You Are a Superstar: 90% of Managers Are In the Top 10%


If you are reading this, you are probably one of the top performers in your office. Or at least, you probably think you are. A new study shows that 90% of managers think they are in the top 10% at their workplace.

Believe you're among the top performers in your office? You're not alone.

According to a new survey, an impossible 90 percent of managers think they're among the top 10 percent of performers at their workplace.

The number is highest among executives, 97 percent of whom consider themselves shining stars, according to a recent survey in BusinessWeek magazine.

Now the study wasn't scientific, but I would bet money that a scientific study would show similar results. This highlights one of the major reasons many corporations run lousy operations – they don't face reality. Most everyone thinks they are right. Their management theories are right, their ideas about business are right, their judgement about the market is right… and don't even get me started on religion and politics. Once you believe a fallacy, you interpret new evidence in a way that conforms to your pre-existing belief. If you want to be successful, be on constant guard against the self-serving tricks your mind can play on you.

  • You hit the nail on the head, leaders are often not encouraged to face reality. It’s encouraged to project confidence (even if you are fundamentally insecure). Often those who get promoted are those who overcompensate for their insecurity by “acting” confident, thus playing the role of the leader.

    What so many leaders lack is wisdom, which is generally unsung, and rarely is recognized in corporate cultures that emphasize short-term results (and this is perpetuated further by leaders who are fundamentally insecure and cave in to Wall St.’s fickle demands).

  • pawnking

    Is it at all possible that these managers are, indeed, in the top 10%? That is, they are not being asked if they are in the top 10% of all managers (where by definition they would have to average at 50%), but rather against others in their company.

    If someone has risen to management or executive level, it is likely they have distinguished themselves in some way (or many ways) over their peers. This might give way to their belief that they are, indeed, shining stars in their own companies. Indeed, it would be strange for them to think otherwise.

    And if you follow the theory that those who rise to the top generally do so on their merits, their Boards of Directors probably would agree with them.

  • a

    This is possible as most people have different perspectives/values/priorities on what constitutes “performance”.

  • The sad truth is just how easy it is to get into the top 10% of managers in my experience. By doing some basics around communicating (that’s listening as well as telling), providing feedback, coaching and delegating the vast majority of managers can massively improve their effectiveness and really stand out as high performers. It is not about charisma, vision or flair. It is about consistently doing the basics well.

  • It’s the other 10% that I am interested in. I’ll bet many of these people are the risk takers, the ones that are not puppets to the machine, the ones who push the envelope just a bit too much; the creative and innovative problem solvers. Or what some might label INCORRECTLY – the problem children or “bad boys/girls.”

  • Jane

    Some good questions have been posed about what places someone in the top 10%. What qualifications would be specified for a scientific study?

    A solid number of those interviewed may truly be in the top 10% of performers in their company, but my experience with past managers leads me to believe that a large number have their own view of reality.

  • We see this all the time in our practice… People who think they are better than they really are. How should one overcome this challenge? Incorporate “Survival Is Not Enough” by Seth Godin as a “corporate strategy”. Eat your own “dust”.

    Rock on!
    Chris Young
    Founder, The Rainmaker Group, Inc.

  • Of course we think we are in the top 10%, because no one every clearly and explicitly tells us that we;re not. One of the most difficult yet powerful management development practices is to rank every manager, at least once a year, into a forced decile ranking. Forcing a clear (and hopefully fair) identification of your top 10%, plus each decile below that down to the bottom 10%, is a painful, arduous, frightening process for most executives. But when it is done right, everyone gets a clear picture of where the stand, and everyone has a better shot at improving their ranking the next year.

    Dan Rust
    Frontline Learning LLC