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JMD 27,1

Identifying competencies that predict effectiveness of R&D managers

Christine R. Dreyfus
Dreyfus & Associates, Inc., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Purpose The purpose of this research is to determine the competencies that predict highly effective performance in R&D managers and to explore where, along their career and life, managers develop these competencies. Design/methodology/approach Participants were 35 scientists and engineers working as rst level managers at a major US government research center in the Mid-West. Intended as a comprehensive inquiry into the competencies of R&D managers, three factors determined the design: establishing a criterion measure of performance to dene Highly Effective and Typical groups; using a multi-trait, multi-method approach to measurement; and collecting data on competency development that preceded work history. Findings Nine variables were found to differentiate the two groups of managers. These were similar enough to collapse into two competencies: managing groups and interpersonal sensitivity. For the highly effective managers who demonstrated these two competencies, development of their capability began at young ages and prior to work experience. Effective and regular use of the two competencies occurred later in life and typically as a result of taking on leadership roles outside the work setting. Originality/value People skills are important to effective management of R&D; technical ability is not enough to be a highly effective manager of R&D; differences in learning styles are important in learning interpersonal skills; people skills can be developed; development does not mean training; and activities outside work are important in developing leadership competencies. Keywords Emotional intelligence, Competences, Management development, Research and development Paper type Research paper

Received 20 April 2007 Revised 20 August 2007 Accepted 31 August 2007

Journal of Management Development Vol. 27 No. 1, 2008 pp. 76-91 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0262-1711 DOI 10.1108/02621710810840776

Introduction Although it is generally accepted that there are differences between high and low performers, the specic factors that account for these differences have been elusive in the research literature. The claim that competencies account for this difference is well known by practitioners and consultants, but except for a few studies (Boyatzis, 1982; Spencer and Spencer, 1993; Goleman, 1998) there is little evidence for this link in the research literature. This study was designed to address this issue directly with a group of managers of R&D. In addition, the argument as to whether performance differentiating factors, particularly competencies, are something a person is born with or are developed, continues in the eld of management development. Where competencies in general are being discussed, or Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence competencies in particular, there have been few attempts to establish the plasticity of these characteristics (Boyatzis et al., 2002) A second part of this study was designed to explore how people who appear to have and use these competencies developed them.

Study design: Part One Intended as a comprehensive inquiry into the competencies of managers of R&D three factors were included in the design: (1) establishing a criterion measure of performance; (2) using a multi-trait, multi-method approach to measurement; and (3) collecting data on competency development that preceded work history. In Part One of the study a group of Highly Effective and Typical R&D managers were identied and the characteristics which differentiated the two groups were determined. Part Two of the study was designed to answer the question how did the Highly Effective R&D managers develop these differentiating abilities? Criterion measure of performance: Participants were selected from the rst level of management in ve departments of a major government research center in the Mid-West. The selection was made using a peer, supervisor, and subordinate nomination process. Employees were asked to list the names of individuals they considered to be most effective in their current role as a rst level manager. Managers who were above the 50th percentile on the number of nominations from all three sources, or above the 75th percentile on two sources and above the 50th percentile on the third were placed in the Highly Effective group (n 19). Managers who were on or below the 50th percentile on the number of nominations from all three sources or received no nominations on two or all three sources of nomination were placed in the Typical group (n 16). All of the participants were male and the two groups did not differ in age, education, number of years at the research facility, number of years as a manager, number of hours of management training, or number of weeks of military training. Multi-trait, multi-method: Assessments were completed in two, two hour individual sessions. In the rst session managers completed the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), the Learning Styles Inventory (LSI), the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the Executive Skills Prole (ESP), and four Life Story questions. In the second session each manager was interviewed using a Behavioral Event approach and the interviews were scored for competencies. Assessment tools were chosen to cover the multiple levels at which emotional and social competencies exist; unconscious motivational/trait drivers (i.e. personality), self-image, and observed behaviors (Boyatzis, 1982). The TAT, LSI, MBTI were used to assess the managers motives and traits. Self-image can be inferred from self descriptions so the Executive Skills Prole, a card sort instrument, and Life Story questions were used to capture this aspect of management competency. The behavioral skill aspect of management competency was measured using a variation on the critical incident interview technique called The Behavioral Event Interview (BEI). TAT stories written by the managers were scored for Achievement, Power, Afliation, and Activity Inhibition (McClelland, 1985; Smith et al., 1992). The Achievement motive is a measure of a persons need to do better for the intrinsic satisfaction of doing better. The Power motive is a measure of a persons desire to have an impact or be inuential. The Afliation motive is a measure of a persons need to establish and maintain positive relationships with others. Activity Inhibition is a measure of a persons disposition to control his/her own impulses.

