5 Reasons You Need An Executive Leadership Assessment

As a senior leader, you have probably taken some type of assessment during the course of your career. The results provided you with insight into your strengths and weaknesses and helped you become more self-aware. However, even at the most senior levels it is still critical to take some type of leadership assessment on a regular basis because you need to continue to improve your performance for maximum benefit regardless of how long you’ve been in your position. Here are 5 reasons you should take an executive leadership assessment.


It’s easy to believe that you don’t need feedback at the most senior levels of management. You’ve made it to the top so you must know all that you need to know, right? Also, it’s harder for you as a senior leader to receive open and honest feedback even if you seek it from your peers, direct reports and other colleagues. A 360 degree assessment that is completely anonymous is an excellent way for you to receive the type of candid feedback necessary regarding your leadership, behavior, capabilities and performance from your team members who wouldn’t feel comfortable addressing these concerns with you in person.


Leadership assessments are an excellent way to determine if you have the essential skills to move your company in the direction needed. Your organization’s business strategies are vital to improving the bottom line and it’s critically important to link those strategies with the skills required for success today and in the future. Assessments will help you identify which competencies need further improvement so you can develop a long-term strategy that’s built to change and adapt as the business climate necessitates.


Perhaps you have been in your position for several years. Are you keeping up with the ever changing business climate in your industry? It’s much too easy to become complacent with your capabilities when you’ve been in the same job for an extended period of time. By conducting a leadership assessment, you will be able to identify how your skills match up with what the industry standards are and whether they are the competencies necessary to stay ahead of the competition.


Derailing leaders cost companies millions of dollars through lost productivity decreased revenue due to poor performance. By taking an assessment on a yearly basis, you will be able to identify any key competency gaps or issues that could cause significant problems for the organization. Then you will be able to get the appropriate coaching and training needed to improve your skills and avoid a complete derailment. After all, just like in medicine, prevention is the best strategy for avoiding illness.


A leader who participates in assessments helps to set a positive tone for the team, department and company. This willingness to assess your leadership skills shows others at all levels what is expected and supported throughout the organization. It helps to create a culture of engagement, openness and validates the importance of continuous professional development.

When was the last time you took an assessment? Make sure you stay current on your leadership skills and help improve your company’s bottom line through regular assessment of your executive leadership performance.

12 Month Sample Leadership Development Plan

A 12 month leadership development plan is essential to identifying, planning and executing a path to success. It is the key to implementing those strategies to help any leader develop the skills necessary to move up the career ladder. Last week I discussed the 3 main parts of a successful 12 month development plan and here is a sample leadership development plan to help you create your own.


Identify the areas you want to focus on for improvement and then select the action steps needed to make it happen by the target dates.


Every leader has talent in many areas that they simply may not be using to their full advantage. Next, identify your strengths that you can leverage for greater success and effectiveness.


The next to creating your leadership development plan is to focus on those behaviors you need to STOP, START and CONTINUE doing.


The last part of your 12 month development plan asks you to define what success looks like to you. How will you measure whether you’ve been successful achieving your development goals?

Take the time to complete your leadership development plan now and utilize it to improve your effectiveness as a leader. The rewards of creating and implementing your strategic plan will result in building stronger relationships at work, increasing productivity, improving your performance and benefiting your career and the company as a whole. For a complete 12 month plan and toolkit, download our sample leadership development plan here.

Create A 12 Month Leadership Development Plan

Every leader and high potential should complete a 12 month leadership development plan each year to help guide them through the actions necessary to take their career to the next level. Developing your leadership skills should be a continuous process, one that never ends even when you reach the corner office.

To get started, this blog will discuss the 3 main parts of a successful 12 month development plan and the next blog will give a few examples of a 12 month development plan. By taking the time to understand what goes into a successful development plan, you will be able to create one for yourself that will actually propel you forward in your career.

There are 3 main parts of an effective leadership development plan:


These are the main goals or outcomes you want to accomplish with your development plan. It is best to select 3 or 4 main objectives. They are usually the broad, umbrella goals that you are focusing on, such as:

  • Effectively transition leadership development from the external coach to the executive and his/her manager.
  • Specify the critical success factors required to meet the unit/function and position’s goals over the next 12 months.
  • Build a system that identifies multiple sources of feedback and learning required to sustain on-going development. save


Elements are the key components that create your development plan. They list out specific actions that are necessary to help you accomplish your goals and provide a complete picture of all that’s involved.

