Assessments and Their Use in Leadership Development
May 12, 2020
Russ Haworth, ACFBA and a consultant with The Family Business Consultancy, interviews Natalie McVeigh, a director in EisnerAmper’s Center for Family Business Excellence.
In this episode, we discuss the use of assessments in helping to develop leaders within a family business. Natalie talks about acumen, where to start when looking at assessments, the role culture plays in a business, and why these are assessments and not tests. We discuss attitude versus aptitude and the fact that data tells a story. In addition, we also look at the role of coaches and mentors.
Natalie McVeigh: Sure. Russ. Thank you. It's interesting, I find that most people come into this work as their second or third career. And I'd say this is my second career. I started out as a compliance and ethics officer, mostly the ethics side and not compliance because it was important to me to understand why we were making choices, and not just what is legal or what is right. And then I met a wonderful woman who I worked with for about eight years who was my mentor in her own family firm. And she hired me for that same unique background, the way that I thought about things, not just as they are, but why we're doing it, and how things could be.
And I helped at first doing course design, and then I started getting really into assessments. I'd say that assessments were something this firm had that was interesting and that was very unique. Some family advising firms use assessments, and some don't. And to me, assessments just get you where you want to go quicker. So, I was hired for one project, and I didn't leave. We worked together for about eight years, and then I've since transitioned.
RH: Fantastic. And it's particularly leadership development that you were involved in, isn't it?
NM: It is, yes.
RH:Fantastic. And I guess, the opening question then is how do you start to cultivate or understand that leadership capabilities that an individual might have?
NM: And the simplest way for me is to actually understand their starting point. There are many theories of leadership, and in family business, I think about a personal leadership. Almost everyone who is a part of a family business gets to show up in a leadership position. You might be a leader in your sibling group. You might be a leader who models to the next generation of your family collaboration. That could be a non-business owning spouse, you can do that modeling. You might model collaboration.
When we think of leadership in family businesses, we often think of succession, and who's going to be the successor of the family's anchor asset? But there's so many ways to be involved in a family business that I think of it as personal leadership. And knowing where your starting point is really helps map a course for where you want to go. At the end of the day, if we don't know where we want to go, we don't know where to start. I tend to think about things as a pathway.
RH:And so, if somebody has decided that they want to take the leadership pathway where would be their best starting point? Because there are people out there who will believe they make fantastic leaders, and they may or may not be right, and there are people out there who might think, "I won't be a good leader." And again, they may or may not be right. So, what would you suggest to them as their starting point?
NM: So, I usually run some assessments to understand the behaviors of what people are doing, but then also a predictive assessment to understand runway. There are certain things that some of us just won't be good at, that doesn't preclude us from being a leader. So, for example, I'm not very detail oriented. I know that now from assessments. So, I work really hard, but I have workarounds, I have people and ways to make sure my detail orientation is helpful. So, you want to know what the people's runway is, what they can do. And there are several predictive assessments that can be used in the industry to do that. And the second piece I look at is motivators. What actually interests you, and what are your passions? Because even if you could be a great leader making quote unquote, let's say it's widgets.
You can be a great leader making widgets, if that's not what excites you, if you have more of a creative lens that you can't bring into that working environment, you also won't succeed as a leader. So, one, it's competence and capabilities, and two, it's passions, and motivators. And hopefully, those two can come together in interesting ways so that these leaders can stay. And a third part that isn't about the individual per se, is about the culture of that organization. Culture is one of the unique things that are an advantage to family firms. And they have unique cultures that have to be understood so that the leaders in those family businesses can continue to perpetuate that culture and to not erode that culture. So, those are the ways that I think about it for fit for leaders.
RH:Okay. So, you mentioned the example of succession. If we just pick on that for a second. With regards to somebody who might be looking at being a successor to the current business leader, but they don't necessarily possess what you would call natural leadership skills, is leadership something that can be taught, or is it just adapting people's behavior to take advantage of their strengths?
NM: It's a good question. When I think of skills, I use the word an acumen. And why I use the word acumen is it's from a root word called acure, which means to sharpen. And I think that's true, even for the best leaders when you use a blade, kitchen blade, regular usage dolls that blade. And so, you need to sharpen it. And the same is true for leaders who might not look like they've developed the skills that you want them to yet. It's sharpening that blade so that it can do the job it's supposed to do. So, in a lot of times we're talking about family businesses, we're talking about connecting with a team, building trust, facilitating that culture, and to normalize that, and to understand where people start, of course, it can be learned.
And so 50% of our genes are called template genes. They don't change. 50% of our genes are transcription genes, and they change for all kinds of reasons. So, that battle of nature and nurture, it's both, right? And so, the way we have changes is neuroplasticity, neurogenesis, and neural pruning. Breaking that into its simplest components means doing new skills, and practicing them, and leaving some of those skills that didn't work for us behind.
So, let's say we say that next generation person is not their mother or father. Well, of course they aren't. And depending on the direction of the company, they don't need to be their mother or father. In fact, sometimes the next generation want complimentary skills, and not the exact same skills for that future trajectory. And the other piece is in those skills that we would like these young people to have, and they might also like to have, how do we behaviorally practice that, so, they become habits, so they become second nature?
RH:Brilliant. And looking at from the other side, if somebody is already in a leadership position, and particularly, again, in a family business, if they're seen as the head of the family business, it can sometimes be really difficult to admit to shortcomings. What would you say to people who are perhaps in that leadership position thinking, "Am I making the best of my abilities? What more can I be doing?" How should they approach this?
NM: I guess, I'd reframe it to not be shortcomings. In most cases when I work with a client, they're coming because they're in a transition of some sort. Whether that transition is they're in a growth for their business, they're thinking of transitioning to the next generation, so, their role would be as a mentor, whether they have acquired a new company, they're already in a state of change. And so, I acknowledge the success that that client has had for those many years. X set of behaviors and capabilities is major extraordinarily successful. And now you're in a change, and we want to understand what will help you in this phase.