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For each of the four scales of the MBTI an individual is forced to choose between the preferences being measured: Extroversion/Introversion (EI), Sensing/Intuition (SN), Thinking/Feeling (TF), and Perceiving/Judging (PJ) (Myers and McCaulley, 1985). The EI scales reect an orientation toward the outer world of people and objects (E), or the inner world of concepts and ideas (I). The SN scale reects an orientation toward a process of reporting observable facts or events through one or more of the senses (S), or a less obvious process of intuition (N) which reports meanings, relationships and/or possibilities that have been worked out beyond the reach of the conscious mind. The TF scale reects the reliance on thinking (T) to make decisions impersonally on the basis of logical consequences, or a reliance on feeling (F) to make decisions primarily on the basis of personal or social values. The PJ scale describes the process a person uses primarily in dealing with the outer world. A person who scores high for judgment (J) has indicated a preference for either thinking or feeling, while a person who score high for perception has indicated a preference for either sensing or intuition. Combinations of the four preferences result in sixteen possible types which each reect the interplay of the preferences and attitudes. The Learning Style Inventory is a self-descriptive test, based on experiential learning theory, which assesses an individuals orientation toward learning (Kolb, 1984). The LSI measures the relative emphasis that the respondent attaches to each of four learning modes; Concrete Experience (CE), Reective Observation (RO), Abstract Conceptualization (AC), and Active Experimentation AE (AE). A person scoring high in Concrete Experience is characterized by a receptive, experiential approach to learning. The CE learner is highly intuitive and tends to be empathic, people oriented and not as interested in theory as in practice. People scoring high in Reective Observation tend to rely on careful observation in making decisions and prefer more passive learning situations like lectures. Individuals with this learning style preference tend to be unbiased but cautious in their approach to learning. They are often introverts. A person scoring high in Abstract Conceptualization has an analytical, conceptual approach to learning. The AC learner focuses on building theories and systematic plans based on logic, concepts and analysis. High AC individuals are more oriented toward things and symbols than to people. Scoring high in Active Experimentation indicates a preference for using practical applications to inuence people and change situations. Individuals with this learning preference want to be actively involved in taking in new information by doing and feeling. They dislike lectures and tend to be extroverts. Responses to the 12 items of the LSI were totaled to arrive at a score for each of the four orientations. Combination scores were computed to discover the extent to which abstractness was emphasized over concreteness (AC-CE) and the extent to which action was emphasized over reection (AE-RO). The Executive Skills Prole is a card sort instrument designed to identify the managerial skills most critical to the effective performance of a specic management job and to assess a particular managers skill strength in those critical areas (Boyatzis and Kolb, 1995). To assess current skill level, the individual is rst instructed to sort the 72 skill item cards into one of seven categories ranging from I have no skill or experience in this area (value of 1) to I am a leader or creator in this area (value of 7). Skill items are assigned the value of the category into which it was sorted. The nal

