How do you assess for Potential and what tools we should use?
Here we give our take on using some wonderful products from YSC and Korn Ferry. Big names in our industry that have two different approaches to assessing potential, both at an organisational and individual level.
Once again, the fabulous Helen Frewin introduces us to their models, gives us the highlights and just for good fun – introduces a few concepts of our own.
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Research and recommendations on defining and assessing potential.
The research on potential from two big hitters in management consulting, YSC and Korn Ferry has many companies combining their two famous models. But what does that really mean and how can it work?
YSC’s model of Judgement, Drive and Influence (JDI) shows us the most critical attitude, behaviour and skills required for successful leaders. In any situation a leader finds themselves in, these three qualities will be required for success. We need to be able to recognise problems, analyse information and produce solutions.
We also need the self assurance and ambition to move things on and get things done. And we need strong emotional intelligence to take people with us and gain buy in. As always, there will be some of these things each of us is naturally better at, and some we will need support with.
YSC back this up with impressive breadth of study across nations and industries, and the practical application of that research is clear and straight forward.
So what about Korn Ferry? Equally robust with their breadth and depth of research, it is a different model and set of qualities this company raises up as critical for success. Learning Agility is the ability and willingness to learn from experience and later apply that learning to succeed in never faced before situations.
It is precisely because leaders are always facing new situations they have never dealt with before, that this curiosity, appetite for learning and speed of learning application, is key. The first time a department head is asked to set up a new unit in an emerging market, most of what they know goes out the window. What makes me successful here does not usually make me successful there.
Korn Ferry have identified different types of agility, and again each of us are stronger at some of these than others.
So to be successful we need to be agile or quick to learn and adapt, with regards to people, change, mental problem solving and delivering results. Two great models, well researched and backed up.
It’s not surprising then that many businesses are combining these two models to give an over arching definition of potential. But how exactly does that work?
Depending on the preference of the business it can be YSC with a bit of Korn Ferry, or Korn Ferry with a bit of YSC.
We have come across more companies taking that first approach. They assess potential by interviewing against judgement, drive and influence, and add in deep dive questions on learning applied within each of those qualities. The important thing to ask is what are we trying to achieve?
If we want to select people who might have the potential to be successful future leaders in business x, then arguably we should conduct our own research on what makes success here. But that can be costly and difficult to future proof. So instead many of us work with a best fit model, that we tweak to better fit our culture and estimated needs for the future.
With the budget and resources to put to it, doing your own research, backed up by the expert findings from these companies, can be the best option. And if the resources aren’t there, so much insight is available from this research, you can still have something built for you on that basis.
We’ve used both approaches and every client is simply happy to have something bespoke for them, safe in the knowledge it has been built on solid foundations.
But after all that, here is a very different way of thinking…
What if instead of starting with a company’s or academic’s review of what success looks like, and assessing who has the potential to meet that list, we started with the individual?
What if we asked each individual where their potential for growth might be? And supported every individual to become their best self? This is the other angle of potential… The more human side, which taps into the statements that come up with every model of potential or success… Some of us are better at some of these things than others.
So rather than trying to help everyone grow five aspects of learning agility, on top of judgement, drive and influence, what if we simply helped them tap into their own natural potential? This would be a significant shift from the current thinking around models of potential, and yet it seems more realistic.
We know from Gallup’s Q12 and wider research into strengths, that doing what we do best every day is critical to great results. So let’s work to those strengths and natural potential.
Perhaps once again there is an opportunity to combine the ideas.
With a model of potential based on JDI and learning agility, combined with a focus on understanding where an individual’s natural potential lies, maybe we find the answer we really need: Who has what it takes?
A new kid on the potential block
We’ve written a fair amount on defining potential over the years and this remains a critical challenge for businesses. How do we spot our future leaders and help them get to the position we need them to be in as soon as possible? Now there is a new answer to this question.
Whilst our work in this area to date has focused on our own research and experience on defining and developing potential, combined with the most popular models of YSC’s Judgement, Drive and Influence and Korn Ferry’s Learning Agility (you can read more on these here), the most recent development is Korn Ferry’s Assessment of Leadership Potential.
Based on the most recent comprehensive research on what has led to leaders being successful, Korn Ferry have a model and product that can guide us all on defining and measuring potential.
Korn Ferry defines potential as “the capacity and interest to develop the qualities required for effective performance in significantly more challenging leadership roles.”