  • Unit/Functional vision (one that goes 3-4 years in the future).
  • Outline strategic initiatives for the role and unit, and tie them to the overall strategy.
  • Personal and business goals.
  • Develop plans for each initiative identified.
  • Leadership behaviors to stop, start and continue.
  • Identify leadership strengths to leverage for greater success.
  • Determine barriers or obstacles that need to be addressed.
  • Tie to the executive’s leadership strengths and goals.
  • Outline the key developmental opportunities that require on-going development and the plans to address each one (leadership challenges and opportunities to develop).
  • Get approval and buy-in from his/her manager for the plan.
  • Recruit advocates from team, peers and management to serve as feedback providers and coaches over the course of the year.
  • Determine measures of success.
  • Quarterly check-up dates.


Advocates are key stakeholders and/or a mentor who can be trusted. They are also motivated to provide on-going feedback and offer suggestions for change to the leader’s plan.

  • Advocates are best at the 360 degree levels: direct reports, peers and managers.
  • Recruit 4-5 advocates who agree to serve as feedback providers over the course of the year for your continued development.
  • Use the FeedForward process to help advocates be most effective.
  • Approach advocates at least quarterly for suggestions and recommendations on improving your leadership effectiveness.

Next week we’ll review some samples of a 12 month leadership development strategic plan so you will be able to create one to help guide you to career success.

2015 GOAL: Develop Leadership Skills And Effectiveness

Now is the perfect time to create an action plan for developing your leadership skills and effectiveness. While many people may have already given up on their resolutions or goals for the year, great leaders (and people who want to be great leaders) take time to conceive and generate a plan of action to reach their goals during the year. Here are 4 steps to help you get started.


Take time to sit down with key stakeholders, peers, team members and other direct reports to solicit their opinions on what you do well in your position and what you could improve upon. Reassure them that you truly want to improve your performance and their honest feedback is critical for you to understand those areas you can leverage for greater success and focus on the areas to develop. It’s only after you have a clear understanding of how you are perceived in the workplace as well as your strengths and weaknesses that you can begin to take steps to adjust them.


Increase your leadership effectiveness by setting SMART goals. Use the feedback you gathered from your colleagues to identify 2-3 goals you wish to set to improve your performance. Remember that SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-Oriented and Timely. If your goals don’t fulfill all of those criteria, then it will be difficult to achieve success on your goals. If you are unsure what goals to set for yourself, don’t hesitate to seek some ideas from your boss, mentor, team member or peer. Gaining insight through a different perspective will help you as you continue to grow your career in the future.


Be a more successful leader by learning to listen and communicate more clearly and with greater impact. Highly effective leaders improve their relationships at work, increase their followership, and collaborate better with others through clear, concise and inspiring communication. Practice your active listening skills by learning to be present in the moment and then clarify and validate what you hear. You’ll be able to understand the situation better, communicate your concern, and build trust in work relationships.


Ask your leader for additional responsibilities, preferably in a new department or a different function, or ask to lead a new project. Show your employer that you desire to learn and grow as a leader, thus improving your chances of promotion. If you are unable to attain a new project to manage or gain new responsibilities, then consider using a leadership coach to help you develop your plan of action. It truly helps to have a confidential, trusted source who can help guide you in your leadership development and make recommendations to help you achieve success.

Begin this year with the focus, determination, and action necessary to make 2015 the year you thrive, achieve, and succeed in your career.

Best Practices For Yearly Performance Reviews

As the year winds down, many leaders are planning yearly performance reviews for their team members. And since preparation is the first step to conducting a successful performance appraisal, below are “best practices” managers should keep in mind as they evaluate their team.


Do you naturally view the employee in either a “good” or “bad” way? Did you previously hold their job and are you expecting them to perform it as you did? Are you turned off by certain aspects of their behavior?

Leaders are human so it’s common that they will have their own biases as to how the job should be performed. When leaders let their biases shade their evaluations of the employee, it doesn’t give a helpful evaluation of performance results. Appraise the performance of the person based on their attainment of goals set for them (the “What”) and their competencies (the “How”), and resources at their disposal. Make the performance review about the employee, not about how you would have performed the job. Common rating biases include: Halo Effect, Contrast, Similar to Me, Leniency, Harshness, Central Tendency, Recency, and Primacy. Review your numerical ratings to see if any of these may be distorting your evaluation. Remember, these are subconscious so you are unaware of the biases occurring!


