Executive Assessment: 7 Tips for a Great Program, Part 2

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.

In our previous post, we explored executive assessment as a tool for measuring leadership potential, and we looked at how they’re designed to uncover everything about an individual— from job performance to personality—that is relevant to a leadership role.

Here are four more tips you should consider when implementing your executive assessments.

Tip #4. Base Your Conclusions on Accurate Measurements and Professional Data Interpretation.

Executive assessments should use all of the tools in the toolbox, not just the traditional ones everyone rolls out. Relying on a single tool to measure leadership is dangerous because it will yield incomplete and inaccurate results.

Make sure to use an assessment process that measures cognitive ability, personality, leadership and potential management “derailers.”  A good process will include an interview by a psychologist and professional (vs. computerized) integration and interpretation of test data. Using this type of process will offer a much more accurate prediction of leadership potential than simply interviews alone.

And remember, assessments should be science-based and legally defensible. No hint of subjectivity or bias should ever exist in the process.

Tip #5. “Paint a Complete Picture”

One guiding principle with any assessment is that you need to maintain balance.

Not all leaders are created equal. Some will shine in areas where others won’t. It can help if you keep an open mind about what your assessments reveal.

In other words, don’t focus on positive aspects and ignore concerns, or vice versa. Embrace areas of concern, and see them as developmental opportunities for the individual undergoing an assessment. And use a candidate’s strengths as an indication of where they might do well in your organization as well as an indication of their potential for advancement.

Tip #6. Executive Assessments Should be “Easy”

If you’ve ever tried to do your own taxes, you know that reading tax forms feels like trying to decipher a second language.

Executive assessments shouldn’t evoke the same feeling. Your assessments should be cost-effective, administered quickly, and accessible. In other words, they should be easy to use and understand.

Your assessment process should also be scalable, so it works equally well with a small number of candidates or a high volume of potential leaders. The process should follow a simple, easy pattern: identify and communicate, test, interview, provide feedback and schedule follow-up activities.

Tip #7. Use a Process with Documented Empirical Evidence

How accurately do your executive assessments measure the qualities they’re intended to measure?

For an executive assessment to be valid, it must match documented empirical evidence.

Use an assessment process that has demonstrated its validity and predictive accuracy in similar setting and with similar roles. Be very concerned if your assessment provider can’t or won’t provide documentation and validity evidence for their process.

Seeing how an employee functions in real-life situations can give more weight to what an assessment says about how that person will function in a leadership role. If you find your assessment inaccurate in some ways, consider questioning the validity of the whole process—and be concerned for your succession planning efforts.


Executive Assessment: Your Key to Predicting Success

Identifying and training future leadership shouldn’t be left to chance. Organizations with proper foresight invest time, money and resources into their executive assessments.

The smart ones know that assessing their executives really is the best way to position the organization for continued growth and productivity—so they can find the leadership they need, both now and in the future.

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