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Right AND Ready for the Job: Assessing for Levels of Leadership

September 11, 2019
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Developing a leadership pipeline is an acknowledgement that many people begin the move upward by accepting an entry level position. From that position, leadership development opportunities, coupled with experience, qualify them for higher level managerial positions. Often, internal people are promoted and external people are hired into frontline jobs, based mostly on past job performance in non-leadership positions previously held. People are also often promoted into the next-level manager position with a knowledge and experience gap when comparing requirements of the past position to the new position.

Employees are expected to step into a job that requires leadership skills, even though they may have never supervised people or prepared to assume higher level management responsibilities. All leaders drive organizational progress – from frontline supervisors to CEOs – but they do so using skills and capabilities required in their specific positions. If under-developed, neither the person nor the organization wins.

A Leader by Any Other Name

Calling someone a leader, supervisor, manager or executive does not mean they are ready to lead. The most effective leaders have common capabilities, including the ability to engage and motivate employees, a deep understanding of the organization’s mission, an ability to manage change and good communication skills. However, each of these skills take on new meaning in a new context at each level of leadership. For example, a department manager should have strong delegation and team building skills, but a division executive must be a strategic planner and collaborator who is able to inspire a large group of diverse people to embrace the organization’s values and mission.

Leaders begin somewhere. They don’t suddenly appear with fully developed skills. The old saying "leaders are born" is not true. Each level of leadership requires new skills that build on the ones already developed and the assumption of new and increasing responsibilities. How does an employer know when someone is ready to become a supervisor or be placed at the next leadership level? One element answer is doing leadership assessments that focus on the qualities and skills needed for the specific level.

Organizations spend $366 billion globally on leadership training, yet most of these efforts fail. Why? McKinsey’s study found that most training programs are a one-size-fits-all, fail to offer enough skills application opportunities, do not help people understand their role within the organization’s culture so they have the wrong mindset and fail to measure. Employee assessments and simulations can help any organization overcome these issues.

"Am I still competent…?"

Identifying leadership potential is crucial for every level of leadership. Remember the "Peter Principle"? People rise to their level of incompetence, meaning people keep moving up the leadership ladder until they assume responsibilities they have difficulty managing. When this happens, the previously successful manager flounders, harming his or her reputation and causing employees and the organization problems. It can happen at every level too – from supervisor to CEO.

Identifying employees who are most likely to succeed in leadership positions begins with a variety of assessments. Often, managers decide a person is ready for a promotion based on personal observation, job performance, and nebulous factors like popularity among co-workers and likeability. Of more importance are factors like problem-solving abilities, ability to operate in a fast-paced environment and ability to engage and motivate employees to achieve desired outcomes.

Job simulation assessments are critical to identification because they give the employer opportunities to present real-world scenarios reflecting the new job responsibilities. Personality assessments, cognitive assessments, motivation assessments, and of course, skills and capabilities assessments give a holistic picture of the employee, making it easy to identify the people ready to begin transitioning into management.

The Right Person for the Right Job

The targeted assessment results also add clarity of expectations for both the employee and the employer. Expectations cover much more than specific job duties. Baylor University recently conducted a study on what is called "bottom-line mentality" (BLM).

The study found that supervisors who focus only on profits are more likely to alienate, rather than engage, employees. The supervisor focuses on profits; employees perceive a low-quality employee-employer relationship; and employees begin to withhold job performance. Job simulations can help you discern the employees who understand the importance of keeping employees engaged while meeting manager goals. Do you know the emotional intelligence level of the people you think would make a good supervisor? Do you know the mindset they will carry into their leadership role?

As people move up the managerial ladder, evidence-based targeted leadership assessments can help you construct appropriate development opportunities for each level. In fact, you can use customized assessments to identify the development needs of people who are the most promising as future higher-level managers (high potentials), even when positions are not yet available. Succession planning is a key talent strategy for keeping critical positions filled. It puts the right people in the right positions at the right time who are capable of performing in the right way.

Assessments can identify the people who are ready now for promotion, ready after development, and just as importantly, not ready.

Giving someone the title of "supervisor" or "manager" does not mean the person is a "leader" which is why so many first-time supervisors fail within the first 18-24 months. Assessments are not one-time either. You recruited and hired someone based on tools like structured interviews, but people who make good leaders are always striving to improve and grow their capabilities. Regular assessments help you identify who to coach, who to give stretch assignments to, and who to develop and cultivate as a leader at the appropriate level.

Promoting People Only When Ready

Not everyone can become a supervisor. Not everyone is capable of moving into higher level managerial positions. Many people are already at the right level and should not be promoted to their "level of incompetence." It sounds harsh, but people who end up in leadership positions that are beyond their capabilities will have a disengaged staff, low productivity, and a high level of stress. Odds are they will struggle until removed from the job or find employment elsewhere.

Leadership assessments are important for selection and promotion decisions, employee development and succession planning. Equally important is the fact assessments provide objective information about the capabilities needed for the organization’s competitive success.

Right AND Ready for the Job: Assessing for Levels of Leadership
Source: HR.com Articles

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