Their research to understand what indicates this potential brought up four distinct categories: the “who you are” drivers and traits and the “what you do” experiences and competencies. For measuring potential, the focus is on those “who you are” characteristics as these indicate things about you that are more innate rather than learned behaviours or past experiences.
This has all resulted in a new product on the market, the The Korn Ferry Assessment of Leadership Potential (KFALP), which measures the following:
Drivers – the drive and desire to take on the challenges associated with being a leader.
Experience – the experiences that have shaped and prepared a candidate to be successful in higher-level positions.
Awareness – the ability to identify personal strengths and weaknesses and how they affect others.
Learning Agility – the ability and willingness to learn from experience and apply that learning to perform successfully under new and first-time conditions.
Leadership Traits – specific traits that help leaders to excel: focus, persistence, tolerance for ambiguity, assertiveness and optimism.
Capacity – the cognitive abilities necessary for logic, reasoning and to solve complex problems
Derailment Risks – The ability to manage and avoid the classic derailers of unpredictability in a leader’s behaviour, micro-managing and being closed to others’ perspectives
And of course just like the YSC Judgement, Drive and Influence (JDI) model, this opens up opportunities for businesses to benefit from the research whilst creating their own versions of these models. Many clients we work with have previously created their own model of potential by combing the YSC JDI and older Korn Ferry model of learning agility.
Now it appears Korn Ferry have produced the ultimate – a model that combines those two ideas and adds some new, rather useful concepts.
Looking at the detailed indicators under each of the seven areas, it appears that YSC’s Judgement is shown here in the KFALP under capacity, Drive under the drivers section and Influence appears to be spread out across the drivers sub-section of power (an individual’s interest in influencing others) and in the experience section (where critical experiences include negotiations and external relations).
That is all to say that this new Korn Ferry model gives us all a more recently developed and comprehensive definition of potential which envelops the models most widely used in business today – JDI and learning agility.
It’s the joy of being independent that we have the chance to go into businesses and help them develop models and frameworks for defining, assessing and developing potential, that best suit the company objectives and culture. There’s no doubt that this latest research will be of great value to all talent functions looking to benchmark leadership potential.
Are you an optimist or pessimist?
The optimist / pessimist contrast is usually the only contact many of us have had with the concept of optimism. Optimism by itself, is a fascinating concept and there is a growing body of research showing that this is largely genetic and then shaped further by early experiences and upbringing – so we’re optimists or pessimists from a young age.
Yet there is a difference between being an optimist and thinking optimistically – and we can all benefit greatly from choosing to think more optimistically, some of the time.
Martin Seligman is world famous for his work on depression, happiness, wellbeing and optimism. He points out as a result of thousands of examples from therapy and experimentation that regardless of our natural style (more or less optimistic), we can develop our thinking. And that change in thinking leads to both lower chances of getting depressed and faster recovery time if we do feel depressed.
So what can we do? It all comes down to how we explain to ourselves and others “good” and “bad” events. Life happens – it’s how we think about those events that makes the difference to our wellbeing.
When good, great, pleasing things happen, it is better for our health and wellbeing to explain those things as personal, permanent and pervasive. This is optimistic thinking. An example would be:
“That workshop went so well because I did a great job. And I always do a great job so tomorrow will be just as good. And I’m not just good at this, I’m good at other things too – my strengths apply across situations.”
As opposed to: “it was a fluke the workshop went well, the group were just really nice. I won’t be that lucky tomorrow. And just because that workshop went well, that doesn’t make up for the fact that I’m useless at most other things.”
When sad, upsetting, bad things happen, it is better for our health and wellbeing to do the opposite. Let’s explain those things as impersonal, temporary and specific. This is optimistic thinking. An example would be:
“My marriage is not going well because of current circumstances, I don’t think it’s all down to me. This is just a bad time, things will get better. And just because the marriage isn’t so great right now, I’m still able to do great at my work, hobbies and relationships with other people.”
As opposed to: “It’s all my fault, I’m ruining my marriage. This is permanent, it’s never going to get any better. How can I do anything else well, I am a failure at everything.”
So the research shows it, more optimistic thinking is better for our health, wellbeing and overall success. It’s not about thinking positive all the time – how would we get on if we had no risk management specialists planning for the worst?! This is about us having a choice in each situation, and choosing at times to think more optimistically for our wellbeing and happiness.