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Part 2: The Value of Assessments for Your Organization

Dec 2, 2020

We all have difference experiences, beliefs and behaviors which, when we come together, can bring a diversity of resources, but can also be challenging. Assessments can help us to understand our differences and synergies and how to describe them neutrally and utilize them powerfully, as a group. This can support us in creating alignment in our teams and hiring to fill the talent gaps we see. Join Tim Schuster, Matt Kerzner and Natalie McVeigh from our Center for Individual and Organizational Performance as they discuss the value of assessments.


Tim Schuster: Welcome to our podcast for Generations in Family Business: Past, Present, and Future. Our hosts for this podcast are myself, Tim Schuster, and I'm a senior manager in the center for individual and organizational performance. And along with me as always...
Matt Kerzner: Hey Tim, it's Matt Kerzner, and I'm the director of CIOP.
Tim Schuster: Matt, welcome aboard. And we also have a special guest with us today.
Natalie McVeigh: Hi, I'm Natalie McVeigh, director in CIOP and the head of our professional assessments practice.

TS: Natalie, glad for you to join us today. And actually that's going to be the topic of our conversation, assessments for organizations. So Matt, why don't you kick it off? I know you have a couple of questions for Natalie.
MK: Yes, thank you. And Natalie, welcome back to the show. We spoke about the use for assessment in a personal level. How are assessments used in organizations?
NM: Thanks for that question, Matt. I'm glad to be back. The two of you are always a great time. Assessments for the professional level can be quite different. Obviously we love to do high potential assessments, really taking note of those skills and strengths and turning them into something automatic that you don't even think about. Then there's also the performance improvement or remedial development assessments, where you have someone who's really having challenges, and we want to find a place in which they excel.

In my experience, you don't have people in organizations doing poorly because they want to do poorly. They're either in the wrong position or there's another way that we can access their ability. So we can sometimes do assessments during a performance improvement plan, where there are strict metrics where they show up better. Then we have the development, the capacity building to create bench strength, to create runway for the organization, to increase capacity.

Or right now during COVID, we've been doing assessments to say who is flexible, who is agile? Because if we're right-sizing, and people are going to wear a bunch of different hats and everyone has to be, for lack of a better phrase, a Swiss army knife, how do we find out the right people who can do that? Because the workforce of the future won't look the same as it did in the past.
TS: That's great. Let's talk further about executive selection. What do assessments lead to that process?
NM: Assessments are really important in executive selection, and part of that is executives in privately held companies, which is much of the work that we do in CIOP, whether they're family owned or there's a partnership, culture is king. You've all heard the phrase that culture eats strategy for breakfast. The person who wrote that article started working with private companies, and there's another even up the ante statement after that. But culture match is incredibly important. And we're asking people to interface with the family and the other entities that the private companies may hold very specifically.

So when you start talking about executive selection, it also becomes very contentious at times, especially when you're thinking there are two or three siblings you're choosing between. So we want to create a process for selection that is rational, and one of the ways we can objectively say, "Who has the capacity? Who has the runway?" are assessments. And even if the answer is not right now. We know it takes 24 years to make a CEO based on CEO research. So you can do the assessment process 10 years in, and the answer could be not right now, but you've got Johnny, Janie, and Stevie, and it looks like Janie may have some of the capacity. It doesn't mean that Johnny and Stevie are out. The question is how do we create a pathway for them based on their skillsets to get where we're asking them to be?

And it's objective. It's not a family member. It's not someone in the company. It allows to be that data point that says, "Here we go," and we can match these to your organizational competencies. I'm sure Matt has talked about in the roadmap the competencies that the organizational designs. We can create an assessment specifically tailored to that.
MK: So important. So important, Natalie. You're so right. So I have a question regarding team dynamics and culture, right? So as far as the team dynamics and culture go, which are the most important and often least tangible in organizations? Are assessments able to make these more effective?
NM: Yeah. So team dynamics are the undercurrent. How I describe culture is it's the ocean that you're in. It's the air we breathe that's around us and we don't actually know it's happening. What assessments can do is they often surface those things that are underneath the water so we can talk about them really objectively.