score provides a self-assessment of the managers abilities on twelve scales of management behavior. To assess the skill level required by a specic management job, the manager sorts the 72 skill item cards into seven categories ranging from Not relevant to my job(skill value 1) to A top priority in my job (skill value 7). Item and scale scores are computed as in the skill strength. The nal scale scores provide a measure of the managers assessment of the managerial skill level require by his current job. Four Life Story questions were adapted from work done in the area of identity and self concept (McAdams, 1985). The Life Story exercise was included in this study to represent a self-report measure of the managers self-image. Each question was presented to the manager at the top of a blank sheet of paper. Questions were: Think of your life (past, present, and future) as if it were a book. Most books are divided into chapters. Each chapter tells a kind of a story; that is, it has a plot. Think about this, then divide your life into chapters, give each chapter a name and for each provide a short (two-four sentence) plot summary. Try to think about the major events in your life as turning points leading form one chapter to the next. Many people report occasional peak experiences. These are generally moments or episodes in a persons life which he or she feels a sense of transcendence, breakthrough, uplifting, or inner peace. These experiences vary widely. Some people report them to be associated with religious experiences. Others may nd such a high in vigorous athletics, reading a good novel, an intellectual insight, artistic expression, working with a team to complete an innovative project, or simply talking with a good friend. Please describe in four-ve sentences something you would consider to be a peak experience for you. Please be specic. Include what happened, who was there, how it felt, what you were thinking, and how (it at all) the experience changed you. A nadir is a low point. A nadir-experience is the opposite of a peak experience. Please think of your life. Try to remember a specic experience in which you felt a sense of disillusionment and/or despair. This would be one of the low points in your life. Even though this memory is undoubtedly unpleasant, please be specic (four-ve sentences) and report as much detail as you did for the peak experience. In thinking about our life, who has had an important impact on your development? Who have been signicant role models? Please list these individuals by name and write a sentence or two describing the impact each has had on your development. A sub-sample of six stories (three from highly effective managers and three from typical managers) was selected at random. The content of these stories was used to create a set of themes which seemed to differentiate the two groups (Boyatzis, 1998). Inter-rater reliability was established for scoring the themes with another sub-sample of fteen randomly selected stories. Agreement between the two raters ranged from 100 to 75 percent with an average percent agreement of 79. The entire set of thirty-ve stories was then rescored by one of the raters. The eight themes that emerged were: Proactive Attitude Toward Life, Reactive Attitude Toward Life, Human Frailty, Positive Managerial Role, Negative Managerial Role, Reection, Developmental Focus, and Interpersonal Sensitivity. The Behavioral Event Interview is a semi-structured interview in which an individual is asked to recall and relate recent, specic events in which he felt effective in executing his job role. The interviewer uses probing, but nondirective questions to obtain an accurate account of an event. The behavioral event interview is thought to be

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one of the most effective methods for assessing managerial behavior (Boyatzis, 1982; Spencer and Spencer, 1993). In an hour and a half interview managers were asked to relate three incidents in which they felt effective as a manager and three incidents in which they felt ineffective as a manager. Interviews were scored independently by two raters for frequency of occurrence of eighteen generic managerial abilities. Initial inter-rater reliability computed as percent agreement ranged from 94 to 38 percent. Any instance of disagreement in scoring was discussed by the raters until a nal 100 percent rater agreement was reached. Study results: Part One Measures of the motives did not signicantly differentiate the Highly Effective from the Typical managers. On the TAT, no signicant differences were found between the two groups. No signicant differences were found between the two groups of managers in their preferences on the MBTI scales. For the Extroversion/Introversion scale, both groups of managers preferred Introversion. On the Sensing/Intuition scale, scores for both groups were equal. Thinking was preferred over Feeling and Judging was preferred over Perceiving in both groups. Learning Style Inventory results indicated no signicant differences between the two groups of managers in learning styles. Both the Highly Effective and Typical mangers showed a preference for the abstract over the concrete and the active over the reective orientations. As expected these scientist/engineer managers tended to cluster in the Assimilator and Converger learning styles. The Assimilator style is most common in research scientists and Engineers prefer the Converger style (Kolb, 1984). The environment of this research facility, being more like a research university than other organizations employing engineers would tend to support the Reective/Abstract style of Assimilators. Therefore, all three of the personality variables assessed were non-signicant in predicting performance of the R&D managers. Two of the three measures of social-role and self-image abilities signicantly differentiated the Highly Effective from the Typical managers. The average scores on the 12 scales of the Executive Skills Prole measuring job requirements showed no signicant differences between the two groups of managers. The average scores on four of the 12 scales measuring individual skill levels were signicantly different. Highly Effective managers scored higher on the Leadership scale, the Helping and Delegating scale, the Adapting scale, and the Setting and Managing to Goals scale, as shown in Table I. Item analysis of the 12 scales revealed several signicant individual items as shown in Table II. Analysis of the Life Stories revealed a signicant difference between the managers on three themes, Human Frailty, Interpersonal Sensitivity, and Reactive Attitude Toward Life, as shown in Table III. Of the fteen abilities scored from the BEI, three Initiative, Managing Group Process, and Self-Condence signicantly differentiated the Highly Effective from the Typical managers, as shown in Table IV. A summary of the variables that signicantly differentiated the Highly Effective from the Typical managers is shown in Table V.

