What’s the best approach? Do you hire the really nice gal whom everyone gets along with, but will need lots of training on the day-to-day work? Or, do you hire the guy that can do the work blindfolded and faster and better than everyone else, but has horrible relational skills? Of course the choices are never that stark, but it is nevertheless an interesting question. A more common issue is that many people are hired on the belief that they fit in and can do the job, but over time you discover a hidden problem that sacrifices job performance and team morale. How do you prevent this?
Revisiting Parts I and II
Recently a client asked me, “What are the key things I should know about people before they start working for me?” In Part I of this 4-part series I unpacked that question and explained how this is a critical issue for developing highly successful and effective teams of leaders in your organization. You want the best people working with more of the best people! The problem my client was pointing out, though, is how do you assess leader candidates to see whether they are the best fit for your organization.
My belief is that it is better to train and develop leaders who are already an 80% match to your needs and your organization than someone who is only a 20% match. The 80%-ers are already top leaders. So the question is, how do you find the 80%-ers?
That’s the question I began to address in Part II of this series. Part II focused on what are somewhat elusive dimensions of assessing leadership candidates: personal values, character, chemistry, and wisdom. In contrast, this article, Part III, focuses on more quantifiable and traditional dimensions of assessing leadership candidates. Together, Parts II and III cover a wide array of assessment dimensions—too many to utilize all of them with any given candidate. In Part IV, I will make an argument for what I believe are the highest priority assessments.
Strengths & Talents
Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton popularized the idea of identifying an individual’s strengths and focusing on building and leveraging them. In an assessment situation, knowledge of a candidate’s top strengths will help you understand what motivates this person and how they will fit in with the rest of the team (assuming you know their strengths, too). There is ample evidence to support the validity and efficacy of the strengths-based approach. My preferred book on this topic is Now, Discover Your Strengths (Buckingham & Clifton, Free Press, 2001). The Gallup organization has a more recent book called StrengthsFinder 2.0 but it is not as thorough in its approach to explaining strengths-based leadership. I almost always use the Buckingham and Clifton book in my consulting work.
Perhaps the most popular workplace assessment tool is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or the “MBTI.” It is also the most copied, most misunderstood, and most mis-applied assessment tool in history. As a result, it is very important to get professional help in using this tool (or any other tool I discuss here). The many copies and incorrect “street wisdom” about the MBTI devalue the true potential of this resource.
The Web page for the The Myers-Briggs Foundation says, “The essence of the theory [behind the MBTI] is that much seemingly random variation in the behavior is actually quite orderly and consistent, being due to basic differences in the ways individuals prefer to use their perception and judgment.” The MBTI helps us understand how we prefer to perceive and judge the stimuli and experiences of our day. This knowledge can be very helpful in anticipating how people will work together and in helping them improve their self-awareness.
Preferred Relational Style
I believe the most under-discussed dimension of people working together is our individual preferences for relating to one another. This is ironic: we all have very strong habits and preferences for managing our relationships, yet we rarely talk about or consider this in the work setting. The only tool I am aware of to assess relational preferences is the FIRO-B Element B. FIRO is an acronym for “Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation.” (I won’t take time to explain the “-B Element B” part now.) The most simple explanation of the tool is that it measures three dimensions of relating to others:
- Inclusion—How much you want to include others and how much you want others to include you.
- Control—How much you want to control others and how much you want others to control you.
- Openness—How much you want to be open with others and how much you want others to be open with you.
There is a long and controversial history behind the concept of emotional intelligence. For several years there were debates about whether it was a valid concept, what it meant, whether emotional intelligence can be developed (i.e. increased), and other issues. Hardcore researchers still debate these topics, but for practical purposes the argument is settled: Emotional intelligence is a valid concept and it is a very important dimension of every aspect of people’s lives. High emotional intelligence among leaders is an absolute must. (I am giving you a preview into one aspect of my Part IV argument for what is important.) The most popular tools for measuring emotional intelligence are the EQ-i, EQi-360, and MSCEIT, but there are a handful of others, too. A good consultant can help you match your needs to the right assessment (as with any of these tools).
When I was first introduced to the concept of “motivated role” several years ago, a very bright light bulb came on in my head. I immediately understood some things about myself and why I hated doing some things and why others were just plain fun for me. Not surprisingly, the things I hated I wasn’t very good at, while the things that were fun I was great at. The five motivated roles are creator/innovator, prototyper, implementer, refiner, or maintainer. If you look carefully, you’ll see that these five roles are a natural life cycle of any project. It is critical that you get the right people into the right roles in your organization. Unfortunately, the motivated role assessment is one element of a larger assessment tool designed for ministry leaders and it is not easy to access. However, the concept is quite intuitive and some good conversation about your needs and your candidates preferences can quickly reveal alignment or lack thereof.
Leadership Practices and Behaviors
Over the past several decades a considerable amount of research has gone into the practices and behaviors of effective leaders. This is another hotly debated area. Again, I’ll leave most of the debate to the hardcore scholars. For practical purposes there are several very good tools that help identify the styles, strengths, and weaknesses of leaders. Some of the most widely used tools are the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI and LPI-360), the Global Executive Leadership Inventory (GELI), and the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ). Your consultant can help you align your needs with the right assessment approach.
Moving away from the psycho-social dimensions of measurement, we also need to pay attention to some practical matters. Under the umbrella of “certifications” there are many items to consider: education (terminal degrees are usually needed for teaching positions), regulatory certification (e.g. possession of a securities license), industry certification (e.g. CCDP, CISSP, and others), and more. These are very practical matters and many situation require candidates to possess certain certifications. Not possessing the certification is often a “deal stopper,” but carefully consider your needs.
Another very practical issue, along with certifications, is plain old competencies. At some level, you need to determine if an individual can do the basics of the job. Does the person have the skill set needed to function on a day-to-day basis? Depending on the situation, this probably isn’t more important than some of the other topics above, but it has to be assessed at some point. For a good exploration of the interplay of competency and a very different dynamic, wisdom, see the article “Knowledge and Wisdom: Completing the Competence Assessment Matrix” by my fellow blog author, Greg Waddell.
Emerging Assessment Practices
I’m going to close this list with recognition that there are some very interesting emerging practices in assessing a candidate’s fit in organizations. A popular trend is to comb the Internet to examine an individual’s presence and presentation in Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and others. Read any business publication and you’ll see stories about hiring managers discovering very valuable information about people the are considering for key positions. Sometimes this information is very positive, other times very negative.
I confess this article is already too long. Yet, there are many more assessment tools we could have explored: Leatherman Leadership Questionnaire, Enneagram, Leadership Virtues Questionnaire, DiSC, Authentic Leadership Scale, the Five Factor Model, and many, many more. The focus here is not on assessments, though. The focus is on what to assess. There will always be options for how to assess something. Your challenge is not to determine how to assess, but what to assess.
Please keep your comments and emails coming with questions and ideas on this topic. You have already contributed significantly to this discussion and I look forward to one more installment in this series!