For my entire career, I have been fascinated by the challenge of assessing leaders. Why does a leader succeed in one role, and yet fail to get results in a subsequent one? What behaviors cause some leaders to have a catalytic multiplier impact on those around them? How does the “culture” or operating norms of a company shape performance?
Successful investors tend to also have a sharp eye for talent, but people are complicated and we are all biased on one way or another — so additional insight can make the difference between catching and managing a critical human risk factor, or failure.
What is An Executive Assessment?
Typically I am asked to assess leaders as part of work for investing principals who want an external perspective on an executive’s ability to deliver on a vital business objective, as a complement to their own perspective. There are hundreds of methods for assessing leadership talent; my approach includes a subset of these steps.
I spend 2-3 hours with the leader to understand their career trajectory, key professional choices, results and strategies in each role, and to understand their network and ability to collaborate. I rely primarily on behavioral evidence. Where possible, I partner with a colleague with relevant industry or functional expertise.
I like the Hogan Suite for shedding light on executives’ personality traits, especially in the context of an executive assessment. There are many other good ones in the market and I am happy to work with other executive assessments that are familiar to clients or are in use within the company.
When the project timeline permits it, I conduct up to 12 references with manager, peers, direct reports, and others. I do these by phone, or when necessary, confidential online survey. The references gained from this part of the executive assessment allow me to gain a full understanding of how the leader is perceived by others.
I assemble a report that includes my recommendation with supporting evidence, a narrative capturing the executive’s career and accomplishments, areas of strength, and gaps with respect to the role or business challenge.