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  • Writer's pictureDan Squires

How to CRUSH Executive Selection

Updated: Mar 11


Executive Selection
CRUSH Executive Selection

In the dynamic landscape of business, executives are crucial to a company's success.  In the best of times, they’re the navigators steering organizations through turbulent waters towards prosperity.  In the not-so-great of times they can singlehandedly sink ships.  When it comes to successful leadership, three indispensable steps can significantly enhance the odds of hiring or promoting navigators while avoiding their less nautically inclined brethren.  What are these magical steps, you ask?  They are:

 

  1. Craft accurate position descriptions with clear 12-month scorecards

  2. Employ behavioral interviewing to assess candidate knowledge, skills, and experience against scorecard outcomes, and

  3. Assess Executive Fitness through psychometric evaluation and interviews

 

Seems straightforward, doesn't it?  Yet, as often happens, translating theory into practice can prove challenging.  Over our years of experience, we've observed that executing all three steps proficiently, even in high-impact leadership roles like the C-suite, is uncommon.  In this post, we'll briefly discuss the essential aspects of the first two steps, followed by a more detailed exploration of the nuanced nature of the third.

 

Position Descriptions with 12-Month Scorecards

 

Position descriptions and, especially, 12-month position scorecards are crucial first steps in the selection process as they define position expectations, clarify organizational objectives, and establish a standardized roadmap for interviewing and vetting potential candidates—all of which can help to reduce many forms of selection bias.  Scorecards, in particular, provide a highly structured framework to articulate 5 to 7 critical outcomes for the first year.  Typically, the outcomes are drafted in SMART format (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) to minimize ambiguity. 

 

You wouldn’t have to argue to convince us that the 12-month position scorecard is the single most important component in setting the table for successful executive selection.  Put simply, it’s table stakes.  Without a clear sense of what constitutes success in role, it is difficult to effectively recruit, interview, or assess candidate qualifications for a given position.  Ultimately, a well-crafted scorecard can be used for both hiring or promotion and assessing an executive’s performance over time once in role, ensuring accountability and clarity.  This also supports long-term success by emphasizing the importance of setting measurable goals and expectations, facilitating effective communication, and promoting a results-oriented culture.

 

Behavioral Interviewing

 

Behavioral interviewing is a specific technique that focuses on actual (past) behavior to predict future performance.  It involves asking candidates to provide specific examples of how they handled situations in previous roles, probing their actions, results, and the thought process behind them.  This method is essential for evaluating executive candidates as it provides insights into their actual experiences, competencies, decision-making abilities, and growth potential rather than relying solely on generic qualifications (i.e., resume), hypothetical scenarios, or worse—halo effects.  By delving into real-world situations, behavioral interviewing enables assessors to surgically assess an executive's suitability, effective skill range, and, ultimately, alignment with scorecard outcomes.

 

Giving credit where due, a quick shout out to Clark Waterfall and his team at BSG Team Ventures in Boston.  Clark is the OG of using position scorecards and behavioral interviewing for executive search.

 

Okay…  Let’s assume for a moment that we live in a perfect world where it was a safe assumption that every executive hire or promotion checked the first two boxes such that only highly qualified candidates made it to final rounds.  Would that be enough to ensure success?  Unfortunately, and often, the answer is no.  Why?  Because even when a qualified executive candidate’s knowledge, skills, and experience align with 12-month position scorecard goals, they can still fail (sometimes spectacularly) to deliver on the promise of their apparent ability and talent.  We’ve seen it more times than we can count, and it’s very expensive in terms of time, money, and morale when it happens. 

 

That’s why the third critical step for next-level executive selection is to assess a candidate’s level of what we call Executive Fitness.  Just like the phrase implies, fitness is all about the interaction of two related, but rather distinct concepts—ability and adaptability.  While the first two steps (PD/Scorecard & Behavioral Interviewing) focus mostly on assessing a candidate’s requisite ability, Executive Fitness focuses on adaptability (i.e., how flexible one is in applying their skills to new conditions), and boy-oh-boy, is the devil ever in the details!

 

Assessing Executive Fitness

 

One of the questions that we get asked often is what psychometric assessment(s) we recommend for executive hiring.  A better question might be, “Beyond requisite skills and ability, what other things about an executive candidate predict success?”  To date, we’ve identified six specific features that research and experience suggests are particularly important to consider.  In order to assess the six areas, we use three different web-based assessment tools followed by a one-hour video interview, the findings from all of which are integrated into our most popular assessment report option, the Executive Assessment Summary.  The six features we assess (and score) to establish Executive Fitness are:  

 

Motivation & Energy 

 

Motivation & Energy (desire, ambition, ability, mental & physical energy) serve as the bedrock upon which executive performance is predicated.  Executives need to possess an unwavering drive to propel their organizations forward.  Assessing and parsing their motivational features (e.g., sometimes desire is higher than ability and vice-versa, which can mean very different things in terms of how motivation is expressed) reveals whether they possess the passion necessary for success.  Furthermore, evaluating energy levels unveils their capacity to sustain high performance over extended periods, crucial for endurance.

