Well it’s January 2013 and this is the year you've planned to reorganize, revitalize and finally alter your business model to confront our shifting business landscape. You’ve studied and researched your options and opportunities and carefully considered all of the barriers to your success. While your plan must be flexible and adaptable, the time has come to take action. So let’s make sure we’re covering all of the basics. As executives, we are responsible for four crucial areas within our business: we must carefully develop our strategy for success; we must provide the necessary human capital or talent; we must ensure that our team executes properly; and we must provide the financial resources that are essential to a sustainable business.

In particular, human capital is a major concern for many of you. Whether you are in need of more sophisticated sales people, data management experts, creative designers, logistics/fulfillment coordinators, marketing professionals, social networkers or the leaders responsible for pulling it all together, a more vigorous process for identifying, recruiting and hiring talent is a must. In the latest issue of Harvard Business Review (Jan-Feb 2013) Paul J.H. Schoemaker, Steve Krupp, and Samantha Howla shared their research about the six essential traits required of executive leaders in their article – Strategic Leadership: The Essential Skills. The authors carefully point out that a strategic plan must be adaptable and therefore requires leadership that can operate in a changing landscape. The essential leadership traits they identified include:

  • Anticipate – the proactive monitoring and scanning of market shifts enabling them to anticipate changes and opportunities.
  • Challenge – the continuous challenging of assumptions while being open-minded. They are constantly questioning the status quo.
  • Interpret – while eliciting complex and conflicting information they have the capacity to synthesize and interpret all of the information gathered.
  • Decide – the ability to make tough but educated decisions incorporating a disciplined process.
  • Align – finding common ground amongst diverse positions and engaging in a process of consensus building.
  • Learn – promote life-long learning and building a learning organization where success and failure are studied in a constructive way.

So how does you leadership team measure up? Have you found that as you’ve attempted to rebuild your business model one of the human capital obstacles you face is actually your management team? And even more of a challenge is that they don’t see themselves as an inhibiting factor. Logically, awareness of these necessary critical traits should enable us to address this challenge. Well, not exactly.

Too frequently the lack of a standardized process for assessing talent, whether for recruiting, promoting or personalized development limits our ability to build great teams.  And in order to optimize the performance of your management team, you need quality talent on board. Building that team of talented leaders must be a high level strategic initiative and not just an administrative function. If the six traits/skills described in the recent HBR article make sense to you, then how do you determine if your current employees or future candidates possess these competencies (or the customized list that you have developed for you team)? Even if you've worked with them for a while it is not uncommon to lack an awareness of the strengths, weaknesses and challenges; especially when they are being asked to assume different and more complex roles and responsibilities.

As with any strategic initiative you must “Begin with the end in mind.” In other words your first step is to carefully describe and define the appropriate traits you believe are essential and desirable in your managers and leaders. The soft skills as described above are behavioral competencies that we refer to as suitability characteristics. They represent traits that we can observe and experience with those around us; and in many cases we can coach people in these areas. On the other hand, when an individual’s behavioral competences are the antithesis of what is required, we certainly experience their negative behavior caused by aggressive or passive behavioral imbalances. Identifying talent gaps within your business as wells as soft skill gaps within your leadership team is a critical process.

So how can you conduct a talent audit for your leadership team? You certainly should begin by carefully defining the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for each job and based on your company's culture determine the behavioral competencies you are looking for. Your diagnosis should include a thoughtful performance review including all aspects of their job. That includes how their team members perform individually and collectively as well. In addition to assessing each leader’s traits and skills we also have to determine how well they fit within your corporate culture. In today’s business environment collaboration and teamwork has become very important and sometimes even highly skilled employees don’t play well with others.

So how can you accurately assess the behavioral competencies and predict future performance? Well certainly you must consider past performance and your personal observations. But keep in mind that your personal bias (or other managers on the team) can sometimes skew your assessment; while personal experience is important the information tends to be subjective. Gaining a more objective assessment should be a key component of the process.

By utilizing a highly validated objective assessment tool like the Harrison Assessment , based on extensive behavioral research, enables you to identify critical behavioral competencies and the levels of intensity.  Whether you’re focusing on individual development, team development, succession planning or recruitment of new talent, the use of an objective assessment tool enables you to predict leadership competencies including decision making, strategic judgment, effective enforcing, innovation, organizational compatibility leading people, problem solving, learning agility and interpersonal skills. The ability to customize behavioral competency assessments based on your company’s requirements is a valuable capability for building your management team.

If you would like more information about assessing leadership competencies, please contact Jerry Scher at [email protected] or 404-931-9291.

You can also get information about the Harrison Assessment at http://peakfocus.harrisonassessments.com/index.html

Stay tuned to this continual series – as we focus on the Why, What and How to build a team of talented  employees.