Executive Survey Highlights Gaps in Understanding of Drivers of Company Performance

June 3, 2019

Latest Leadership PulseShows Misalignment between Top Executives and Direct Reports

LOS ANGELES – June 3, 2019 – The latest edition of the Leadership Pulse survey of 200 leaders from firms around the world suggests widespread misalignment between how the top executives view the drivers of their companies performance and what their direct reports are seeing.

Key Leadership Pulse Findings:

  • C-suite respondents rate key drivers of performance higher than do those who report to the c-suite across all but one of the categories;
  • Financially high-performing firms have higher scores for all business drivers, with the highest gap between these top performing and lower performing firms being ratings of the importance of company culture in driving firm performance;
  • Employees who think their strategic planning process is working have better personal energy at work.

Twenty-five percent of the sample were c-level executives, while another 25 percent represent executive levels that report to the c-suite, with senior managers, managers, business educators, and consultants the remaining participants. In this study of what drives business, the identified business drivers cover a range of organization assets or areas of strength, from ability to manage profits and cash flow, to brand and pricing strategy; from strategic planning process, to employees, culture, and leadership. Unique to this survey is the response mechanism, with each item scored on a -5 to +5 scale of “extremely negative” to “extremely positive.”

“Perceptions of corporate culture initiatives are among the most interesting findings in this survey,” said Dr. Theresa M. Welbourne, Affiliated Senior Research Scientist with the Center for Effective Organizations at the USC Marshall School of Business, Executive Director of the Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute at The University of Alabama, and CEO of eePulse, Inc.

“The perception gap between c-suite leaders and those who report to them is largest on programs a lot of c-level executives have been paying for and bringing into their companies,” Welbourne said. “The question one must ask is: If these programs are indeed working, then why are the people in the group most likely in charge of implementing them – SVPs and Directors – scoring them so much lower?”

Table 1: Average scores per question for items that are statistically significant (per group) and the Gap score (C-level minus Senior VP) Sorted high-low by gap.

Question C-Level Sen. VP to Director Gap
Ability to be agile and change quickly 1.86 -0.10 1.96
Our organization’s ability to innovate 2.23 0.46 1.77
Leadership team 2.25 0.65 1.60
Level of employee engagement 1.95 0.44 1.51
Our organization’s approach to employees 2.18 0.77 1.41
Culture of our company 2.58 1.39 1.19
Unique product characteristics 2.25 1.19 1.06
Skills and knowledge of our employees 2.38 1.37 1.01
Internal technology solutions 0.84 -0.08 0.92
The strategic planning process 0.51 0.67 -0.16

The only gap that is in a different direction (where Senior VPs and Directors have higher score than do the C-suite executives) is on strategic planning; it is interesting to note that this factor also is significant in predicting employee energy.

Dr. Welbourne notes that “in multiple case studies within organizations we are finding that leaders are working at levels of energy below where they are at their best or most productive; they cite a key reason as the inability to focus on the key activities driving the business. Perhaps it’s time to start paying more attention to strategy.”

Additional information on these findings and other editions of Leadership Pulse are available at www.leadershippulse.com.

About the USC Marshall Center for Effective Organizations

Since its founding in 1979, the Center for Effective Organizations (CEO), at USC’s Marshall School of Business, has been at the forefront of research on a broad range of organizational effectiveness issues. CEO’s mission is to improve how effectively organizations are managed. It brings together researchers and executives to jointly explore critical organizational issues that involve the design and management of complex organizations. Its leading-edge research in the areas of organizational effectiveness and design has earned it an international reputation for research that influences management practice and makes important contributions to academic research and theory.

By actively involving companies as research partners, CEO’s research yields practical, data-based knowledge that enables companies to design and implement changes that improve their effectiveness and competitiveness. CEO’s research is the foundation for its educational and certificate programs.

About eePulse, Inc.

Since 2003, eePulse has been using our energy pulse technology to survey global business leaders on topics such as: Leadership energy, business confidence, employee engagement, change management, business drivers, and innovation.

Participants in the leadership pulse program receive a customized report that offers industry benchmarking and information on leadership trends. This information can be used to improve business practices and business performance on a global scale.


Download this as a PDF here.