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Developing Leaders: Selecting The Right Assessment

Who Uses Assessments

Leadership development consultants and behavioral leadership coaches use assessments to provide insight into an individual’s personality and/or behaviors. When it comes to selecting the “right” assessment, there are numerous choices, so it is wise to keep in mind what the assessment actually measures and what information you are seeking. A couple of fundamentals to keep in mind:

Considerations When Choosing Assessments

Define the need for an assessment(s) - Assessments are often used as part of a gap analysis, to pinpoint the candidate’s specific strengths and opportunities for growth or change. However, they aren’t the only tool available and should always be considered in light of other choices. Interviews, observation, focus groups, and 360s are just some of the other tools that inform a client profile and may actually be less expensive and more informative in the long run.

Select a complementary suite of assessments - Another concern is that single assessments are one-dimensional. Triangulating your data collection by using complementary methods will provide a more comprehensive “snapshot” of the candidate.

Assessments differ in what they attempt to measure and how successfully they do it, so know the strengths and limitations of the instrument(s).

Descriptive Assessments measure the connection between discrete personality traits, personal styles, and behavioral inclinations. They can reveal what “drives” behavior or job performance through one or more psychological measures. These include instinctive/inherent traits (e.g., resilience, flexibility, etc.), rational traits (e.g. problem-solving, abstract reasoning, etc.), and social traits (e.g., empathy, assertiveness, etc.).

Instruments like these are designed to measure specific characteristics or constructs that extrapolate to an individual’s overall style. What descriptive assessments do well is present a generalized personality profile based on a set of select characteristics/traits. What they don’t do well is predict how personality characteristics translate into specific, consistent behaviors.

Predictive Assessments are different in that they are designed to measure capacity rather than capability. More specifically, they utilize a job “profile,” based on specific validated skills/competencies, to measure an individual’s potential level of performance in a role. They may also contain a limited descriptive component. For example, it is good to know that a sales candidate is assertive (descriptive), but it is critical to know how they prospect for clients, handle conflict, and close a deal (predictive).

Predictive assessments are most useful in succession planning and leader development programs, where the goal is to build competencies or skill sets. On the downside, while a number of instruments claim to be predictive, there are very few that actually have the research to back the claim. Those that do can be expensive to administer and interpret.

Is One Type of Assessment Better Than Another

One type of assessment is not “better” than another, however, one may be better suited to a particular situation. A combination of both predictive and descriptive measures would seem ideal, but it can be cost prohibitive and overkill in some situations.

Ultimately, choice of assessments is based on personal preference, which may be driven by things like, familiarity, cost, certification requirements, validity and reliability, complexity interpreting results, etc. However, in all cases choice should also be a function of the desired outcome and type of instrument that provides the richest data.

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