The Science of People


The struggle is real…

When making talent management decisions and trying to determine how much impact that specific person will have continues to be too much of a guessing game.  To address soft skills the solutions are often too soft.  Most companies today want to determine the competency profile of their leaders at each level as they know it’s critical for selection, career development and succession. An organization we recently worked with tried the following approach before coming to Optimum Talent:  they surveyed their managers in one on one focus group settings and collected culture and leadership information.  The HR teams extracted a limited number of behaviours relevant to the business and tried to use that as a basis for hiring and succession.  But ultimately this approached didn’t provide the repeatable framework for success.

And this shouldn’t be surprising.  Why would the opinion of a few about something as complex as leadership behaviours become a usable tool for selection and performance prediction across the enterprise?  This approach does not have an ounce of science to it.  At best it’s a good starting place for discussion, and at worst it’s a melting pot of competencies, behaviours, personality traits, and values that are practically unusable.  This lack of rigor by talent management professional leads to inefficient practices and poor results.  Organizations deserve better.

Rigor and science

Imagine a physician who treated his patient based on the opinion of his peers.  That would never fly! Rigor and science is foundational, not opinions.  If we want to identify the DNA of highly effective leaders, we must also apply the same approach.  That’s exactly what SuccessFinder did in their comprehensive study the Ladder of Leadership. They used an in-depth and scientifically accurate psychometric tool that goes so deep and broad that it is akin to the periodic table in psychology; it measures all the behavioral traits and competencies that can be identified statistically. To do this SuccessFinder assessed over 1,000 leaders, from first level to CEO, and gathered demonstrated performance data on the job.

This process is no different than the identification of your DNA profile that organizations like 23AndMe or can do for you.   SuccessFinder extracted the exact traits and competencies that correlate with high performance at each level of leadership. That is NOT a guessing approach, not an opinion of a guru who personally was successful; it is rigorous and solid, valid and can be repeated. And the result of their study is a game changer.

For example, the study indicates: 
There are 2 “Always on” competencies that are important at every level of management, which are the ability to lead decisively and thrive in chaos.
There are some “Leaping behaviours” that bridge between first/intermediate to senior-level management and a different set between senior and C-level management.
And finally, there are some very specific “Leading behaviours” unique to each leadership stage.  I encourage you to read all the details.

So many benefits 

The benefits of the Ladder of Leadership study are enormous. The behaviours and competencies are listed clearly – no contradictions, no vague statements.   In our practice we will use to help clients:

  • Develop and prepare first level leaders for the next level up.
  • Identify the critical gaps for leaders in prime positions that will keep them from achieving their goals.
  • Identify high but hidden-potential performers for executive team positions.

Of course, we are not measuring pieces of metal or working with chemical mix when we deal with talent management, we will always have some human factors that will come into play and influence the solutions and decisions. But adding solid science and rigor to our practices will make a significant impact on the business results and the appreciation of the talent management professional contribution.

About the Author:

Jocelyn Bérard is National Practice Leader, Leadership Assessment and Development at Optimum Talent. Fluently bilingual in French and English, Jocelyn holds undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Human Resources, a Master Degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and an Executive MBA.  Jocelyn’s book, titled “Accelerating Leadership Development”, was published by Wiley and focuses on leadership assessment, leadership development and succession management.



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