Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Are leaders "born" or "developed"?

This question was asked on a LinkedIn post on ASTD. Here's my response:

You can’t teach fish to fly. Once a person is a working adult, their hard wiring is set. Unfortunately, too many organizations try to “train” people to lead. Even those with an MBA from the finest schools may or may not possess leadership traits.

In our assessments, one of the base line scales we measure is “Leadership Energy.” This is the first hurdle in identifying leadership capability. In order to have a pulse in leadership, one needs to score from the mid-range to a high score.

Jared Sandberg, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, took our assessments and had a coaching feedback session. For his article research, he took two other companies assessments and had feedback. Both of the other companies told him he had leadership potential or capability – it just needed to be developed. Mr. Sandberg reported in the article, I put it to him gently – telling him that he had none. He then self reported scoring only 6% (out of 100%) on Leadership Energy. He commented that he thought I was right because his dog wouldn’t even listen to him. Mr. Sandberg is a highly accomplished investigative journalist – and that is his best-fit calling. (Article: “How I Survived the Tests That Introduced Me to My Inner Executive,” WSJ, March 10, 2004)

So, while individuals have certain predispositions and temperaments at birth, their personalities evolve from infancy through early adulthood. The key for training professionals is to measure or identify the individual capability, strengths, risks and motivation and then develop accordingly. Too many organizations never accurately measure ones' personality traits and waste millions of dollars annually trying to develop the wrong things or by just throwing generic training out there – hoping something will stick. Again, you can’t teach fish to fly but you can help people to soar when you honor and help them develop according to their inherent strengths and gifts.


(copies of the WSJ article are available on request.)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Choosing Assessment Tools Wisely

Personality assessment is useful for describing an individual on characteristics which can not be directly observed. Behaviors are visible to people, but the reasons behind them and the motivations for them are not observable. Psychological assessment results provide a vocabulary for describing propensities and a view of the “whys” behind the behaviors. This information sets the stage for more effective employee and manager selection, succession planning, team building, and professional development.

So how does one determine the validity of a personality measure?

First, there is what’s known as the test-test validation process which correlates scores on an instrument with other instruments. These test-to-test correlations are conducted with instruments that are hypothesized to have similar or related constructs and with instruments that are hypothesized to be unrelated. For example, the process of validating the Character Assessment included having subjects take the Character along with the ASVAB, PSI Basic Skills Test (both should be unrelated), Myers-Briggs, SDS, Interpersonal Adjective Scales, Big Five Factor Markers, and the MMPI-2 (all of which should have some relationship to the measures). These analyses resulted in correlations that confirmed hypothesized relationships.

The next level of validation should include correlations between test scores and relevant non-test indicators—such as actual performance ratings. This step is taken to validate (confirm or not) whether the instrument accurately measures the predicted behavior and the impact on performance. Using our assessment, those who have high scores on the CDR Character Assessment “Adjustment” scale and a high CDR Risk Assessment “Egotist” scale will generally have higher self-ratings on 360 performance reviews. This translates to people who have higher opinions about their own performance in comparison with the perceptions of others. Thus, the correlations will be higher between these scale scores and the resulting behavior ratings.

The validation process should include statistical analyses using a variety of non-test indicators and performance results. In addition to performance reviews, other examples of non-test indicators may include: sales results, customer retention, customer complaints, accidents, turnover, errors, etc. We can provide summaries of this analysis or actual sample validation studies conducted for clients.

When evaluating personality assessment measures or styles inventories, it is important to determine whether the assessment authors performed only the first level of validity analysis, i.e. test to test, or, also validated the assessment results through correlations with actual performance behaviors. The test development process determines the applicability of the assessment results to workplace decisions. Only valid and reliable tools, as determined through the test development process, are valid for selection decisions. In other words, valid measures correlate to actual results.