Embrace Holistic Assessments to Select the Ideal Leaders

A Q&A with Justin Menkes, Ph.D.

Assessing executives is crucial in the hiring process, especially for leadership positions. It provides a structured, unbiased method to evaluate candidates’ skills, personalities, and alignment with a company’s culture and strategy. The consequences of executive hiring are significant. A wrong hire can cause financial setbacks and reduce team morale. On the other hand, the right executive can drive productivity, innovation, and success. Executive assessments are essential to selecting optimal leaders who can achieve an organization’s strategic objectives.

We asked Justin Menkes, Ph.D., Partner, Leadership Consulting, to share how assessments have evolved and what makes them effective.

Meet Justin Menkes, Ph.D.

Industry expert Justin Menkes, Ph.D., has more than 20 years of leadership consulting experience, including deep expertise in assessing senior leaders in service of business performance and value creation for private equity and public company clients. Justin is a thought leader and published author in the assessment and advisory space, with The Wall Street Journal bestseller, “Executive Intelligence.” The book explains the traits of highly successful leaders and how to identify potential standout performers. Drawing on his psychology background and interviews with accomplished CEOs, Justin paints the portrait of the ideal executive.

When it comes to assessing executives, organizations often turn to IQ tests. What should leaders be aware of when utilizing these types of assessments?

Assessments have evolved significantly. The return of the cognitive ability test – the IQ test – has been one of the most profound shifts observed. These tests require individuals to demonstrate their abilities, rather than just discussing them. This is crucial because actions validate claims. Cognitive ability tests showcase problem-solving skills, adding value to the assessment process.

However, the academic skills these tests assess, such as math and vocabulary, are only distantly related to executive activities. These tests are better at predicting school success, which they were originally designed for. But they’re far less effective at identifying the aptitudes that make executives successful. Some tests still use puzzles and shapes to assess executive potential, which is like having a basketball player simply demonstrate jumping ability, rather than having them play an actual basketball game to showcase their skills.

Shifting to tests that assess executive skills, such as identifying assumptions and recognizing unintended consequences in real-life situations, would be more beneficial than focusing on irrelevant “school skills.”

Are there assessments that are better at predicting an executive’s potential?

Organizations have shifted from analyzing past performance to predicting future performance through an integrated view. This is where our new tool, Leader Lens™, plays a crucial role.

Our proprietary, online case study approach delves into the fundamental aptitudes that are required for executive excellence. Using personality tests, behavioral and psychometric assessments, and 360-degree feedback, we gain deep insights into leadership agility. Our assessments are holistic and include evaluations of soft skills; emotional, analytical, and social intelligence; and adaptability.

This comprehensive analysis is a model for identifying and developing leaders who can navigate complex challenges and drive organizational success. Our approach leads to a robust assessment that predicts how a leader will perform in their new role. This type of integrated view is the future of leadership assessment, with a focus on understanding prospective performance.

How do leaders know which type of assessment to use?

Effective executive assessment is complex and requires a nuanced approach. Understanding which type of assessment to use is key to identifying and developing successful executives. A multimethod strategy ensures a comprehensive evaluation, incorporating various aspects of an individual’s capabilities and potential.

When conducting an assessment, it’s important to understand the specific goals, especially if you’re placing someone in an executive position. This requires careful consideration of their demonstrated abilities and potential fit.

For example, personality assessment is a key component, but doesn’t provide the whole picture. Successful executives can have various personality styles. It’s essential to assess personality and other factors such as history, experiences, and demonstrated best practices. To determine a candidate’s conflict resolution skills, ask about a personal experience involving executive conflict and how the individual resolved it. It’s also important to understand the candidate’s personality in conflict situations, such as whether the leader is volatile or aggressive.

Assessment should be a holistic approach and has moved beyond technical skills to consider a broad view of leadership. This includes assessing soft skills, emotional intelligence, analytical intelligence, social intelligence, and adaptability alongside domain expertise.

The field of leadership assessment is ever-evolving and improving, but one thing is clear; a cookie-cutter method isn’t the answer. Multiple perspectives provide a comprehensive view of a leader’s effectiveness and performance potential.

Growing Your Leaders, Teams & Organization

We help organizations drive change through people. We cut through the clutter, helping you develop systems and processes that focus on the most important leadership attributes, skills and behaviors. The result? You’ll be able to achieve your business goals with top-tier talent.

Introducing: Leader Lens

Proven to Predict Performance: Leader Lens directly correlates to executive performance.

Developed with in-depth interviews and performance data that reveal how to best predict whether an individual possesses essential traits that make leaders successful.

The proven case study approach and methodology provide an analysis that is predictive of future executive performance.

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