FOCUS • 4. November 2022

Test feedback to the manager: what are the risks if your favorite focus is working with people?

Can there be any hidden risks in a situation where a manager has an innately high level of empathy and his or her main focus is on the employee, good relations in the team and a good work atmosphere?

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Adera Executive Search Blog 10

Leaders generally have a big impact on the results of both the employee and the teams. Their leadership style and the decisions they make affect the productivity, well-being, and morale of teams. Leaders need to inspire people to achieve goals and highlight their best qualities in them. Leaders are also human beings, and they, too, have their own unique set of characteristics and traits that determine how they relate to others, process information, perform work tasks, prioritize, and lead teams. These unique abilities strongly influence the ability to lead oneself and others.

Leadership can in some sense be taken as a decathlon. While all areas are important for the final score, the contestant always has certain areas that fall out better and become his or her so-called bread numbers. Do you still remember the legendary Erki Nool? Erki’s trump cards were always pole vault, long jump, and 100m and 400m runs. How much effort he always put into discus throw and 110m hurdles.

Managers, too, often have areas of interest in their work. For some managers, there is a feeling that they have inherent prerequisites for performing certain tasks. Some are known as very strong networkers in the business world and among policymakers, while others are known as strong visionaries, generators of ideas and finders of new solutions. The third, again, stands out as a good team leader and creator of a working atmosphere. This does not necessarily mean that if one topic is outstandingly strong, other areas are limping. Rather, I mean these are the areas where the leader feels most comfortable. Often they are also the strengths on which he relies in his work and the prism through which he defines his own success as a leader. Such individual differences come primarily from two places: personality traits and value profile. In modern psychology, in the case of adults, they are considered to be quite constant in time, which does not mean that significant life events, the need and desire for development do not provoke changes in the main colors of the character. Dealing with favourite topics will eventually shape the manager’s personal brand, and through them their own tasks will also be prioritised.

Often, in a feedback session on personality tests, managers ask me if my scores are “good” or “bad.” Here you cannot give very quick and easy answers. I also find the titles inappropriate – I’d rather talk about “suitability”. Above all, we need to look at the environment and the role in which the manager works and what is expected of him. Some characteristics can be a strength in one environment, and a risk in another. High levels of paranoia and constant suspicion of everyone are not helpful in a situation where it is necessary to build relationships based on trust in the team, but it may have been a very productive feature of the Stalin-era NKVD. The more extreme the scores (high vs. low), the more important it is to be aware of the risks involved. For example, if high ambition generally means initiative, ambition and a desire to take on a leadership role, then it may also be accompanied by excessive competition (instead of cooperation), over-demandingness and constant dissatisfaction with the less capable. As is customary in the social sciences, profile descriptions should be viewed as tendencies and inclinations.

Over the past 7-8 years, I have increasingly heard clients in profiling meetings for leadership candidates emphasizing that they want to see a people-oriented approach, the ability to create a very good work atmosphere, and supportive relationships within the team in the leader they are looking for. Understandably, in the face of a shortage of skilled labour, the ability to keep one’s own people is critical.  However, in a situation where the manager has an inherently high level of empathy and his or her main focus is on the employee, good relations in the team and a good work atmosphere, can there be any hidden risks?

Leaders with a strong people focus have a number of inherent strengths, but they should also monitor potential risks in their case. Robert Hogan, a grand old man of occupational personality psychology, has highlighted here some of the typical ones that I’ve also confirmed in several leadership interviews.

  • You have a willingness to ask team members for their opinions and thoughts before making important decisions. Remember that not all decisions can you expect to reach a solution that all your subordinates would applaud on. Learn to distinguish between situations where consensus-building is important and where you need to be an independent decision maker and deal with unpopular topics
  • You may find it difficult to give negative feedback to employees. If not to stretch with it, then it will improve performance and support the desired behavior. Delaying feedback to an employee can make others feel like they have a special status in your eyes
  • While conflicts are unpleasant, avoiding confrontations at all costs can reduce your effectiveness as a leader. It is necessary to maintain positive relations with subordinates, but you also need to be ready to deal with very difficult topics in the team
  • The well-being of your team members and their development are important to you. Remember that at the same time, you must not turn a blind eye to employees who are not interested in feedback and their own development
  • Don’t ignore the weak performance of some of your employees and how to deal with its causes
  • There may be those who are trying to take advantage of your benevolent and employee-oriented management style, set limits for yourself where giving new opportunities no longer makes sense
  • While you have a strong interest in supporting and helping your team, it can lead to you being willing to ignore the weak individual contribution of a team member and/or delay giving them feedback in order to maintain teamwork harmony and relationships.


Since 2010, Adera Executive Search has been using Hogan’s tests in leadership assessment and development. To date, about 10 million working adults worldwide have taken Hogan tests. How many exciting (and also surprising) discoveries such a global dataset has offered!

FOCUS is the name under which we gathered the services, tools, as well as news, findings and discoveries related to the topic of assessment & development of managers and professionals. We believe that comparable, objective and relevant information about candidates is needed to make successful selection decisions. The right person for the right position! We can help if you need help evaluating candidates, mapping their potential or leadership skills. Whether it’s making managerial choices, promotion decisions, or key employee development programs. With FOCUS, everything important is in focus!

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