Employees usually dread their performance reviews because it can often feel like a one-way dialogue, especially when the reviews are only held once a year. Instead, make it clear to your employee that this is a dialogue between the two of you to discuss their performance. Use open-ended questions (i.e. Can you give me an example? What aspects of your job are challenging?).

The employee should feel comfortable bringing up concerns or difficulties they are experiencing in their position with the knowledge that you care about helping them resolve those issues. Leaders should give each employee plenty of time to prepare for the appraisal and offer resources such as a self-assessment or form to complete that covers their job performance and goals as well as what obstacles they face in performing their job to their best ability (i.e. lack of resources or support from management). Be clear when talking about preparing for the review that your employee understands you expect their full participation, engagement and commitment to the process.


Employees will feel attacked if you ask questions related to their behavior, such as: “Why can’t you get the job done?” or  “You’re really shy and you need to come out of your shell”. Instead, it’s better to focus on their job performance as it measures against their goals and objectives in their position. Using the above questions, rephrase them and ask them this way: “What parts of your job do you find difficult to complete? Or what obstacles do you face when trying to complete the project?” and, “You have much to offer and some great ideas, so what can we do to help you speak up and contribute more in meetings?”


This is not the appropriate time to spring your dissatisfaction on your employee about an issue that you haven’t previously discussed with them. Yearly performance reviews can be fraught with tension, stress and anxiety, so please do not use it as your chance to dump your frustrations on your team member. Everything that is covered in the appraisal should be clearly outlined, previously set and communicated between the two of you. Any ongoing issues should be part of a continuing dialogue between both of you so that it’s only one part of the review, and even then, only an update on where things currently stand.


Unless you’re planning on terminating the employee, focus on providing more positive feedback and praise to your employee during the appraisal and offering new challenges for them to commit to during the next year. Yes, discussing job performance problems is an important and necessary part of the review process, but try to limit them to the top two main concerns or issues you have.

Be clear and concise on what you like about their job performance and provide specific examples. “I truly appreciated your willingness to take the initiative on the ABC Project. I know it’s presented some challenges for you, but I know you’ve got the ability to complete it successfully.”

When discussing any performance issues, it’s best to clearly state the issue and what the required performance should look like. “The ABC report was not completed and couldn’t be included in the project. The next time, I’ll need your report a week in advance so I can work with you to finish any incomplete parts.”


Gain the employee’s commitment to what changes he/she will make moving forward and new goals and objectives they will focus on. Then, you need to commit to the employee what you will do to support their efforts to be successful. Follow through with a casual meeting a few weeks after the performance review to discuss how things progressing. Make this meeting the first of many as you move towards a “coach approach” performance appraisal process in the future. This regular interaction with your employee will help to develop an open and honest dialogue leading to better communication, improved performance and increased employee engagement.

These best practices are just a beginning to improving your yearly performance review process. Consider conducting 360 degree assessments with your team so they can gain insight on their performance from all people involved in their performance (i.e. boss, peers, team members, etc.). The main goal of any performance review is for the employee to gain greater self-awareness which leads to improved job performance, greater job satisfaction and an engaged, highly productive employee for the company.

A Better Way To Approach Annual Performance Reviews

The annual performance review can lead to feelings of dread and is often viewed as looking at the past instead of planning for the future. How, then, can companies change the annual review to be a positive, forward thinking evaluation of an employee’s performance?

Try approaching performance appraisals, not as a once-a-year event, but rather as a continuous, ongoing coaching process during the entire year. This is a 180° turn from how it is currently handled in most companies.

Instead of reviewing the past, companies should encourage their leaders to regularly sit down with their employees in casual, non-stressful situations to give feedback for situations as it’s needed.


1. Where the employee is currently at in their career and where he/she wants to be.

Ask the employee what their career goals are, where they want to be next year, what they are doing to reach their goals, if they participate in or desire leadership training, and other similar questions.

2. How the employee is performing in their current position.

Discuss current projects and job responsibilities. Compliment them on successes and validate their efforts. Discover what areas they want to further develop.

