The mismeasurement of talent must stop

Performance management
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Alan Watkins
CEO
Complete Coherence
Columnist
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Every individual leads in their own way - so why are we still using a 'one size fits all' approach to talent management?

The measurement of talent is a rapidly expanding field, often devoted to measuring aspects of an individual’s personality, identifying their strengths, their preferences, or their type.

All of these approaches characterise different dimensions of the human condition, however the measurement often fails because it doesn’t help individuals to develop their capabilities - it just pigeonholes them.

For example, an assessment based on typologies, strengths, or personality types can accurately describe an individual – the type of person they are and their characteristics – but the assessment doesn’t actually help to develop that individual as a leader.

In fact these kinds of measurements imply that there is one set of strengths, or type of person, that makes a good leader, which simply isn’t true; each leader leads in their own way.

The risk of self-justification

These assessments also run the risk of creating self-justification. The 'well that’s the way I am made' argument.

In reality most people are much more complex than a simple set of strengths would have you believe, and people also have huge potential for development and change.

This is why most modern management and leadership assessments disappoint; they don’t help individuals to develop their capabilities.

They imply that you can’t develop into something else, positioning you in one type, one set of strengths, some personality traits and/or a few behavioural preferences. In fact, there is a much richer and more useful way to assess talent.

If leaders want to truly raise their game and the performance of those around them, then a more developmental approach is needed. This can be achieved by ensuring the assessment tools you may be using adhere to four rules.

The assessment should be:

  • Commercially relevant
    As there are so many ways in which human development can be measured, it is important to ensure the type of development being measured is relevant to your organisation. There are eight lines of development that matter in most businesses: physical, cognitive, emotional, ego, values, behaviour, connectivity, and impact.
     
  • Research-based
    Many assessments are not grounded in proper academic literature. They have instead been invented by someone who is a smart marketer. Without a solid research base the assessment runs the risk of being a subjective judgement rather than an objective measurement.
     
  • Differentiated
    It is vital to measure each line of development separately. Many assessments, in a bid to reduce length or complexity, mash together different kinds of development in the same assessment. Not dissimilar to having a blood test and an X-ray in the same test. Without clarity around what is actually being measured, outputs become confused and ultimately unhelpful.
     
  • Enabling development
    It is important that the assessment drives development, rather than being purely descriptive. A good assessment should quantify not only what level of development an individual is at at right now, but what the next stage of their development will be.

Using these rules unhelpful assessments, founded on confused thinking and inaccurate or untested assumptions, can be spotted easily.

Today we understand so much more about talent management and what really does help develop our leaders, that there is no excuse for the mismeasurement of talent.

Want to read more on this topic? Read True Colours: is personality testing at work useful, or even desirable?

About Alan Watkins

Alan Watkins writes on the science of coherent leadership which encompasses a wide range of areas brought together to help individuals in business increase their developmental levels and be more personally effective. Alan is an honorary senior lecturer in neuroscience and psychological medicine at Imperial College, London and originally qualified as a physician. Alan worked with the Great Britain rowing squad prior to the London Olympics and provides continued guidance to the coaches in advance of Rio 2016. He is the founder and CEO of Complete Coherence.

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By jobs
08th Apr 2016 07:31

wonderful insights! When a job seeker go on a professional job search i would narrow down his area of interest and prepare on his specific knowledge. But when the assessment misguide or demotivates his thoughts goes scattered. So every assessment should keep them in a comfort zone and it should be well researched.

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