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Executive Assessment

At SBLC, our clients work with highly experienced and fully trained assessors, only, who are certified in multiple assessment tools, instruments, and methodologies. First, critical to the success of these assessments are the key benefits to the organization (sponsor) which have proudly and smartly chosen to invest in its most valuable asset – its people! Second, key clients of SBLC include consulting firms who request help to either work with their own clients in the area of assessment/succession/coaching or to mentor/train the firm’s own early- to mid-career assessors. As for the individual client/participant, the assessments are “high touch” in nature such that we believe at SBLC that the “candidate/participant experience” should not only be insightful, but also a pleasant, valuable and efficient one.

One key differentiator with our approach is that we will customize or tailor an assessment process which takes into account our client’s unique needs. As an example, we are not wedded to any particular survey or psychometric, but rather we strive to understand our client’s broader strategic context and only then identify the most appropriate assessment methodology and process. 


Executive assessments may be conducted on a “stand-alone” basis such as the case in a Finalist Assessment/Selection situation. However, oftentimes assessments are integrated within a structured succession process, larger coaching engagement, or multi-stream consulting project.

Business Case for Assessment

Many years ago, the early pioneers in this field had the daunting task of explaining the rationale or business case for executive assessment. Nowadays, however, the case is made much easier, and it has garnered a great deal of support from organizations, both large and small, across the globe. The “why” behind executive assessment is highlighted in the graphic below...

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Types of Executive Assessment

To be sure, there are many types of executive assessment, each focused upon a specific goal or objective. Some of the most popular or common types are Developmental, Finalist, and High-Potential Identification described here… 
 

1) Developmental

 

Quite simply, this is a purely non-evaluative and confidential assessment which is centered upon the development of the leader. In the experience of SBLC, this will generally benefit executives, and the organizations to which they belong, more than other types of assessment. It is not tied to any particular promotion, selection decision, or performance evaluation. As a consequence, the participant is more apt to truly be themselves and more forthright as to their own ambitions, aspirations, and potential areas of improvement. 

The assessment results and recommendations are provided solely to the executive, barring a special arrangement with the organizational sponsor. In those special cases, it is clearly defined as to which information will be provided to the assessment participant and what data will be made available to the organization sponsor (and which executives within the organization will be privy to the data).

 

Developmental Assessments are oftentimes spurred on by some kind of career transition, whether it be “sudden” in nature or perhaps related to the anticipation of a directional change in one’s career. In such cases, as a first step, executives are well-advised to “take stock” of their own strengths, values, motives, areas of opportunity, and both personal as well as professional aspirations. Without question, working with an assessor, or an executive coach with a deep assessment background, can most certainly accelerate the process associated with either 1) charting out one’s next chapter or 2) better navigating their way through their current situation (particularly in dealing with events such as workforce reduction, mergers, change in leadership, or taking on new role responsibilities).

 

An example of a typical developmental assessment process is shown in the visual below…

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2) Finalist Selection & Promotion/Readiness

 

In stark contrast to the Developmental assessment, the process in all of these areas are indeed evaluative and the findings are not confidential. Rather, the data is used to assist Boards, Senior Leadership Teams, and Hiring Managers to make well-informed personnel decisions related to selection, promotion, and succession. In the past 15 years, many organizations have adopted the assessment phase as an integral process within selection and succession processes. In addition, management has increasingly contracted external assessors insofar as determining the readiness of a leader to move to another position in the near-term or ascend to the C-Suite in the longer-term. 

Importantly, highly experienced assessors, like those at SBLC, are able to ensure that the assessment participant or “candidate” in these situations also receives feedback which is developmental in nature. In other words, the candidates, regardless as to whether or not they are selected for a role, will derive benefits from the assessment as well. Benefits may be in the form of long-term development advice and/or near-term suggestions related to effective onboarding into their new roles. Below, a typical finalist process is depicted…

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3) High Potential Identification

 

Without question, this type of assessment has been around for many years and organizations have realized dividends from it. Of course, the goal is to identify which early- to mid-career professionals might have the highest probability of succeeding WITHIN THEIR CURRENT ORGANIZATION. This is critical to point out such that we all know that a professional can struggle in one type of organizational culture, but thrive as a “superstar”, in another. In any case, the process itself looks very much like that of a Developmental Assessment process, but it is indeed evaluative and confidentiality is not guaranteed. These assessments, to truly be credible and effective, must move into the Development Planning phase following the administration and discussion of the feedback with the participant.

