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How do relationships among senior managers affect the entire organization?

When the president and senior executives are not exchanging their opinions, this may potentially lead to lower engagement among members of the organization

What happens to your organization when there is a wall between the president and the senior executives? In our studies, we discovered that when presidents of organizations were less inviting of their senior executives' candid opinions, the engagement levels among the other members of the organization were lower.

In a survey, presidents of organizations rated themselves on their actions and behaviors as leaders. The survey included 40 items focusing on leadership. We listed the highest and lowest 3 items in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: Self-evaluation of presidents of organizations on their actions and behaviors as leaders
Figure 1: Self-evaluation of presidents of organizations on their actions and behaviors as leaders

7-point scale ("1-Strongly disagree" - "7-Strongly agree")
n=35
Coaching Research Institute, 2016

The highest rated items were all important mindsets to have as a leader:
・I act according to the goals and principles of our business.
・I have a strong set of beliefs in my work and I act according to them.
・I think sincerely about my company and our staff.

Now let's take a look at one of the lowest rated items: "I invite the candid opinions of my senior executives". This result suggests that presidents who answered this survey felt they did not provide enough opportunities to his or her senior executives to express their candid opinions.

How do the senior executives feel about this result? In the same survey, the senior executives were asked to rate their own president. For the same item, the average score from the senior executives was 4.8, the fifth lowest among the 40 items. This result showed that senior executives also felt the same way.

This problem not only affected the upper management, but the organization as well. Among 35 companies who have participated in this survey, we divided the companies into two groups:

Group A: Companies in which more than half of the senior executives felt they were able to share candid opinions with the president

Group B: Companies in which less than half of the senior executives felt they were able to share candid opinions with the president

In the same survey, members of the organization were asked to rate themselves regarding their engagement level with the organization. The survey included 32 items focusing on engagement. Figure 2 shows the top three items with the biggest score gap between Groups A and B.

Figure 2: Top 3 items with the biggest score gap in staff member's engagement level
Engagement Level of Staff Members Average Score Gap
[Group A - Group B]
Group A
n=3,857
(24 companies)
Group B
n=908
(11 companies)
I would recommend my acquaintances to work at this company. 4.6 3.7 0.9
I am aware of the company's vision and midterm goals. 5.5 5.0 0.5
I agree with the company's mission statement, corporate philosophy and core values. 5.4 4.9 0.5

n=4,765 (from 35 companies)
7-point scale ( "1-Strongly disagree" - "7-Strongly agree")
Coaching Research Institute, 2016

In the context of this study, companies where senior executives were not able to give their candid opinions to the president resulted in staff members feeling they would not recommend their acquaintances to work at their company. This suggests that the relationship between the president and the senior executives may have an influence on the engagement level of other staff members.

We conclude that when presidents of organizations are less inviting of their senior executives' candid opinions, the engagement level of staff throughout the organization suffers. This is perhaps telling not only about the well-being of the management, but also of the entire organization as well.

Research Overview

No. of samples:President level: 35 , Senior Executive level: 32, Staff Member level: 4,765(Total of 5,121 survey participants from 35 companies)

Period : September 2011 ~February 2015

Survey method : Online survey

Survey tool : Executive Mindset Inventory

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