Scale Leadership skills Relationship skills Helping and delegating skills Adapting skills Information-gathering skills Information analysis skills Planning skills Quantitative data analysis skills Technology management skills Setting and managing goals Taking action skills Entrepreneurial skills

Group Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical

Mean 29.32 25.94 29.74 28.63 30.11 27.13 29.89 26.81 28.74 27.30 24.58 25.31 25.21 23.13 19.71 18.38 20.89 20.31 27.63 24.63 27.37 25.50 31.11 28.94

SD 5.5 4.2 4.9 3.1 4.6 4.3 4.9 5.3 4.7 4.0 4.1 4.3 5.9 4.7 5.7 5.6 4.4 5.4 5.3 4.2 5.9 4.6 5.0 6.3

t 2.03 0.79 1.96 1.79 0.97 20.51 1.14 0.69 0.35 1.85 1.03 1.13

p 0.01 ns 0.01 0.04 ns ns ns ns ns 0.03 ns ns

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Table I. Results of t-tests on executive skills prole skill assessment scales

Item Selling ideas or products to others Making oral presentations Having positive regard: cooperative, optimistic, appreciative attitude toward others Helping others gain opportunities to develop Understanding the reasons for a conict or disagreement Identifying and dening problems Seeing how things t into the big picture Selecting and assigning personnel: allocating resources

Group Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical

Mean 5.16 3.94 5.26 4.56 5.47 4.81 5.11 4.00 4.95 4.31 5.47 4.81 5.47 4.50 5.00 3.63

t 2.38 1.72 2.00 2.77 1.78 1.79 2.65 4.01

p 0.02 0.09 0.05 0.009 0.08 0.08 0.01 0.000 Table II. Results of t-tests on executive skills prole individual skill items

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Theme Proactive attitude toward life Reactive attitude toward life

Group Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical

Mean 1.84 1.56 0.53 1.13 0.63 0.19 0.26 0.00 0.16 0.31 2.26 2.06 1.26 0.94 0.84 0.19

SD 1.2 1.8 1.0 1.1 0.5 0.4 0.5 No variance 0.5 0.8 1.4 1.8 0.9 1.2 0.6 0.4

t 0.54 1.73 2.87

p ns 0.04 0.00


Human frailty Positive managerial role Negative managerial role Reection Developmental focus

0.70 0.36 0.91 3.70

ns ns ns 0.00

Table III. Results of t-tests on life story themes

Interpersonal sensitivity

Competency Achievement orientation Initiative Conceptual thinking Developing others Directiveness Relationship building Accurate self-assessment Managing group process Understanding others Self-condence Table IV. Results of t-tests on behavioral event interview competency scores Analytical thinking Communication

Group Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical Highly effective Typical

Mean 1.63 1.63 2.52 1.81 3.26 2.93 1.58 1.06 0.26 0.44 0.63 0.69 0.11 0.63 0.89 0.38 0.47 0.56 0.53 0.25 0.47 0.69 0.26 0.25

SD 1.0 1.1 1.3 1.2 1.4 1.4 1.3 1.0 0.6 0.6 1.0 0.9 0.3 1.0 0.8 0.6 0.8 0.8 0.5 0.4 0.6 0.8 0.7 0.6

t 0.02 1.69 0.69 1.27 0.87 1.17 2.23 2.10 0.33 1.68 0.90 0.06

p ns 0.05 ns 0.10 ns ns 0.01 0.02 ns 0.05 ns ns

To determine the predictive strength of the multitrait-multimethod design of this study and to explore which combination of variables provided the best classication of Highly Effective and Typical managers, a discriminate function analysis was performed. In the rst analysis, with all forty-ve variables included, 100 percent of the cases were correctly classied into Highly Effective and Typical groups. In subsequent analyses the motive/trait, social role/self image, and skill variables were entered separately. The next best predictor of group membership was the function dened by the 16 self-image variables from the ESP and Life Story. This function correctly classied 88.6 percent of the sample and minimized misclassications better than the functions dened by the motive/trait or skill variables. Self-image variables correctly classied 89.5 percent of the Highly Effective managers and 87.5 percent of the Typical managers. These results support the use of multi-trait, multi-method approach to assessments of managerial effectiveness and support the hypothesis that for managers of R&D managerial effectiveness is a function of self-image abilities. Results of the discriminate function analysis are shown in Table VI.