3. What obstacles or roadblocks the employee is tackling on current projects.

Find out what frustrations your employee faces while trying to complete current projects and goals. Coach them to come up with ideas on how to resolve these difficulties through their own initiative.

4. Who the employee can go to for answers, mentoring, support, and assistance for their professional development as well as for completing projects.

Show your support by assisting them with ideas of where they can get help and answers to help them resolve issues and meet their goals.

5. When you will meet next.

Always end your current talk with an idea of when you can get together next.

If managers and leaders focus on spending a little time each month with their team members to ask the above questions, it will foster a sense of trust, support and motivation. The employee will feel a sense of engagement with their boss and that he/she truly cares about them as a person, not just for what they do in their role.

These one-on-one conversations between leaders and their employees helps managers stay current about projects as they happen. It is a proactive approach instead of a reactive one like traditional performance reviews.


Make time in your schedule this week to recognize someone who is doing a good job, coach an employee about resolving an issue and identify new goals for someone who needs a bigger challenge. You will be laying the groundwork for positive coaching interactions with your team now and for future success.

Why Do Employees Dread Performance Reviews?

You are not alone if you dread the yearly performance appraisal process. Research reported on earlier this year in the Wall Street Journal discovered that the perceived effectiveness of the performance appraisal process was directly related to employee satisfaction, and that negative feedback resulted in lower satisfaction regardless of the employee’s learning goal orientation.

When I asked for people’s opinions on yearly performance reviews in a few LinkedIn groups, the responses generally agreed that performance reviews are necessary but preparation, scope and timing of the performance appraisals can cause headaches.

“I find that waiting until the end of the year makes the process unduly stressful and too many otherwise important things get missed in the interests of keeping the meeting a reasonable length.”
“Unfortunately, the paperwork can be tedious.”

Another person responded that the company’s culture is a key factor to employees’ satisfaction and work performance.

“If an honest, open dialogue exists in your company it will naturally increase the satisfaction, dedication and productivity of all associates.”

I agree with these and all of the comments provided. Annual performance reviews are necessary to evaluate employee performance but the frequency they are conducted, what is covered during the meeting, and how the information is presented are critical to developing high-performing, dedicated employees.

Effective performance appraisals include frequent conversations throughout the year to discuss performance and progress towards goals between employees and their managers. Then when it’s time to sit down at the end of the year, there is a level of trust already established. The manager has a clear picture of the employee’s performance during the year from frequent contact, and the employee has received regular feedback to help improve their performance and guide their direction.

This consistent and regular dialogue can be as quick and easy as meeting for coffee weekly or monthly to discuss progress towards goals, provide appreciation for their performance, or feedback on a skill or behavior to develop. It’s this reliable communication that builds a connection with employees that improves their performance and productivity over time.

Annual performance appraisals don’t have to be a dreadful experience for leaders or their employees, but only taking time once a year to provide feedback, leads to lower satisfaction. No one wants to receive negative feedback all at one time and high-performing talent prefers regular communication that shows you value their contributions.

Start laying the groundwork for improved performance reviews today by connecting with one of your employees. Take them to lunch or stop by their desk to tell them how much you appreciate their hard work. You’ll be lifting some of the dread and anxiety surrounding their yearly performance appraisals.

Are Performance Reviews Really Necessary?

The end of the year is rapidly approaching and many companies are turning their focus to the yearly performance review. Unfortunately, most leaders and employees are dreading its arrival and take a “grin and bear it” attitude toward them. With this type of anxiety surrounding performance appraisals, it begs the question: Are performance reviews really necessary?

Performance appraisals developed as a way to ascertain productivity and relative merit with regard to getting a pay raise. Even today, many companies utilize the yearly performance appraisal to assess the employee’s work performance and progress towards goals in order to justify a raise or placing the employee on probation with the idea of showing them the door.

But with the changes to the way people work nowadays (remote workers, less supervision, more autonomy, etc.) is the way we execute performance reviews still valid and, if not, what is a better way to apply them? If we don’t have some way of “rating” employees’ job performance, progress towards goals, work ethic, attitude and behavior, then how do we reward good employees with raises and promotions while providing poor performers with the tools and direction to improve?

