Misunderstandings can deepen insight: Why HR needs to delve a bit further (Guest commentary)

For CEOs, people skills detract from getting business results, states one study — but dig a little deeper and you’ll find a very different answer
By Dave Crisp
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 11/30/2009

Imagine reading in a provincial HR association’s magazine details about a research report from the United States that finds people skills actually detract from getting business results. Frustration soars when you find no rebuttal, clarification or detail. The Human Resources Professionals Association could be commended for fearless reporting of bad news in its October/November issue of HR Professional, but it’s a shame to publish reports without analysis simply for the shock value. Can’t we test our research skills and look a bit deeper? Misunderstandings, if resolved, deepen insight. Who better to spearhead the search for truth than HR?

It’s easy to Google the study’s title, Which CEO Characteristics and Abilities Matter, to see most of the coverage on the August 2008 study fails to dig deeper than its surface points. The authors’ scholarly abstract and 54-page paper lead casual readers astray, stating pretty much what has been reported. The authors even go so far as to question Jim Collins’ finding, in his in-depth book Good to Great, that the leaders with the best results are the top team players. That’s a sweeping claim for a small study.

Interestingly, fewer than one-third of readers who sought the report on the Social Science Research Network site bothered to download it and undoubtedly even fewer read it.