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Study design and results: Part Two Nine variables (Managing Group Process, Initiative, Self-Condence, Leadership, Helping and Delegating, Adapting, Setting and Managing to Goals, Human Frailty and Interpersonal Sensitivity) were found to signicantly differentiate Highly Effective managers from Typical managers. These ndings provided the basis for asking the question, How did the Highly Effective managers develop the abilities that distinguish them from their Typical peers? The approach to this inquiry is based on the view that abilities are developed over time and that people associate development with signicant events and people. The rst step in this investigation was to compare the signicant variables for similarity of content. Eight of the variables were similar enough to be collapsed into two abilities: Managing Groups and Interpersonal Sensitivity. Data from 52 factorial studies on traits of leaders in the military, in industry, and in experimental groups (Bass, 1990) lends support for these two groupings. The Human Frailty item was dropped because it did not have enough elements in common with the other measures and was not easily thought of as an ability that is developed.
Instrument Behavioral event interview Variable Initiative Managing group process Self-condence Leadership Adapting skills Helping and delegating Setting and managing to goals Human frailty Reactive attitude toward life Interpersonal sensitivity Table V. Summary of variables which differentiated Highly Effective (n 19) from Typical (n 16) managers

Executive skills prole

Life story

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Function All variables % Group 1 No. of cases 19 16 100 19 16 68.8 19 16 88.6 19 16 82.9

Predicted group membership 1 2 19 100 0 100 13 68.4 5 31.3 17 89.5 2 12.5 14 73.7 1 6.3 0 0 16 0 6 31.6 11 68.8 2 10.5 14 87.5 5 26.3 15 93.8


Table VI. Classication of Highly Effective (Group 1) and Typical (Group 2) managers by four discriminant functions

2 % Percentage of grouped cases correctly classied: Motive and trait variables 1 % 2 % Percentage of grouped cases correctly classied: Social-role self-image variables 1 % 2 % Percentage of grouped cases correctly classied: Skill variables 1 % 2 % Percentage of grouped cases correctly classied:

Managing Groups was dened as: Stimulates members of a group to work effectively together by doing any or all of the following: explicitly communicates the need for cooperation and teamwork; acts to promote commitment to team or shared goals; creates symbols of group identity, pride, trust or team effort; inspires or motivates others; acts to involve all parties concerned in openly resolving issues. Interpersonal Sensitivity was dened as: Understands and responds to the experiences or needs of others by doing one or all of the following: expresses concern about and is inuenced by the feelings or emotional experiences of others; helps others gain opportunities to develop their abilities; establishes trusting relationships in which honest feedback is given and received. Highly Effective managers scoring at or above the group average on all nine of the variables would clearly be above the norm for management ability and would represent the most highly effective of the group. Three of the nineteen Highly Effective managers met these criteria. To increase the size of the group for the development inquiry the criteria for inclusion was expanded to scoring at or above the median for the entire sample on seven of the nine signicant variables. These criteria dened a natural, discontinuous break in the data at which the rest of the Highly Effective managers scored below the median on more than two of the nine signicant variables. Seven additional managers were identied using the revised criteria. These ten Highly Effective managers were sent two Ability Development Inquiry worksheets, one for Managing Groups and one for Interpersonal Sensitivity. The worksheet asked them to relate when they rst became aware of the ability, when they rst used it, when they rst used it effectively, and when they used it effectively and regularly. For each developmental timeframe, the managers were instructed to provide

