A few years ago, I was hired by the HRD of a Global 1000 to help with the talent development process for both their top executives and high potentials. I told them that the best approach was to put the individual in the middle of the process, not a list of academic leadership competencies.

I told them how it was important to keep the main thing, the main thing. In this case, the main thing wasn’t to see, for example, how the Vice President of Marketing compared to the national average on things like “sets clear goals” or “plays well with others,” or for that matter, what Myers Briggs personality type they had.

The main thing was to help the person rip the blinders off, both in terms of their potential and in terms of one or two counterproductive behaviors that might cause them to never realize it, or miss their targets in their current role.

I said that the MC approach, based on interviews and candid coaching conversations, had proven remarkably effective at this. Besides, I emphasized, most managers respond to your typical 360 instruments or testing with a big SO WHAT? “Who cares if I got a 3.5 on execution and a 3.6 on rewards and recognition.”

The manager had spent months creating a list of corporate leadership competencies, so what I was saying didn’t go down very well, given the investment they had made. They wanted my group to just help people debrief a traditional 360 instrument.

We did that and it went pretty well, until it came to the CEO’s attention how poor the economic performance of the President of the USA Division was, so much that he was considering firing him.  The CEO requested a look at the 360 feedback done several months earlier and was shocked to discover that the manager had nailed the 360. It was as if he had straight A’s on every leadership behavior imaginable.

The CEO asked the Senior VP of HR, “How can you guys be presenting a 360 that emphasizes leadership behavior, with absolutely no connection whatsoever to business results?” The HR Sr VP was taken aback by this tongue lashing, and turned around and fired the HRD guy who was in charge of the 360 for incompetence.

The point is that the interview-based approach that we use at Masterful Coaching probably would have saved the HR manager’s job. It would have allowed us to do a deep dive and ask questions that plumbed the depth of people’s leadership ability and business performance.

Further, it would have given the President of the USA Division time to step back and reflect on what he was doing leadership-wise that would soon get him in trouble business-wise, and vice versa, before the “you know what” hit the fan.


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