Executive Assessment: 7 Tips for a Great Program, Part 1

Al Schnur
by Al Schnur

Al has personally conducted more than 5,000 high-level evaluations during his career, and is particularly proud that more than 250,000 candidates have participated in assessment programs he designed. At present, Al focuses on C-level succession planning and assessment in support of CEOs, Boards and other high-level stakeholders.

Effective succession planning will always mitigate the risk of disruption or major turnover with your organization.

One of the best ways to do that succession planning well? Implementing a robust executive assessment process.

Good executive assessments measure job performance, leadership potential, natural skills and areas of strength and weakness—and they’ll give your organization a clear picture of how each candidate for a leadership position will function in a leadership role.

In this post and the next, we’ll look at 7 tips to help you set up executive assessments for your organization.

Tip #1. Customize the Process for Your Unique Culture

It matters how a potential leader fits into your organization’s culture.

Examining competencies for each individual should be at the heart of your executive assessment. Interview potential leaders to assess for culture fit, and provide immediate targeted feedback on the results.

Those with the potential to be great leaders will always stand out as a strong cultural fit. They understand how to work effectively with the different personalities that make up your organization, and don’t often make themselves a catalyst for negative disruption.

Tip #2. Measure in Several Ways

Your evaluation process should cover all the bases, because you need to be able to project how leaders will function in a wide variety of situations. An effective executive assessment includes multiple elements, and paints a complete picture of what a potential leader will bring to the table if thrust into a particular role.

Your assessment process should look at a candidate’s education and background and other relevant aspects of their personal history. It should also test verbal, numerical and logical reasoning. It needs to probe behaviors and beliefs as well as examining a candidate’s critical thinking skills. And it should evaluate interpersonal communication and work style.
The goal of this in-depth assessment? Draw out personality traits, uncover what drives your potential leaders, and reveal their goals and aspirations.

Tip #3. Draw Inferences Based on Objective Data Points

Assessments should steer away from subjective elements, and implementing a scientific approach will guard against your being swayed by them. Grounding your assessments in data that can be proven will keep you, for example, from falling victim to the “Peter Principle”.

There are simple strategies for drawing out reliable data. Avoid putting too much weight on interpreting simulations where participants can make themselves look better than under normal circumstances. Beware of mistaking maximum performance for typical performance.

And don’t accept search firm assessment models without doing your own. Search firms are paid to place employees, which means they have goals that compete with those of your organization. (You want the best candidate; they’re usually happy placing anyone.)

Executive Assessments: Tips 4 through 7 in the next post

When you hire the best leaders, you’ll be better able to create a seamless transition and ensure productivity and profitability.
In our next post, we’ll examine more tips to help you put a process in place that guarantees good executive assessments.

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