a specic event or events, a year, and to identify what or who facilitated or provoked the events or events. In individual interviews the denitions of Managing Groups and Interpersonal Sensitivity were reviewed and managers were asked if they felt that they did demonstrate the ability. All conrmed that they did. Then developmental time lines were reviewed and the managers were asked to talk about the developmental events. Because ability development is thought to be a continuous process, occurring in incremental steps with adaptive time between the steps the managers were also asked to talk about what had transpired between the specied developmental timeframes. Four themes related to ability development were identied in the data collected on the Managing Groups ability: (1) managers were aware of the ability at an early age; (2) the use of the ability was related to actually leading a group; (3) effective use of the ability occurred after the participants started working; and (4) articulation of the concepts underlying Managing Groups was important to effective and regular use of the ability. Awareness of the Managing Groups ability came early. Seventy percent of the managers recalled being aware of Managing Groups before they entered college. Three recalled events related to participating in Boy Scouts at ages 11, 12, and 13. Three cited events involving their family or friends at ages 8 to 10, and one mentioned playing football at age 14. For all of these managers using the Managing Groups ability was related to being in an explicit leadership role within a group in contrast to being a group member. Six were involved in managing activities while in high school or college. Three organized and ran groups in the community, and one manager cited his experience as a new supervisor. In all of these situations the individual took an active role in directing the activities of a group. Effective use of the Managing Groups ability occurred after the managers had completed college and were working, but not always in their work setting. Effective use seemed to be situational. As individual contributors at work, they seemed unable to use Managing Groups until they were in charge of a group. For some, this occurred at work for others it was at church or in the community. Effective and regular use of the ability developed in work situations where getting the job done depended on a group effort. Some of the managers reported that they had to go against prevailing organizational norms in using this ability, but at the time, it seemed to be the only way to get the job done, as shown in the following quotes:
[I] Had to use the team approach to survive. [I] didnt know all the answers. [It was] Not in vogue yet. Was learning and growing as a manager. More narrowly focused on technical areas with small groups. The idea of teamwork was growing at the lab. Managing people with more experience [than I had], some of whom thought they should have had my job. I knew I needed their expertise. The culture at the time was very dictatorial. This was not a popular style even among my supervisors. [I] was caught between the two.

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For all of the manager connecting the concept of Managing Groups to behaviors facilitated the transition from merely using the ability to using it effectively and regularly. For some training courses were important in this process as indicated by these quotes:
ACE [Action for Competence and Excellence training] became the turning point. [I] began to see the relationship between the managers that I thought were effective and the behaviors that were discussed in the class. [I] Had to look around and see what worked and what didnt. LEP [Leadership Education Program] exercises reinforced my positive feelings about group process and consensus. From LEP [I] learned about bringing people into the conversations. [I became] More sensitive to group process. [I] Became competent in use [of Managing Groups] as a result of training in the military. [We] Used material from the University of Alabama studies on group dynamics. [We] were taught negotiating skills, problem solving skills, brainstorming. [I learned] How to characterize a group by pointing out who was dominant.


For other managers activities outside of their work setting helped them to articulate the essence of the Managing Groups ability. The common element seemed to be situations in which the group process overshadowed the content as shown in these quotes:
At church [you] have to be more diplomatic. Listen and let things happen. [I] realized that the activity in volunteer groups is more important than accomplishment. I got into an argument with the minister once about this. Once I realized that, I had an easier time. Church group easily lent itself to people expressing feelings and opinions. I became more comfortable operating in that type of exchange. Earlier I felt that there should be a logical ow. I became more accepting of less structure. [There] Has been a progression in how I acted, particularly as leader. Less concerned with ow and content and more attuned to group process. [In quality circle activities] being able to work with a group and watch the group activity and not worry about the problem to be solved. All I could focus on is the way the group worked. [I] Got very good at group dynamics. [I] Developed skills to where they were almost second nature. See the most important part I bring to a group is getting the group together and getting information out of people.

Three themes related to developing Interpersonal Sensitivity were identied: (1) managers awareness of the ability was elated to recognition of the positive or negative consequences of behavior; (2) intervention by others was important in developing the ability; and (3) both positive and negative situations ere important in developing the ability. Interpersonal Sensitivity was harder for the managers to articulate as an ability, yet all related events and people instrumental in their development. Two of the Highly Effective managers in the development study sub-sample felt Interpersonal Sensitivity was not something that they consciously used but was more a part of their general approach to life. Many others referred to the ability as a gift or personal style that some have and others do not. However, all of the sub-sample managers related that they were able to use the ability more effectively after they were aware of the positive

and negative impact that their behavior had on others. One manager described his experience this way:
I can think of so many examples of being interpersonally insensitive, that it is frightening. I can remember some outstanding counterpoint experiences in my early career. Once I purposely embarrassed a superior in a public meeting over a technical point. I was trying to put myself forward intellectually. Intellectual ability is what I perceived to by a preferred quality. I went through a period when I was very opinionated and probably attempted to force my opinions on those around me. A close friend at work sensitized me to it. I have tried to move away from that [being opinionate], but its not a natural thing for me.

Identifying competencies


All ten of the managers reported that they were aware of the Interpersonal Sensitivity ability by the time they completed college. Interventions by others whether through family relationships, feedback or information in books were important sources of awareness and development. One manager reported an experience in college which provoked his awareness of the ability:
In college [I] had a lecturer who talked about Human Engineering, how people are treated in organizations and human values. That left an impression on me. Making a contrast between engineering things and the world of interacting with people.