And we want to know that objectively. And sometimes we'll do a 360 assessment so that we hear from the leadership, we can hear from their peers. We can hear from family members. It's occasionally you can run this assessment through vendors to just really say, "What's needed now?" So, it's not so much that people aren't measuring up. And again, you can go back to that acumen phrase. It's that sharpening is a part of the process.
RH:Yeah. And as we've mentioned at the outset, and we're going to look at a number of these assessments that you currently use in your leadership development. But before we get into the specifics, could you just give us some more information on why you use tools, and what are the benefits of doing so?
NM: Absolutely. I think data tells a story. When you're looking at your P&L, there's a story there. When you're looking at a lot of metrics that you use for strategy, and day-to-day management, it's telling a story. And that story is what's happening, and what could happen. And so, data for assessments can tell that individual story. Depending on the assessment, like a 360 or some cultural assessments, it can tell the story of the organization. So, first off, it's a story that we can learn information from. And secondly, its objective. And in family firms, I know you've talked to several people about Bowen theory, and some of the other aspects of systems theory that impact families.
They're anxious systems, they're anxious systems for a lot of reasons. But when you can bring out fact, and you can bring up objectivity, it's helpful to not make meaning of something. So, for example, if a leader has an authoritative leadership style that's maybe making that successor feel poorly about themselves, right? They think it's about them. They think mom or dad is controlling me, we can show them with data, "Mom or dad is not lying awake at night trying to make you miserable. This is how he or she shows up all the time." It's quite objective and it's not personal.
RH:Fantastic. And one of the perhaps misconceptions to get out of the way as well, early doors. And this is something that if anyone ever says to me, "We're going to do an assessment." I always think test. I think it's quite important to appreciate that there's no right or wrong. Am I right in thinking that?
NM: Absolutely. I can't tell you how many clients I've heard say, "I don't want to fail." And the short answer is you can't fail. And I really do like to focus on that complimentary skills because the skillsets that we all have, one, skills are learned, so, we can change those if it's needed. But two, the reason they haven't been in the company is probably because you haven't been in the company. So, it's just trying to find out where everyone is to really leverage the strengths that exist. And I like thinking of creating third alternatives.
You and your founder, you second generation, let's say, and that first generation founding generation, if you sit down and assess everyone's strengths, and their capacity to do leadership, and you've got all of those people in the room, and gave equal voice to all of that information, what could happen compared to what was happening by just one generation is just impressive.
RH:And I'm guessing as well, we might get into some examples of where this has been the case, using an assessment tool that's consistent for everybody can help to diffuse some of the situations you've mentioned their parents lying awake at night plotting how they can make their children's lives a misery not being in reality, hopefully, not being a reality anyway.
NM: I haven't seen it to be reality yet.
RH:And the use of these assessments can help to diffuse some of the tensions. Is that right?
NM: It does because it normalizes that behavior. So, I'll pick on myself a little bit, and I'll describe one example of what our assessments have. So there's a Fundamental Interpersonal Relationships Orientation Behavior. It's called the FIRO B. It's a long name, but it really talks about how people either express or want inclusion, control, or affection in their life. So, I'll pick on my family for inclusion, I have high expressed, it's how you and I met. Russ, you're like, "Do you want to do this podcast?" And I said yes. And then very similar to my family, I had to change the date something came up.
I'm always willing to do these things because I express interest in that. I don't necessarily want to, not because I don't like you, or like the podcast, but I don't have a lot of desire for inclusion. So, when my sister and I ... And she knows this, so this is not something she'd be ashamed of me telling. My sister has high wants for inclusion, I have low wants for inclusion, but I express inclusion all the time. She says, "You want to get coffee?" I say yes. But she hardly ask because her expressed is low. It's very hard for her to ask.
And then I don't show up for coffee, not because it's not in my diary, but I don't follow-up to find out a date for that. And my sister and I have spent years where my sister has been really hurt by me not making further plans because it's harder for her to ask more, and I didn't know because I don't have that same desire. I don't have that same need. And so, it one, explains the behavior that happens objectively, but two, it normalizes, and it's not personal. My sister's name's Nicole. Nicole gets that she's not the only one I'm not following up on. It's not that I'm not following up because I don't care about her.
The second part of that though, is not just saying that we took our assessments and I can say, "Well, I just have low desires for inclusion, so I don't need to follow-up with you." I now know that it hurts her. So, I have to do my personal work if I don't want to hurt my sister. So, you could probably ask her now, and she would tell you after being assessed eight years ago, I show up a lot more, or I tell her clearly why I can't. So, it's a bilateral responsibility.
It's first describing what's happening. So, it's not random, letting you know that it's not personal. And two, you get to work together in your relationships, and family members to say, "If my behavior is impacting my family members either positively or negatively, what can I do about that?" And the same thing with the leadership team. Same thing. What can I do about those behaviors to change them?
RH:And if you're comfortable doing so using the example of you and your sister, it's not just understanding the character traits, or as you say the inclusion, control, affection side of things, it's what you then do with that information that perhaps is the important bit. Because like you say, data tells the story. But if you'd have just take any assessments and gone, "Okay, fine." And then carried on, it may have been that the tensions between you and your sister could have escalated or your relationship would have suffered as a result.
NM: Absolutely. And so, the way that I find a best practice to do is first find out what assessments would be useful. And there are many different types. There's attitudinal, there's behavioral, there's personality, and there's predictive. There are probably also many more subdivisions, but those are how I think about those four. And take the assessments yourself, and have an individual debrief. But what I encourage teams, whether it's a sibling team, a family team, or a management team to do is allow the assessment provider to have permission to share those assessments.
And I create what I call a composite, which is simply just putting together the assessment data. We would have an activity where we explain what the data says, but so everyone understands what the data is there. And then it's referenceable throughout the entire engagement. In fact, post engagement, you as a management team, or a sibling team can keep referring back to that. So, and my sister does, we've done these assessments, so my sister will sometimes talk about how my lack of desire for inclusion is showing up, and how it's impacting her. So, you get to hold one another accountable for the behavior. So no, it's not a one-time you take the assessment.
