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Alan Watkins

Complete Coherence


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The mismeasurement of talent must stop


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 pigeon holes 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 in what it is measuring. 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 what really does help develop our leaders, that there is no excuse for the mis-measurement of talent.

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