For other managers information from books had an impact on them:

In high school I read a book by a physicist, Louis de Broghe, and wrote down a quote that I still carry with me in my wallet. The gist of what inuenced me is that we should not ignore what is noble in acts conscientiously performed by anyone. In 1970, I read Im OK, Youre OK. [I] was frustrated, went to the library and was looking through the psychology books and found it. [I] started looking at transactional analysis. [I] did some introspection and saw that I was not listening, was not empathizing. [I] was doing everything from a personal point of view. [I] started making a conscious effort to listen and empathize. [I] didnt apply it very well until I saw that if worked. I practiced on my wife.

Both positive and negative situations were important in developing Interpersonal Sensitivity. Positive experiences were related to family relationships and values:
During childhood growing up with an older brother and sister, and observing how my father and mother handled conict situations, and tried to treat all three children equally and fairly. [Interpersonal Sensitivity] goes back to very early years. Early development and family situations strongly inuenced overall idea of being sensitive to other peoples feelings in what you said and did. [It] Came out of family relationships and values. [It was a] Protestant upbringing, emphasis on the Golden Rule type thing.

Negative situations were more varied than the positive experiences but equally important for developing Interpersonal Sensitivity. For one manager it was fraternity hazing and college ROTC that provoked his awareness of the ability. Another manager described this poignant experience:
In fth grade my parents moved from the inner city to the suburbs. I was the only Italian kid in the class. I felt a substantial amount of discrimination. [I] went through all the ways of dealing with it, ght/ight, trying to ignore it. Im not sure what it did to me, for me. In some ways it puts a shell around you, and in some ways it make you sensitive to other peoples needs.

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Observing others who were insensitive also lead several of the managers to resolve:
Ill never treat others that way. Theres got to be a better way.


Part of my motivation for using it [Interpersonal Sensitivity] more and making it a routine was watching people who I thought were bad managers not using it. [I] always enjoyed being close to people and sharing emotional experiences. [I] tend to be close with people at work. [I] dont separate that. I consider the typical engineer to be antisocial and distant. The rst fellow I worked for here was quite closed. I always thought that I could make the job so much better if I had his job. I try to stimulate people to come together because I think thats a better way. Working for managers that werent that way has helped me see that. [I] had a lot of negative role models at the lab and in the military. [I] decided that I wouldnt treat people that way.

For all ten managers, effective use and effective and regular use of Interpersonal Sensitivity occurred after they had started work, but not always in work situations. Family situations or community activities were identied by four as provoking or facilitating effective and effective regular use of the ability. The Managing Groups and Interpersonal Sensitivity abilities which differentiated managers as Highly Effective were developed before these managers entered the work setting and long before they became managers. The managers effective use of the abilities was related to practice in his family, in community activities, and in the work setting. Interpersonal Sensitivity was seen by a few managers as a personal characteristic or trait rather than an ability. However, all managers reported conscious development of the ability. Feedback from a signicant other (spouse, close friend), or introspective analysis of their own behavior were cited as important in developing interpersonal sensitivity. Both positive and negative role models were cited as important in becoming aware of and using this ability. Early family experiences and participation in organized activities such as scouting, sports, band, or clubs were important in becoming aware of the Managing Groups ability. Effective use of this ability was related to being in situations which required cooperation and teamwork. In some cases these situations were work related, but for these scientist/engineer managers who all started their careers as individual contributors, community and church activities provided the arena for development. Just being a member of a group was not sufcient. Leading the group was integral to developing the ability. In looking at the relationship between the development of the two competencies for these Highly Effective managers, awareness of Interpersonal Sensitivity (average age 14:2) came before awareness of Managing Groups (average age 18.1). However, their rst use, effective use, and effective and regular use of Managing Groups (averages ages 23:8, 32.8, 41.4) preceded their rst use, effective use, and effective and regular use of Interpersonal Sensitivity (average ages 28:1, 38.4, 45.3). The developmental patterns for the two competencies are shown in Figure 1.