It's not a one-time where you label yourself. I don't know if ... And you probably, everyone does know someone who's talked about their DiSC style, or their Myers-Briggs, the NBTI style, and say, "I'm an X. So, this means X." That's only half of the equation. Understanding your style to help other people communicate with you, but then you have a responsibility to help communicate with other people, and also maybe mitigate some of the behaviors that might be impacting people. So, the way I think of data, it is a story, but it's living and it's referenceable. So, when you said, can leadership be learned? The short answer is yes.
The question is, are people willing to learn leadership? Are they willing to do that change that's consistent and practice? And if you are, assessments are a great way to get there. It gets there a lot faster. It's also a lot easier than to say ... And maybe I could have said this before I took the data, "Oh my sister just complains. My sister's very sensitive." Well, now we don't know that, we know how I show up, and I get to get to that work a lot quicker.
RH: Yeah. And again, it's probably worth pointing out that the assessments that we're going to be talking about, and that you use, they're not just five multiple choice questions in the sense that they try to very quickly pigeonhole you into a particular sex, or color, or description, that they are researched and academically backed.
NM:Agreed. That's a great distinction, Russ. I really encourage, and I'm often assessment agnostic. I don't care if you want to take, so for example, predictive assessments, I'll just use an example of two I know that work, you don't have to take the Chally, which I use, which is a predictive assessment. You can take the COL, which I know a lot of other advisors do. It isn't that you must use the assessment that I like, what I believe is important though is you get assessments that are accurate, valid, and psychometrically valid by quite a few years of research study.
Most assessment companies you're able to find it online, if not the person you're looking for who's an affiliate of that, or a vendor of that can talk about that. And they should be trained in that assessment as well. All the assessments that I'm trained in, I went to at least a three day workshop plus had a practicum on that. It's really has to be data that's valid or it's just as useful or not as useful as me saying my sister is sensitive.
RH: Yeah. And again, the training's important isn't it? Let's take a doctor analogy, if you can Google some of the symptoms, and someone comes in too, says, "I've got these symptoms." You have to have the practical experience of using those tools before you can prescribe any kind of solution. Because otherwise, you're just taking the data, making your own interpretation.
NM:Absolutely. And especially, in family businesses as we know, it's a very unique system. So, what I would encourage people to do is find an assessment vendor, or a family business consultant that knows family businesses because I'll give an example, we'll talk about succession as well. So, that Chally, the predictive assessment of Chally, and there are a couple of things that it works with, but sometimes they actually have a profile for an executive. So, all things equal, and I ran the Chally on two people vying for that position. One a family member, one a non-family member. If I'm just a normal management consultant, and I rely on the data exclusively, and to be fair, assessment data, like any other data, it should just be one data point.
It should be at least one of three, their interviews, there's fit, there's a bunch of other information, but let's say I'm a management consultant who doesn't know family business, and I really over rely on data. That's the most important thing to me. Well, that young woman who's the non-family member has better scores, I might suggest that you go that way. And I don't understand the family dynamics. So yes, assessments are important, but it's not to go against also understanding the family business system, really trying to use two together is helpful.
RH:And so, you've mentioned the FIRO B, which is the Fundamental Interpersonal Relationship Orientation and Behavior Assessment. I'm glad I've got that written down because I wouldn't have been able to remember that, otherwise. And that's based upon those three dimensions. You've also mentioned the Myers-Briggs, which I think for me is the one that I'm most aware of in terms of the name. Can you explain a little bit more about what the Myers-Briggs tells us?
NM:Sure. The Myers-Briggs is a four model style of assessment. And it really talks about why people are interested in different things, how they work sometimes, and how they communicate it. It helps to understand why we're not always saying the same thing, but it describes behaviors. So, when you take a Myers-Briggs or the DiSC, which is very similar in that four block model way, I often tell people to take it home to their spouse, and tell them about it, and their spouse says, "I could have saved you 50 bucks if I could've told you about this."
It's observable, and it comes up in work style behaviors. So, for teams starting with a DiSC or Myers-Briggs is really helpful because you get to talk about behaviors neutrally. And so, for example, in the Myers-Briggs, one of the facets is introverted. And you say, how do you know what an extrovert's thinking? They'll tell you. How do you know what an introvert's thinking? You have to ask them. So, for a sibling group to know that one of your family members shows up as an introvert, people might make meaning of how that person shows up.
A lot of times in family meetings, or family council, when someone's not talking, we think disengaged. We think not prepared. And now, if we know he or she is an introvert, we know to ask them. And we can also challenge them to show up by bringing their thoughts to the table because this is how we participate when we're here. So, the Myers-Briggs, and the DiSC profile are very good at describing observable behaviors that get into work styles and communication.
RH:And again, it's things like that might be taken for granted in a family situation, if relationships between siblings have been built up over their entire life, and they come to a family council, or family meeting, and John or Susan are sat there and they're being their normal quiet self, it can feel as if they're not engaged, and they're not contributing. Whereas actually it's understanding why they're sat there like that rather than just thinking, "Oh, it's just him or her being him or her usual self."
NM:Absolutely. And it's okay that it's their usual self. The problem is we don't ask, you're completely right that we grow up in the world thinking things about people, and we make meaning. And the quickest way to make meaning is something we've seen in the past. And I mean the very early past. And so for example, I'll use my sister and I, there's a 13-year age gap from us. So, when I was five, she was 18, so she probably was showing me something very interesting, but I was five. And her recollection of me as a young kid was not interested in anything, which probably is true, not many eight year olds are interested in art, at least the kind of art that people in their 20s are interested in.
The difference is, we've grown up. So, my not wanting to go to things isn't a lack of interest, but she doesn't know that, and I don't know that. So, it's really to help get rid of the meaning we've made to things I say in families where caricatures. You've ever gone to the beach somewhere, and there's somebody drawing that caricature of you, and we all think it's really fun and really interesting because they'll take one tiny facet of how we look and exaggerate that. And we all can see it, but we know it's a farce, and we laugh.