I believe that as long as a company or boss handles performance reviews as an annual “look back” event instead of a proactive plan for the future they will continue to have negative connotations for all involved. Employees need positive and constructive real-time feedback and honest dialogues with their managers on a consistent basis in order to have the tools and desire needed to truly improve their job performance.

All of these questions, ideas and concerns will be answered in a series of blogs I’ll write and post now through the end of the year. In the meantime, enjoy this slideshare graphic from WorkSimple on the History of Performance Reviews.


Picking the Best Executive Assessment Tools

At least half of companies do no formal assessments of potential for their leaders and tend to be shooting in the dark when it comes to identifying their future talent. In another research study, it was found that 75% of high performers do not have the requisite abilities to handle the increased complexity in senior leadership roles. I4cp’s research showed that the most common executive assessment tools when there is a formal process is the 360 degree feedback assessment. Other popular tools they found included the following:

  • Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), used by 68.2%
  • DISC, used by 61.4%
  • Lominger Assessment Instruments, 47.1%
  • Hogan Personality Inventory (HPI), 43.2%
  • StrengthsFinder 2.0, 43.2%
  • Thomas Killman Conflict Management Indicator (TKI), 40.7%

In my opinion, of these assessments, only Lominger, Hogan and Killman tools meet the psychometric rigor required for assessment of potential. The other tools are less rigorous, valid, and reliable to be deployed to assess talent who may be considered for senior leader roles. These other assessments are more likely to be used for training and teambuilding activities.

We here at Corporate Performance Strategies strongly recommend that there are multiple data points when considering potential, including: education, experiences, cognitive abilities, personality attributes (what the above measure), performance results, and interview assessments. That helps ensure more accuracy of decisions for determining your bench strength.

What formal executive assessment tools does your company use? When was the last time your leaders were assessed to determine their strengths, weaknesses, or areas of concern? Isn’t it time to implement a rigorous assessment process for the current and future leaders in your organization?

Lessons In Leadership: What Great Leaders Do

One of the biggest differences among the generations of leaders is the desire for ongoing leadership development and frequent feedback. The new generation of leaders has continuous feedback through technology, collaboration, and parenting, and expect this to continue on the job. The most successful leaders across the generations have learned something very skillful they deploy just about every day. They understand that increasing their self-awareness is essential to meeting their stakeholders’ expectations and improving their leadership performance. When leaders fail, a key contributing factor is often a lack of self-awareness, or the misunderstanding and acceptance of how they are perceived by their stakeholders.

There are four valuable lessons we have learned from working with hundreds of successful and some unsuccessful leaders over the years. By following these four easy steps you will be on your way to achieving higher levels of leadership development and leadership performance.


Blindspots are very difficult to improve when the leader rates him/herself much higher than their stakeholders evaluations. Robert Hogan identified 11 potential derailers when leaders are particularly stressed often referred to as over-used strengths. For example, derailers we often encounter are leaders being highly Diligent. So, when these leaders have their results on the line, they take control and do things themselves. The problem is that over time their teams do not feel empowered and are not being developed toward their own goals. A leader can quickly be perceived as a “micromanager,” and have severe morale, productivity, and retention challenges. Our assessments identify a leader’s blindspots.


How others see them is what really matters the most, so that they better understand their stakeholders’ expectations and how their leadership is effecting followers. Even though this reality is sometimes harsh, unkind, and difficult to accept, great leaders have learned to confront their own reality. How we help leaders understand their perceptions is with thorough leadership assessments, including personality assessments and 360 degree feedback. Using this approach the leader can better understand how they are perceived by their stakeholder groups (i.e., direct reports, peers, manager, etc.). We have had various degrees of reactions to the 360 degree feedback ranging from elation to shock. In most cases, “no news is not always good news!” Often times the leader’s boss, peers, or direct reports provide some very telling feedback that indicate blindspots for intensive leadership coaching and development.


We advise our clients to create a network of supporters – that are representative of their stakeholder groups and that periodically provide direct feedback and suggestions for improvements. This is particularly helpful in CEO growth and development since very few people have the platform to provide unsolicited upward feedback!


Pick an area that you want to improve and be as specific as possible, and ask for feedback and suggestions for the future. Thank the feedback provider for giving you this gift.

Be sure to start your development network by seeking leadership feedback today. It’s a great and cost-effective method for improving leadership development skills and leadership effectiveness.