 

Mental Toughness 

 

Mental Toughness is a characteristic indispensable for navigating the complexities of the corporate world.  Business environments are rife with challenges, setbacks, and uncertainties.  Executives must exhibit resilience in the face of adversity, maintaining focus and composure to steer their organizations through myriad challenges.  Assessing mental toughness vis-à-vis emotional control, confidence, and competitiveness aids in identifying individuals capable of thriving amidst adversity, while demonstrating and encouraging resilience.

 

Expressed Emotional Intelligence (EEQ) 

 

Expressed Emotional Intelligence is a cornerstone of effective leadership.  Executives must possess the ability to understand and manage their emotions, as well as those of others, to foster positive relationships and navigate interpersonal dynamics adeptly.  In contrast to Baseline Emotional Intelligence (at rest), EEQ goes one step further by factoring levels of dynamic Expressive Risk to provide a more concise estimate of how well someone is likely to manage themselves across the spectrum of demand on capacity.  Assessing EEQ allows for the estimation of an executive's capacity (and stamina) for self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills, all of which are essential for effective leadership.

 

Critical Thinking 

 

Critical Thinking is the engine that drives informed decision-making and problem-solving.  Executives are tasked with analyzing complex situations, weighing various perspectives, and arriving at sound judgments swiftly.  Assessing critical thinking skills elucidates an executive's ability to control personal biases, synthesize information, think strategically, and make reasoned decisions under pressure—all of which are fundamental for driving organizational success.

 

Executive Competencies 

 

Executive Competencies are data modeled areas of aptitude that encompass a diverse array of skills and attributes requisite for effective leadership.  These include strategic vision, communication prowess, team-building capabilities, and (of course!) adaptability, among others.  Assessing executive competencies identifies individuals possessing the multifaceted, executive skill set necessary for driving organizational excellence and results across diverse contexts.

 

Interview

 

Even with best-in-class assessment and data modeling, modeled profiles remain two-dimensional until one has the ability to interact directly with a candidate.  The Interview is critical for understanding and accurately assessing Executive Fitness.  There have been many times that we’ve been surprised by interactions with candidates based on what we expected from the profile.  Interviews enable assessors to probe beyond data and ascertain things like Authenticity, Service Orientation, Open-Mindedness, Insight, Adaptability, Likability, and level of Interest, among others.  Moreover, interviews facilitate the evaluation of less tangible qualities such as charisma, presence, and estimated cultural fit with the organization (including private equity operators)—all of which are critical for increasing the likelihood of successful transplantation, growth, and contribution in a new role.

 

Another critical benefit of this third, essential step of assessing Executive Fitness is that it provides additional time and data points to identify and rule out false positives (empty suits) and retain false negatives (diamonds in the rough).  We’ve seen it happen many times that critical candidate features have emerged only in the later innings.  This is why one private equity operating partner that we’ve worked with for years prefers to travel with finalist CEO candidates (whenever possible) before making an offer!  Not a bad idea, if you have the time.

 

Finally, astute readers may have noticed that the term personality has not been uttered once until now.  There is a simple reason.  Personality, while helpful in general terms for understanding a candidate’s stylistic features, can’t be scored, per se.  In other words, in most cases it is not possible to say that one’s personality is “good” or “bad”.  However, that’s not to say that candidate personality isn’t carefully evaluated and factored in addition to the 6 features noted above, but that’s a rabbit hole for another post!      

 

Conclusion

 

Developing accurate, well-crafted position descriptions and 12-month scorecards for high-impact executive roles is the critical first step to CRUSHING executive selection.  The second step is employing behavioral interviewing to ensure that candidates have the actual knowledge, skill, and experience to achieve scorecard outcomes.  Only once ability and potential fit have been confirmed through initial vetting (including interviews), should candidates be advanced to the third, critical stage of assessment for Executive Fitness (i.e., Adaptability). 

 

By evaluating key areas of Executive Fitness, including Motivation & Energy, Mental Toughness, Expressed Emotional Intelligence, Critical Thinking, Executive Competencies, and Interviews, organizations can be more confident that they have the information necessary to make informed decisions about the two critical areas of ability AND adaptability.  Moreover, setting clear performance objectives at the beginning of a selection process, in alignment with the scorecard, improves clarity, accountability, and transparency, ultimately increasing the likelihood of a successful and enduring hire or promotion.

 

If you’d like to learn more about CharacterLOGIC and our range of services and pricing, please click HERE for our 2024 Services & Pricing Guide.

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