It's the more unhappy version of that is what happens in families is we take a small characteristic of our families, and instead of making something fun, we make meaning out of it. And more times than not that meaning is not a positive meaning just by the way that our brain works and our experiences.
RH:And I think as well, we won't delve too deep into this sort of thing, but when we look at things like mental maps as well where how people have got to where they are today, their experiences have created that map in their mind, and their siblings although, they might have had very similar childhoods, could potentially have an entirely different mental image, or mental map of how they've got to where they are today. And there's an assumption that because they've had similar upbringings, that they will have similar views on the world or similar character traits. And it's very often not the case at all.
NM:In my experience, that is very rarely the case. You'll see some trend and pattern in data, and that's actually where families get caught up with each other. So, for example, some families have high urgency, so they're all running in the same direction quickly, not always, with the best behavior. And there'll be one person who isn't, who's the rudder of the family. But instead of being the rudder of the family, instead of it being interpreted as judicious decision-making, what they'll talk about is as him being the wet rag, the person who stops the momentum. But for most cases you actually don't see full sail profiles being the same. We actually do all have a unique experience that shows up in our data.
RH:Yeah. And that can be the potential for conflict or challenges at that point if there's just an assumption, of course, I think the same way as I will because we're from the same family, we have the same values.
RH:So, that's Myers-Briggs. You've mentioned also the Chally test, am I saying that right?
RH:What fascinates me about this one is it's a predictive assessment, so it predicts a strengths and weaknesses. How does it do that?
NM: With psychometrics. I'm not a psychometrician, but it was originally created by actuarial data. I believe in the '60s or '70s is one of the earliest assessments to help create the police force actually, to understand who would be a good police officer. It's changed since then. A lot of times they talk about they do sales data, but what they have is a large profile base now of executives in different descriptions where they map you against that. There are several different reports you can get through the Chally. One is the motivators analysis profile, and this is really motivators, and these are categories of whether you have influenced motivators, task motivators, or relationship motivators.
And that's if you're de-motivated or motivated by things, and whether it's situational or not. And that's really helpful for understanding culture fit, and long-term fit. There's also a report that they have called the Predictive Strengths Index, and that's really 10 things that you blow the top off when you wake up in the morning, just being yourself, you're amazing at these things. So, when you talk about, going to people's strengths, we have the map there. And then they have certain different valid profiles for being executives, for being owners, and you name that profile.
And they really help you or your vendor who does that work can help you find the right profile for the actual job that you're doing. They can even help come up with interview questions, and things like that to show you based on other profiles like this, and the data set that they have, what will show up. And that's the other one that I mentioned that early on, and I said, something's just won't be your strength. And that's okay. Just knowing the workarounds and the watch outs.
RH:And you touched on it again in that section with the importance of motivation is something we mentioned at the outset as well, it is, for example, you have a strong motivation to become a leader, or to help develop, or grow the business, that can stand you in very good stead even in the absence of some other core skills that can be taught and learned, is having the motivation to take those on, that's the important element.
NM:Absolutely. I think it's the motivation that's important. And as from emotional intelligence research, they talk about self-awareness, self-management, relationship awareness, empathy, motivation. And motivation is the biggest thing for making change, and that includes a neuroplastic change, that means real change. So, if you have, let's say there are five core strengths to be an executive in this team, and you have four of them middling or great, but that motivation is really going to help you to close the gap on some of the others.
RH: Yeah. And you kindly sent over some notes prior to the chat we're having now around each of these assessments, which is why I could read out the FIRO B full name. That's not from memory at all. But under the chat you've mentioned that the assessment is invaluable to succession planning challenges for any family business. In what way is there such a strength of this assessment?
NM:Well, it's a predictive assessment. And so, why it's predictive is that it shows that runway. And those motivators are really helpful because those motivators speak to fit in culture. And I think family businesses more than any other industry ... Yes, all industries have culture, but there's a family culture that really perpetuates these businesses going forward. And knowing what will be helpful there, one, who can do the job, and two, who can be successful in that culture. I can't tell you how many times I've run this assessment, and it looked like a candidate might not stay long, or it might not make them happy.
NM: And it did happen that they went somewhere else, and that's okay. You want the right people in the position for them. That's exactly what these people should be doing. So, I would say I use this in most cases around selection, and family businesses.
RH: Do you have any stories or examples where perhaps the results of the assessment are counter to what the family had perhaps expected?
NM:Well, in my experience, a lot of these families hadn't really thought of assessment. So, what they had had was some idea, but I run into parents that say their children aren't ready, and they mean that wholesale. You have four kids and you think all four are not ready. You have an inkling that one or two might be more ready than the other, but they're not even at that process. So, I think sometimes my clients are just in agreement of one thing and that is that their family is not ready.
What I've seen this assessment do is actually talk to those children because I think a lot of ... And I say children loosely, sometimes they're in their 50s, they're just the adult children of the family, really want to go to the asset, the asset of our family because we call family businesses it's where the time is, it's where the money is, and it has its own gravitational pull. So, what I've seen this assessment do is when you do a debrief with one of these young people, at first, they're still saying, ":Yes, I do want to be in the family business." But the more they get to know their data, they feel the freedom to make a different choice.
And that choice might not be as successor. It's probably still involved in the asset, but it's not actually as the successor. So, what I've seen this do is diffuse conflict. You have four kids, and all four say, "I want to be the successor." And by the time the data's done, and the work around this is, and trust with families increases, you often have one person self-selecting to do this, and it is someone that is capable and competent. And so, that's been really helpful. I can't say I've ever had a parent really look at the data and say, "No, not at all."
