Assessing leaders

Published on September 29, 2021   9 min
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Hello everybody, this is Gordy Curphy from Curphy Leadership Solutions, and today's talk is 'Assessing Leaders'.
Suppose we had three managers who applied for a director level position within a company. All three of these managers are internal candidates, they work for the company right now, and there's a director-level position that's opened up, one of greater responsibility. All three of these applicants - Steve, Shawn, and Lee - are interested in applying for the position, and moving into the position. How would you evaluate their potential to fill the new job? Who's going to be the best candidate to fill that role? What kind of data would you want to look at, in order to make that determination?
This is a really important question, and unfortunately most organizations get it wrong. When we look at organizations making promotion decisions - who should get promoted, who doesn't - Peter Drucker, the famous management guru, summarized it pretty well. He said that only about a third of promotion decisions work out really well, and this is also true with external candidates. If we're looking at external candidates coming into a company, we've got maybe five external candidates we're evaluating, to fill a particular rĂ´le. Many times organizations don't pick the right candidate to hire, nor do they pick the right candidate to promote. I want to spend a little bit of time talking about the reasons why the wrong people get promoted.
When organizations make promotion decisions, they look at two factors, one is called performance, the other one's called potential. We're going to start with performance first. When we're talking about performance, we just want to look at Shawn, Lee, and Steve's track records, or performance. What have they done? These three candidates may have come from three different parts of the organization, but what we want to do is - if Shawn has been in the organization for two years, Lee maybe eight, Steve maybe five - let's look at their performance reviews. Let's look at what they did in the job over the course of those two, five, or eight years, and how well have they performed? Are they a low performer, a medium performer, or a high performer? We can look at those performance reviews, many times there's a rating that says whether this person is a low, medium, or high performer, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind. One, if Shawn, Lee, and Steve come from very different parts of the organization - they could be in different parts of the country, they could be in different parts of the world, applying for this job - it may be difficult to make 'apples-to-apples' comparisons across the candidates. They may be working in very different jobs, they have very different bosses, they may have very different challenges, so it's hard to make apples-to-apples comparisons across the three individuals. Plus, the research is clear that performance ratings are biased. Some candidates get really high ratings, even though their performance doesn't warrant it, some candidates get lower ratings just because bosses are hard graders. What we do know is that accuracy is only number 2 or number 3 on the list when it comes to performance reviews, providing an accurate review is not as important as having a good relationship with the boss. The research is pretty clear that the stronger or the better the relationship with the boss, the higher the performance review. Actual performance is only a secondary consideration.