape and guide their teams. Indeed, it’s with this understanding that you can create a more inclusive culture. The benefits are ripe for the picking.

Want an innovative team? First define what innovation means

There is great value in workplace assessments – just don’t hide the results in a drawer

Picture this: Your studies are behind you, you’re now years into your career and decide to apply for a new role. When interview day finally comes around you feel like a student all over again as you’re prompted to complete a series of psychometric tests to decide your suitability for the role. This is a scenario many jobseekers – who perhaps now work for you – have found themselves in at one stage or another.

Of course, not all employers elect for psychometric testing or assessments as part of their recruitment process or even as part of general development initiatives – you may well be one of them who doesn’t. But the general idea behind these tests is that the employer and the employee, can learn a range of things about how they work that wouldn’t necessarily be revealed in a good old fashioned face-to-face interview. Needless to say, that’s a topic of much debate.

Whether your experiences of psychometrics or assessments are as part of the hiring process or even part of some one-off developmental training, in an effort to build self- awareness, there is often a feeling of confusion as to what you’re supposed to do with this information after you’ve finished. The results are filed away in a drawer or computer folder never to see the light of day again. So, what’s the purpose? After all, in terms of recruitment specifically, it’s been proven strong psychometric results won’t always translate positively to outstanding performance once someone has been employed.

How you see yourself or how others see you can lead to some hugely valuable insights and personal breakthroughs, in terms of your own performance as well with your interpersonal relationships. Making these breakthroughs stick has often been difficult in the past. They tend not to be sustained and built in to new behaviours and patterns of thinking. This is the way executives work with leadership coaches, ensuring that these realisations and valuable pieces of awareness are directly linked to structured and long-term development.

The need and demand for this sort of informed, continuous development was evidenced with a recent CV-Library study of 2,000 UK professionals. When asked what their career priorities over the next year are, the top answer at 44.6% was to learn more skills while 43.5% wanted to receive more pay. 

It’s clear there’s an opportunity here. What if your organisation provided ongoing opportunities to develop new skills, but in a way that was linked directly to insights they can leverage from these assessments?

This is a movement we’re promoting with CharacterScope – the chance for your leaders and people to understand and develop themselves on an ongoing basis. We want to make this process the norm.

As a psychologist and executive coach, our founder Mark has seen first-hand the usage of psychometric tests throughout his career and knew there was a better way. The value your people can take from doing these assessments, need no longer sit locked away in a drawer.