Often what I hear from clients with this assessment specifically is that, "We must have a crystal ball somewhere in the background because it's highly valid." And sometimes this one with like the NBTI or the DiSC, people say, "Yeah, it's valid. And I knew most of that, and I learned some new information with this." People sit back and they say, "Huh, if I really think about this, I actually see that." And sometimes they'll even say, "I don't see this yet." But then, a month later they email me, and they say, "You know what? That thing I was fighting you about it showed up in this way."
RH:Yeah. And you can't tell, I guess, whether that is a direct result of the assessment or whether it's the awareness of what was in the assessment, if that makes sense. So, it may have shown up anyway, but the fact that it's been highlighted in the assessment means people are more likely to notice it.
RH:And similarly, do you come across examples where ... So, you go through this process using whichever assessment is right for that family. And the outcome of that is that actually there isn't anybody in the next generation who is suitable for the succession or the next leadership role.
NM:That happens, and a lot for me, it's timing. A lot of the time, the next generation is very young, and they also might be transitioning into what they're doing. A lot of families now are having a succession where their legacy is entrepreneurship. It's not just this anchor family business anymore. And in that case there's a lot of flexibility to find out what each young person wants to do as an entrepreneur. But sometimes we can still use these assessments to help create effective governance structures. I'm seeing more and more that you have larger family companies that have a lot of professional outside management.
And that'll work in the future if no one's interested, at least in this generation, or they've aged out, where they're ready to retire now. So, we help find using these same assessments the right fit for the non-family executive, and then formulate fiduciary boards of advisors that have the right skillset, and the right family members on this as well as a mix of outside executives to be the oversight so that the family's influence is still a part of that family entity.
RH:And I guess, again, I come back to this point a couple of times now, but using that kind of data, and those kinds of assessments can really help diffuse some of the potential tensions that might exist within the family in that if they don't know that. So, if they're in a position where maybe the next generation are, I don't know, five, 10 years away from being in a position to fully take on that leadership, but that doesn't tie in with that succession plan timetable, bringing in somebody in the interim could potentially remove any of that frustration, and perhaps avoid future conflict.
NM: Yeah, I think it really helps normalize the experience. It makes perfect sense that you are not going to be the executive at 25 yet. We're going to find out who can do that, and then we make it about this job, and not the person. We really find the right job description, help match that to the family. Like I said, you set up the interviews, and then you put a person in that role, so it's not about that person. It's not like mom or dad picked Joe who's been working by their side for the last 30 years because he's a great guy.
We have scoped out a job description that's rational. It's predictable. There's a process for that, and we've put the absolute best person we could find in that position. That's what our family has a tradition of doing, finding the absolute best qualified manager for these positions to help steward the asset that we're all beneficiaries of as owners or as a family council, et cetera.
RH:Yeah. And we had an example of this on a previous show, we spoke to a chap called Mark Bergman, who had bought in a ... I can't remember the exact title, I think a president of the business who his son actually then reported into, because it was felt at the time that the son wasn't ready to take on that position. And it was something that has really helped their business to thrive in the interim years between Mark's now looking to step out, and his son will be able to step into the business. But in the interim period, there was no other real feasible solution than to bring somebody in externally to help fill that gap.
NM:Yeah. And the great thing about the assessments, and the creation of a process is it's not personal. And then when you create this process multi-generationally or intergenerationally, everyone wants the best person. You understand what the asset's doing, you understand what the rules are. And so again, it's not something being done to the next generation. It's something everyone's doing together as a family.
RH: I think that's really important to highlight as well. So, that's three we've spoken about. So there's also the Caliper Profile, which is a personality assessment. Again, you mentioned earlier about people not wanting to fail. This is probably the one you don't want to fail the most is a personality test, and it comes back blank, or just a big question mark. It's a bit demoralizing.
NM:Yeah. So, the Caliper Profile really just describes who you are on a bunch of different metrics. And so, when I gave the example of the high urgency family, urgency is one of those facets that's there. And it just describes how you show up. I think of this as a motherboard. And so, it's possible you won't see all of these all the time, but those days that you're sick or stressed, those things will show up. So, for example, my clients, I'll always pick on myself, might not tell you that I'm a high urgency person. They would say I'm very kind, and calm, and patient, and I talk about the process. But on those days when I'm not well, my urgency shows up, and I want things done. And it's not to say that those are bad things, but most of us in our adult lives have adjusted some amount to do what's expected of us.
So, the Caliper Profile says this is how ideally, no stress, no strings attached, we would operate. And it's really helpful for family members because we see each other's best and worst. And it's really helpful in family business working environments, because being in business can be stressful. So, these behaviors that someone might say is uncharacteristic, so then, someone might say, "That's so weird that Natalie is pushing me today because she's usually so calm." Well, that is how I show up.
It doesn't mean I can't be coached to that, and mitigate to that. But that again, makes it not personal. It means that, Natalie is not having a meltdown, Natalie shows up this way. And so, that's really useful for families like this because under stress we will show up in these ways.
RH: Yeah. And I guess, with you as a practitioner as well, understanding your own character traits helps you in those situations. Like you were just saying about you can be coached around some of the urgency side of things that come out on this particular test. So, is this something you think would be useful or beneficial to anyone irrespective of ... I mean, we have listeners who are in family businesses, but we also have listeners who are in advising family businesses. And would it be something you would always suggest they undertake themselves even if they're not looking at perhaps a succession issue, or aren't working in a family business at all?
NM:Absolutely. I mean, doing self-work, especially, as a practitioners who helps families, because it's an emotional system, we can get triangulated into that system. We can have transference happen. We can get triggered because we're all from families, right? There's no one who hasn't come from a family. And I say that as an advisor this has helped me immensely. It has helped me be a better advisor. And I believe in it because I've done this work, I've seen the power of this work, and it makes it more compelling for my clients. And it's just easier, I mean, you can't go online nowadays, this is not exactly the same.
But not hearing about emotional intelligence, to not hear about conversational intelligence these ways we're genuinely, and generally impacting each other, neurobiologically, on a daily basis. And so, to not take the chance at this, especially, at this point in life where we see the data, and we understand the science behind it to do tangible work on ourselves, we're really doing a disservice to our clients if we haven't done that personal work.