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Figure 1. Mean ages for developing managing groups and interpersonal sensitivity

Implications The conclusions drawn from this study have implications for management selection and development. People skills made a difference. The highly effective managers demonstrated more interpersonal ability than their average peers. They were concerned with developing and maintaining interpersonal relationships and seemed to see that as an important part of their role as a manager. Effective leaders have resonant relationships (Boyatzis and McKee, 2005) based on an openness to and an ability to tune in to others. The highly effective managers related situations in their Life Stories which opened them up to experiencing genuine concern for others which transcended their own personal needs. Technical ability is not enough. The importance of including social and emotional intelligence competencies in management education has been recognized for over two decades (Boyatzis et al., 2002). However, in technical education EI and SI competencies have only recently been a focus of study (Gregory, 2000; Palethorpe, 2006). In R&D and professional jobs where employees are recruited on the basis of their technical talent, equal emphasis should be placed on hiring criteria related to potential for people management skills. Differences in Learning Styles are important in learning interpersonal skills. The predominant Learning Style of the managers studied was abstract/reective. Several of the Highly Effective managers used interpersonal abilities more successfully after they had developed a concept of the ability. This ts with their learning style. An individual who is reective and abstract is not particularly attuned to the world of people and experience and may need coaching in how to be reective on self and others.

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People skills can be developed. Even the managers who reported being interpersonally insensitive early in their careers eventually learned ways to overcome this. While exposure to positive and negative role models, personal experiences and feedback contributed to greater awareness of interpersonal abilities, practice was the most important factor in using the abilities effectively. Brain research suggests that in developing EI/SI competencies in order to reach a point where a new habit replaces an old one individuals must engage in extensive practice (Goleman, 1998; Goleman et al., 2002). This highlights the importance of on the job, experiential learning rather than attending training courses in developing competencies. It also draws attention to the critical challenge of helping managers learn to learn from their on the job experiences. Development is not just training. Managerial skill assessment and planning for the next job should be an important part of the development of individual contributors. Development does not begin when an individual is promoted into a management job. Performance management processes can be designed such that managers and employees agree on expectations for leadership competencies as well objectives. Project assignments, role exchanges, and developmental assignments can be tailored for high potentials so that they are challenged to exhibit leadership in a variety of settings during their individual contributor years. Programs that provide time for reection and self-exploration and stress the importance of learning to learn from these developmental assignments are a necessary part of the grooming for leadership positions. Activities outside of work are important. The managers with the most interpersonal ability had been engaged in leading groups outside of work prior to their promotion into management. Their actual experiences leading groups seemed to be the most signicant factor in effectively using the abilities.
References Bass, B. (1990), Handbook of Leadership, The Free Press, New York, NY. Boyatzis, R.E. (1982), The Competent Manager, John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY. Boyatzis, R.E. (1998), Transforming Qualitative Information: Thematic Analysis and Code Development, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA. Boyatzis, R.E. and Kolb, D.A. (1995), From learning styles to learning skills: the executive skills prole, Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 10 No. 5, pp. 3-17. Boyatzis, R. and McKee, A. (2005), Resonant Leadership, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA. Boyatzis, R.E., Stubbs, E.C. and Taylor, S.N. (2002), Learning cognitive and emotional intelligence competencies through graduate management education, Academy of Management Journal on Learning and Education, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 150-62. Goleman, D. (1998), Working with Emotional Intelligence, Bantam Books, New York, NY. Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R.E. and McKee, A. (2002), Primal Leadership, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA. Gregory, S.T. (2000), Schools are building a new breed of engineer one with management savvy, US News & World Report, Vol. 128 No. 14, pp. 86-8. Kolb, D.A. (1984), Experiential Learning, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ. McAdams, D. (1985), Power, Intimacy and the Life Story, Dorsey, Homewood, IL.

McClelland, D. (1985), Human Motivation, Scott Foresman & Co., Glenview, IL. Myers, L.B. and McCaulley, M.H. (1985), A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Consulting Psychologists Press, Palo Alto, CA. Palethorpe, M. (2006), Are you emotional but intelligent or are you emotionally intelligent?, Engineering Management, Vol. 16 No. 1, pp. 11-13. Smith, C.P., Feld, S.C. and Franz, C.E. (1992), Methodological considerations: steps in research employing content analysis systems, in Smith, C.P., Atkinson, J.W., McClelland, D.C. and Veroff, J. (Eds), Motivation and Personality: Handbook of Thematic Content Analysis, Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, pp. 515-36. Spencer, L.M. and Spencer, S.M. (1993), Competence at Work, John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY. Corresponding author Christine R. Dreyfus can be contacted at: cdreyfus@dreyfusinc.com

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