Typical Assessment Methods

While the types of assessment methodologies are numerous, we posit that “gold standard” assessments typically include the following…

 

  1. Archival data: So, what the heck is “archival data”, you might ask? No worries if you don’t know – even some of the most accomplished assessment experts do not proactively collect these data which is very surprising to us at SBLC. To be sure, this data collection method is oftentimes overlooked by even the most experienced assessors and yet it can be amongst the most illuminating data that is, by a long shot, and the easiest to obtain. Simply stated, archival data is any written documentation that might feature or showcase the talents of an individual or professional. This may include past presentations decks, performance reviews, assessment results, etc. We, at SBLC, have found that executives, once asked, are oftentimes agreeable to scan their hard drives and old-fashioned paper files to assist our assessors in expanding the views of themselves.
     

  2. Career/Biographical interview: Undoubtedly, this is THE most popular assessment method – and yet the most challenging to truly administer effectively, particularly with novice assessors whom lack experience. Most professionals, have had exposure to some form of this methodology, particularly in job interview situations. Of course, it involves walking through one’s background, especially in focusing upon certain aspects. SBLC ensures that attention is paid to a wide array of issues in these interviews such as digging down deep into the participant’s career transitions and understanding what learnings they have picked up along the way.

    Sometimes referred to as “competency-based interviews”, well-trained assessors are able to measure the strength of certain competencies (which can be fortified and strengthened over one’s career, akin to muscles). Importantly, if the organization (sponsor) does not provide its own unique set of competencies to an SBLC assessor, a draft competency model can either be newly-designed in a customized manner for the sponsor -- or simply provided, based upon other successful research and forward-thinking models.

     

  3. Surveys/Psychometrics:  We are all familiar with personality questionnaires, inventories, and psychometrics which can quickly produce valuable data towards enhancing one’s self-awareness, particularly in identifying owns strengths, areas of opportunity, and “blind spots”. Assessors at SBLC are certified in numerous psychometrics. As a consequence, the assessor will collaboratively decide with clients as to which survey instrument(s) would be most suitable for their unique and specific situations.
     

  4. 360 feedback:  Clearly, many professionals who have worked in medium-sized organizations or larger have likely participated in a 360 feedback study. Particularly if it is a Developmental Assessment, these data can be extremely valuable in heightening the participant’s awareness of how they are perceived as a co-worker, direct report, or leader. In addition, the data provides an invaluable point of comparison with any psychometric data, in order to see where there is a convergence of findings (“convergent validity”) or where there may be somewhat contradictory (or mixed) findings.  While this assessment method can greatly benefit both the organization and the individual, it is an optional step such that there are some instances (e.g. C-level succession) wherein the “public nature” of such a process would clearly not be advisable or may not even be legal (e.g. during due diligence periods of M&A’s).
     

  5. Direct Observation: Ask almost any seasoned assessor as to what might be their most preferable assessment method, and their “dream” would be to observe their assessment participants in “real life” (e.g. their place of employment). For a variety of reasons, not to mention the persistent existence of COVID-19, this method is rendered almost impossible. Nevertheless, fully-trained assessors are able to identify (pick up) certain strengths and personality characteristics through simply the interactions with the participant. These interactions include videoconference, phone calls, and even email exchanges. These data are also “fair game” for assessors as they record their honest, first-hand observations and insights in an assessment report.
     

  6. Feedback Session: In actuality, the full executive assessment does not ultimately “conclude” once the assessment report is written and delivered. Quite the opposite. The feedback session, preferably in-person or videoconference, affords assessors to have the opportunity to expand their “view of the true individual” even broader (see graphic below) when the assessment findings are discussed. Moreover, it is the belief of those at SBLC that the most valuable intervention towards influencing one’s development is the actual feedback session itself! More can be elaborated here, but it could warrant a doctoral dissertation, in and of itself.

    Ideally, the feedback session dovetails nicely into the Development Planning/Goal setting phase.

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