RH: I agree. And that was one of the things, you mentioned the chat I had with Steve Laker around the Bowen family systems theory. And I came off of the call with him, and immediately got on the phone to my parents, and said, "Right, I'm coming around. I need to talk to you about some stuff. I need to delve back into the family history." And it was very useful. It was a very useful exercise. So working on yourself and understanding your motivations like you're saying when you're advising family businesses, it's not being triggered by, or recognizing when you might be triggered by events that could be happening that have also happened in your life. And it's important to be aware of those.
NM: Yeah. And families, they play games, and we all do. And some of those games are scapegoating, or triangulating, or drama triangles, or maybe ... And I don't mean this in a mal-intent way, but manipulating. We change the story to our favor. And if there's that data, this assessment data, we can catch some of that gaming. But if we're doing our own work, we can catch ourselves being gamed. So, it's really, really helpful to have objectivity. And part of our own objectivities are not being activated. So, if we don't have data that's objective, and we can't keep ourselves objective, I'm not sure the client then gets objectivity.
RH:Yeah. I agree. And you've mentioned about the awareness of emotional intelligence and how much more noise, I guess, there is around emotional intelligence as something that we can potentially measure and assess. And there's an assessment it's called the EQ In Action Profile, which looks at neurophysiology theory, and research, and tries to tap into that emotional intelligence aspect, which is something I think I'm quite looking forward to the continued development of emotional intelligence, and the research in that field.
NM:Yeah. And this isn't what I always start with, I like to have it as information, but one of the things we looked for, and why I use this emotional intelligence assessment, specifically, is emotional intelligence is really rooted in attachment theory. And when you think of adult developmental attachment starts in the years zero to four, so like four and zero when you're born. And what we do in those ages when we're pre-verbal is we make sense of the world. But think about that, we're making sense of the world when we don't even have language to make sense of the world, when we're probably not even understanding language.
And that carries with us to we're adults, until today. And so, this emotional intelligence assessment really asks if that's working. There are some behaviors that we have in relation to emotions that we set up when we were four, when we weren't quite capable of being safe, and taking care of ourselves. You probably heard about psychological safety. Safety is a big motivator. It's also why emotional reactivity happens. We try to make ourselves safe. So, the Learning In Action, it's called the Emotional Intelligence In Action Profile. And it's one of the reports that I really like, and it's an assessment not a test.
But why I love it is you get videos, they're actually uncomfortable to watch. I felt they were uncomfortable. They're videos of someone very close space to you talking to you as though you fired them or you gossiped about them, or you name the different vignettes, and it asks you your internal experience of this. So, rather than a sheet that's a self-report, how you probably would respond in these situations, it's supposed to be activating your mirror neurons. There are lots of them, but they're about over 100 around just your eyes when you're watching the other people's eyes to say, "This is how you behave under stress."
So, it's your own self-reflection, your own self-regulation, and it talks about that empathy as well. And so, I think of emotional intelligence as what's under the hood. So, for example, again, I'll pick on myself. My empathy accuracy is very low. I've probably worked on it years now since I started, but my empathy compassion is very high. So, thinking back to my sister, again, of course, I want to get coffee with my sister. Of course, I want to be on your podcast, Russ. I really care about people, I'm all about the doing. But then my sister stops asking me after a while, and I don't quite understand why. My empathy accuracy was lower.
So, what was under the hood for me when I had trouble connecting with people or following through on some of the actions is I actually didn't understand it. So, imagine trying to make change when you don't understand the behaviors you're seeing. So, that's how I think of the emotional intelligence assessment. I can talk to you behaviorally about thinking about authoritative parents, right? We know there are entrepreneurial profiles of entrepreneurs that look a certain way, act a certain way, and a lot of people would say they're authoritative, they're brash, they're this, that, and the other, but that has worked for them. And there's probably a reason they've been doing that.
So, if you can address what that reason is, it makes it a whole heck of a lot easier to change instead of keep saying ... And we don't say this, but I'm going to make it really reductivist, "Bad behavior, bad entrepreneurial owner, stopped doing that." But why is he or she doing it? And this gets to that.
RH:Yeah, I mean, it sounds incredible. I'm intrigued myself on that side it's particular, in terms of watching the video, as you mentioned that can be quite an experience I'm sure. We can't talk about family business, and not mention the potential for conflict. And one of the assessments you've listed it's called the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, which is, again, quite a mouthful. But it helps as an assessment to understand how conflict handling styles can affect groups, and individuals. Perhaps you could just help us understand how or why that would be useful.
NM:Absolutely. And this is one I always encourage families to do, especially, sibling groups or team groups. Because yes, it says the word conflict, and conflict exists. But what I think of it too, is a decision-making instrument. A lot of people really fear conflict. We say, "Well, we don't fight." And I always wonder what they do instead of fighting. Not that I'm saying you should fight, but those third alternatives that I was talking about where you have G1 maybe and G2 being diametrically opposed, what can come out of that is this wonderful third thing that if everyone agreed you wouldn't see.
So, the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Instrument is really helpful in that it talks about different styles of conflicting, and we all use them at different times. So, it's not that, my one sibling uses one, and I use the other, it's how much we use them, and around what. And it's on a scale of assertiveness, how assertive, or not assertive we are around conflict, and cooperative. How cooperative, or not cooperative we are. So, I'll just list the styles. And you've probably heard of many of them. And you probably have feelings, or thoughts about what each one is, but they're quite instructed.
So, for example, competing is a conflict style. And you might think that's the person who always wins. Sure, maybe, but that's at least the person who's going to keep talking about their opinion on it. So, you can have a discussion about what's going on before it gets pushed under the rug, or you will address it so that it doesn't get dropped. So, there's a pro and con to each one of these styles. And I really think of it as whether it's use or overuse. And then there's collaborating. This one takes the most time because that's coming together to create something new, making sure everyone's had a voice.
