Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Ethics of Leadership Assessment

Anyone involved with leadership assessment and development has war stories about ineffective use of leadership assessment tools. Dr. Chris Musselwhite offers a few  guidelines for effective and ethical use of leadership assessments.

- Even a good assessment can be misused. We’ll assume you are using assessments that are valid and reliable. But, even good assessments can be misused. Don’t be guilty of over-simplifying a multi-dimensional person into an over-simplified cookie-cutter prototype of a leader. Assessments are designed to provide insights and glimpses into the behavioral preferences of an individual, not to provide a blueprint.

- Preferences are only preferences. Personality preferences help us to understand our tendencies. Some of our tendencies may be quite pronounced and may color the lenses through which we view our surroundings. My experience is that rather than introduce constraints, understanding this creates options. Better understanding how I interpret and respond to my environment offers me options for growth and development. Understanding how others interpret their environment gives me the opportunity for adaptability and flexibility.

- Preferences do not equal behaviors. Preference is about my most natural inclinations for reacting and responding. It also colors how I interpret the behaviors of others. My behavior is only dictated by my preferences when I am blind to those preferences. Knowledge is power.

- The focus of assessment should be developmental. Leadership assessment should be about improving leadership effectiveness so when assessment is used for hiring or promotion, don’t try dressing it up as leadership assessment. Assessments that are validated for developmental purposes may not be validated for hiring and promoting. In addition to ethical concerns, this can also have serious legal implications.

- Don’t be lazy. People are complex so don’t use personality assessment as a substitute for listening and asking good questions. People are not labels so don’t use them.

- Confidentiality is supreme. Leadership assessment should be confidential. If I choose to share an insight that I have learned about my natural preferences or someone else’s perceptions about my effectiveness then it is my choice.
Contact Discovery Learning, Inc. to learn more about incorporating Leadership Assessment into your Leadership Development Program. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

4 More Ways You Can Improve Your Leadership Development Program

Earlier this year, we suggested five steps to help you assess and improve your leadership development program. You can read the original post here. We’re back with four additional recommendations to implement in the planning stages of your program to improve your organization’s leadership development.

1. Get sponsorship from senior leaders. When it is clear that your leadership development program is important to the organization, participants will be more engaged in learning. During an executive training program at a large Canadian retailer, a very senior executive drove over four hours to kick off the program with a fifteen-minute speech to the participants. The senior executive’s visible sponsorship of the program sent a clear message that the program was important. Gaining tangible buy-in from senior leaders is a crucial way to get participants to invested in their own development from the start.

2. Avoid cramming too much content into one program. Although it is tempting to cover as much ground as possible, it is a mistake to overdo it with content. People need time to reflect, process, and talk about the information you are presenting. Rather than try to do everything in one program, identify the most important learning areas you want to cover and plan enough time for people to develop meaningful takeaways.  Try to focus on one or two behavioral competencies and demonstrate how they may be connected.

3. Frame it in terms of exploring real business issues. Get people to bring real business challenges to the program to engage in problem-solving.  Then give people break-away activities to encourage exploring those specific issues. People want to solve problems. When you incorporate experiential learning into your leadership development program, participant engagement will increase. Coupling experiential learning with exploration and discussion of relevant business challenges helps participants to make deeper connections between their development experience and their behavior patterns at work. By doing so participants will feel like they have some tools to take back with them which greatly helps increase engagement with leadership development beyond the class-room.

4. Keep it safe. When people feel threatened and exposed, their ability to transfer short term to long term memory decreases dramatically. Create a non-judgmental learning environment by avoiding framing development challenges in terms of “right” and “wrong” answers or solutions. Instead shift the focus to understanding different styles of leadership and participants will be more willing to engage. For most leadership traits individuals have preferred style that they defer to.  It is important to help leaders understand what other styles and techniques exist. Then empower those leaders to adapt their go-to style to maximize effect for the situation and target audience.

Discovery Learning, Inc. has been designing custom leadership development programs for global organizations for over 20 years. We are happy to serve as a resource to the leadership and organizational development community. Contact us to set-up a consultation to start maximizing the impact of your leadership development budget.

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