I'll use an example. The DISC assessment is really useful. You find lots of executives. They're dominant. That's what the D stands for. They're drivers. They're driven. They can be dogmatic. There are a lot of adjectives that can describe them. There are also some unkind words that start with a D that maybe can describe them that when you're not having the best day, you may want to say about them. But you have this neutral language to say, "Tim, you're driving is really challenging me, because I appreciate thinking things a little more thoroughly. It's steadiness for me, and this feels risky." So it allows people to name and create a common language for talking about some of these things that are happening in the organization, and it allows people to express certain expectations.

There's a great assessment we haven't talked about called the Fundamental Interpersonal Relationship Orientation, which I often do with executive teams, where it talks about our wants and what we express. There's often a distinction between those things that we make meaning of. 90% of expectations in organizations go uncommunicated. So when we pull that FIRO-B out, we're able to say, "What are the needs that people have objectively and how are we not meeting them? And when we're not meeting them, how is that inadvertently building in resentment? And how do we start asking for what we need assertively?"
TS: That's great, Natalie. So for family businesses specifically, why and/or how are assessments important? Let's kind of talk that through with our listeners.
NM: That's a great question. And they may not be. I mean, you might know yourselves like the back of your hand. Now, research says that, in fact, in families, that's our bias. We believe that we know each other very well. There's also a bias in listening. It's called the closeness communication bias, where we love our families so much, we give them the best favor in the world. We stop listening to them, because we think we know exactly what's going to come out of their mouth. And this has been research. It's true. And in fact, men after the age of 40 become deaf to female tones. So when you tell your wife later, Matt, that you can't hear her, it's true.
MK: Yep, yep. Can you back me up on that, please?
NM: Absolutely. I'll write you a letter.
MK: Thank you.
NM: But in families, we believe that we know what's going to happen. We believe we know the talents everyone has, because we grew up with them and we have these amazing outside executives, like our COO or a CFO or you name all the Os and the Cs that show up there, that might be working this organization with us might have seen Stevie, Janie, and Johnny since they were 10. And they can't help but have those imprints about how they were at 10, maybe the trouble they got in as a teenager. And they haven't been collecting enough data to objectively say, "These are the competent adults I've seen."

I've seen these assessments really transform executive teams to help make room for the next generation. I've also seen it in succession, specifically, show the parent founder, man or woman, father or mother who thinks, "My kids aren't ready," realize that not only are the kids ready, there's this amazing complementary skillset that works a lot better than having a mini replica there.

So it unlocked some really interesting, important conversations in the way we administer these kinds of assessments with families, as we create a composite. And before we show the composite to the team, we explain the assessment and we have them analyze a different team's data. And so they get to learn about it objectively and they can say, "What are the strengths? What are the opportunities? What are the aspirations that this fictitious family can do before they start looking at their own data?" And it just unlocked something incredibly powerful, because most of our clients are amazing at what they do, and we really respect them.
MK: That's great. And this leads into one of the functions or tools that we use in center. We do a lot of strategic planning, right? Natalie, you and I and others within the center work with our clients. We help them with their one, three-year, five-year plan. I refer to it as the strategic roadmap. And we look at the mission vision values, how to grow a business, what is the operation efficiency, and people developing, right? How to grow a team, how to look for the bench of succession planning, and everything that you just talked about regarding family.

Could you talk a little bit about how we would introduce assessments within an organization as part of their strategic planning? And I always get the question, I know you do, "Which assessment is right for the company and the employees and the leadership team?" Would love to hear your perspective on this.
NM: Yeah. And I think, Matt, this really helps make a SWOT tangible, which is something I know you do in the strategic roadmap, where we're saying, "What are our strengths objectively?" And every strength has a shadow side. So I may be a person who does ideation, where I just love ideas. I'm so in love with them, and I have so many of them, and I have a hard time making them a reality. So not only do we talk about our strengths, but we then get to talk about our limitations and how we can build in supports for one another around those things to be much more effective in the future. And that's really a great place for this to show up.
TS: That's awesome. Hey, Natalie, Matt, thank you so much for being with us today on this podcast. And thank you for listening to generations and family business, past, present, and future as part of the EisnerAmper podcast series. If you have any questions or there's a topic you'd like us to cover, email us at Visit for more information on this and a host of other topics. We look forward to having you listen in in our next EisnerAmper podcast.

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