But it's not compromising because compromising is often a lose even though people say it's win-win, you're giving something up. Collaborating is more a win, win, win. That's that third alternative. You create something new, so, no one's put in there. But it does, it takes the most time. And it's not something that's easy to do without high trust. So yes, we often say in families, "We should collaborate to make decisions." If it's attainable. So, when I think of this conflict model, I think of it as a decision-making model. And then there's compromising, and that is I give up something, you give up something, and we've at least all heard each other, right?
We've had a voice but we're not moving forward. And again, that makes a lot of sense. In families that often can become when we take a vote, although, ideally we're not voting about things that sends probably not the message for what's going to continue. And that's right in the middle of being cooperative and assertive. And then there's avoiding, that's the families who say we don't fight, right? Because it just doesn't come up. We don't have a difference of opinions very long. And that's really good for some reasons too. So, think about, so, let's say my sister and I are fighting over the fact that I blew her off for coffee, or I didn't set up a time to go for coffee.
I don't actually blow her off. I just never follow-up. But we have the US Thanksgiving coming up, and we're going to be there for our family. It makes a whole heck of a lot of sense that my sister maybe doesn't confront me at Thanksgiving about this, so, that the greater of my family can have an enjoyable time. It doesn't mean we won't get back to it, but so there is a use for avoiding. And then there's accommodating, which is I'll do what you would like because it's easier for me to just let you have it. And again, there's a use for that because sometimes you don't have a strong opinion about this, but if you were always accommodating, you guys aren't really going to come to a new position where some people might feel resentful.
So, yes, it's called a conflict model, and yes, this is how conflict happens. But I think of it as a decision-making model, because decisions often won't get made without spending some time in one or all five of these. And it's helpful to know that we might have a different way of being around these things. So, for example, I'm a high collaborator. And that's fun for you and I, Russ, to do this podcast. It's not fun for everyone I've ever worked with, and my families because they're like, "Can you just tell me what to do?" So, it's really just understanding our way of behavior, and what we have at our disposal.
Because sometimes there is a point where it should just be competing. We just need to expeditiously make this decision, and it's not meaningful because if they're useful, then we can use them. It's just understanding it first.
RH:Brilliant. And one of the things you've mentioned a couple of times throughout the chat today, has been having a mentor or the role of a mentor. And in terms of if somebody has gone through one or more of these assessments, and has spotted areas of which they can now understand and perhaps adapt their behavior as a result of, do you think is important to have a mentor to help with that? Is it something that can be self-governed, or is it something that needs to be continually assessed?
NM:What I would say when you first do assessments like this, to make them actionable, to keep referencing back to them, to make them living. I'd encourage a coach, that's your accountability partner. That's the person who can help you do this for yourself. There are great roles for mentors, and I think there should be in family business. And they would probably be the next step. But mentors help to show their own personal knowledge, and their own way of being, and their own success with this. And there's a wonderful place for that. But I think at first on this journey of self-awareness, and working on your own scores, it needs to be your work.
And coaches are very helpful at keeping those boundaries, and making that your work, not getting in your back, and trying to make it about them. And mentors don't make it about them either, but they have been successful, and part of their job is to share that success with you. I think you could do both. I am a big fan of having more resources than not. So, having a mentor and having a coach. But I'd definitely say if nothing else, start with a coach.
RH: Start with a coach. Brilliant. And the final assessment we're going to briefly chat about is the Energy Leadership Index. And I would just point now, in the show notes I will put in links to these assessments, but I think it's also worth pointing out that you might not necessarily be able to go straight on, and do some of these. There are some of them you need to pay for, I think, and some of them need to be done through a qualified facilitator. But if we can link those up in the show notes, we will certainly do so. But this one is the Energy Leadership Index, and it provides insights into how you show up in various aspects of your life. What do you mean by that?
NM:So, in this they talk about awareness. And so, this energy leadership model, it's about attitudes. And they talk about seven attitudes of how you show up. And either way it's energy, but there's depleting or edifying energy. And so, a couple of the levels are more depleting energy, and that sometimes where we have an orientation that things are happening to us versus that we can do other things. And so, for example, one of the levels is an energy level four, and that's a helping lens. And that can be really additive, and edifying. But if I'm trying to help you so much that I crossed my boundaries, it can have a negative impact on me. So, the great thing about this assessment is it shows how you show up on the day-to-day. So, your best self, your great day, how you show up, and then it shows your stress response.
And most of us under stress dip into those lower energy levels that really deplete us, which makes sense but think about when you're already under stress, you're already taxed, and then you dip into these lower levels of energy when you have access to higher levels of energy. So, again, it's really being cognizant, and being aware, and trying to spend more time in those areas that really enhance how you're thinking about things. And take the information that's needed from those areas. So, if you're in an area where you feel like something's being done to you level one, what is going on there that either can change with the situation, or change how you view that situation?
Because sometimes that's just information. Maybe you need to not be in this job, or in this relationship if you're constantly feeling that things are being done to you, and you feel like you might have a victim mentality to it. But this is about attitudes versus behaviors, although, it can show up behaviorally. So, when you do a debrief like this, when you talk to people about it, they actually say, "Yeah, and I do X, Y, and Z." But attitudes aren't always displayed in behavior.
RH:Right. And so, we discussed seven different assessments, and as you mentioned, there are others that are out there. And we're not suggesting in this episode everybody go into every single possible assessment out there to understand what it is that's making them tick, but is there a process that you go through? Is it dependent on each individual family, or each individual family member, the stage they're in the business cycle? What helps you to decide which assessments would be useful at each stage?
NM:Again, it depends on what the family, or the individual is doing. If you say to me you're looking for leadership, and you're having some challenges at work, I'll probably go to the caliper, and the Chally pretty quickly. And probably the NBTI to show up how you're showing up at work. If you're telling me you want to create a sibling team that hasn't been high functioning, that FIRO B is going to be really important, so is that Thomas-Kilmann, and the Myers-Briggs, or the DiSC, because again, it's those behaviors. And then if I'm going to do some long-term work with you, and coach you on making some changes, I'm going to want to do the EQ, and the ELI.
And why I would want to do those with you is what's under the hood is the EQ, and the ELI is your attitudes. And your attitudes are shaping those behaviors. So, really getting at the source versus the symptoms are helpful. There's no one size fits all. And like I said, these are just the ones I'm certified in. But I could give you a list just as long for other complimentary assessments, but it's all about what you're doing. And I think assessments and coaching help people make actionable change. And so, if you're looking to raise your awareness to try to make some actionable change, it's a great place to start.
RH:And if somebody is listening to this, and say they're the next generation, and they're frustrated with mom or dad in the business. And they've listened to the show and they've gone, "I think that might be displaying that character trait." It's important to point out as well that these tests shouldn't be used to try and highlight issues for other people. As a family is collectively, it's coming up with, as you say, some data and some reasoning behind why certain things might be happening rather than to point the finger at mom or dad and go, "See, I told you it was you. The test shows us that it's you." Because it's a combination of relationships, isn't it?
NM:Absolutely, Russ. And that's why when I talked about it at the beginning, we do an individual debrief with everyone. And we get permission to share it with the group. And sometimes we don't do that for a while because we realized that trust isn't there. You don't want to weaponize assessments. I've kind of made lighthearted about something between my sister and I that someone else may say is not that big of a deal, but it was meaningful in our relationship for a while. And assessments are to raise our awareness. And because there's no failing of assessments, there's no 100%s either.
So, let your family members off the hook. They really aren't trying to make you miserable. I said that once recently, and I had a couple of people in the room say, "Well, you haven't met my family yet." But what I do know about doing this work in families for so long is it's good intentions. And everyone who says that cliché about the road paved with good intentions, but the problem is there's often not a road. There's not a pathway for what's happening next. So, all you're getting is behaviors, and what looks like random chaos. Trust me, your parents, or your uncles, or your siblings aren't creating chaos for you.
You just haven't created a pathway, so, everything feels like a ping pong ball. And so, in creating this pathway, you then get to decide, and design whether that's acceptable behavior or not. And so, for my sister and I, it is not acceptable behavior for me to say, "Yes, I will do that, and not follow-up." So, I would say let everyone off the hook. That doesn't mean that you can't be upset by behavior but your parents, your uncles, whoever that previous generation are, have been enormously successful.
And it has worked for them. The question is in their transition, which might be in raising the next generation, yeah, are those same behaviors successful? And they probably aren't. We only know what we know. There are things that you also aren't doing that haven't made you successful, and you just don't know it yet.
RH:Yeah, absolutely. And I think that's the useful element of the assessments is that they can as we've mentioned throughout help to diffuse things rather than to point the finger, and blame an individual. Which is always quite useful when dealing with families is to try and diffuse the situation rather than necessarily say, "It's all your fault." So, obviously those are the assessments that you are qualified, and able to work with. And you may already have answered this, in fact, I think you have, but if somebody is looking at it thinking, "Well, we need to understand why we're doing the things we're doing."
RH:What would be their starting point? Is there a particular assessment that you think that's their starting point? Or would you say engage with a trained professional who can then help you make those decisions rather than go out, and get an assessment, and think you know what the answers are?
NM:I would engage with a trained professional. So, a lot of the assessments I mentioned, there are many more I've tested over the years, and it's not that they weren't valid, or good assessments, they just didn't complement each other as well for family owned businesses, for succession, for creating governance bodies. So, one, as you mentioned earlier, some of these, if you go to a link, you can't take on your own. A few of them you can. But two, you're not doing assessments in a vacuum. And if you are, they're not going to do much for you. So, find your family business consultant, or a coach because coaches often work with organizations who have some assessments, and ask them about how they use the assessments, why, and what will be helpful for the family.
And not every family business advisor uses assessments. And I don't think you have to, you can get to some of the same work because you're really trying to get what's underneath the behaviors. So, some of this you can do by experiential learning, by workshops together. For me, I find assessments really fast, and they're also easy when you said diffuse situations, Russ, if there's a lot of tension, if there isn't a lot of trust, you can just put some of this stuff on the paper, and start addressing it directly today.
RH:Yeah. Brilliant. And again, this isn't questioning the validity of them, but you can't cheat your way through these assessments, or if you do, it's like golf, you're only cheating yourself.
NM:Correct. These are all supposed to be highly valid and accurate. And to my knowledge, you can't cheat your way through but also why would you? At the end of the day, the only person who gets cheated is you. None of these, because it is just one data point, even if you took every assessment I mentioned today, and didn't mention today, there is no magic successor button, if that's the goal. It's about fit. It's about a lot of other things. As valid as data is, you don't want to give data too much credence either. So, it's really about yourself.
RH:Yeah, absolutely. And just to close the episode off in terms of a couple of quick fire questions, if you can offer family businesses a single tip, what would it be?
NM:Stick with the facts, and try not to make meaning because there's going to be a long road of undoing the meaning you've made. If you have a question, just ask.
RH:Fantastic. And how can our audience find out more about you?
NM:I'm on LinkedIn. It's Natalie McVeigh. And then I'm on Twitter as well. NM_10. And then if you're ever taking Gen 501 for the FFI, I might be your faculty.
RH:I believe I might be.
RH:I think I've seen in my calendar, obviously, you're facilitating my 501. So, I look forward to speaking to you again then.
NM:Excellent, now, we can collaborate more.
RH:Yeah, absolutely. Again, thank you very much for your time. It's been a fascinating insight into some of the assessments that are out there, and not only that, a fascinating insight into assessments in general, and the potential uses of those for both practitioners and for families. So, thank you for your time, and we'll speak again soon.
NM:Thank you, Russ.
RH: That's it for this week. We hope you enjoyed the show. If you'd like to leave us a review, please feel free to do so on iTunes. If you want to get in touch, you can find out more information at www.fambizpodcast.com. We'll see you again soon.
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