By Rachel King
As the New Year begins, many of us have made resolutions for 2017: Lose weight, get in shape. We all know the best way to do this is to eat sensibly and spend time working out, but every year it seems that some new diet or exercise fad surfaces promising miraculous results without doing any of the hard work. And every year, the latest miracle diet pill inevitably fails and people start seeing it for what it is, another fad.
This reminds me of what is going on in the leadership testing space. It’s getting easier to find shorter and shorter tests that promise to help you find and promote the best leaders with a minimal time commitment. But like a miracle diet pill, these extremely short tests often aren’t effective, and can have dangerous side effects. When considering a new leadership test, there are some things you should keep in mind to help you meet your leadership resolution.
Warning: Results may vary – Have you ever seen an ad for a diet or a workout and noticed the small print in the bottom of the screen stating that “results may vary” or “results not typical”? This type of inconsistency can be a problem in leadership testing results as well. In the measurement community we refer to the consistency of a test as its reliability. A reliable test will give you consistent results. Often, tests that are very short, and claim to measure too many things, don’t provide enough opportunities to measure the ability or disposition in question, and the end result can be an unpredictable, unreliable test.
Works great* (*when combined with an hour of exercise every day) – Another common disclaimer in the diet industry is a small note mentioning that you should also combine the diet with exercise. Without including the intended exercise component, your miracle diet pill isn’t going to work very well. Sometimes shorter tests that are used by themselves were actually designed to be used as part of a testing system. For example, a short test of a few key personality traits, combined with a short test looking at behavioral evidence, and a test of judgment can be an effective way to triangulate someone’s leadership ability, but it takes time to measure all of these things. Just measuring one small piece of leadership can be enticing because it can be done quickly, but it won’t be as effective as measuring leadership ability more holistically.
“These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.” – It’s easy to find a wide variety of miracle diet pills that promise fantastic, immediate results that contain a tiny disclaimer right below the larger than life promises. They promise a lot things, but these statements often aren’t valid, and aren’t backed by any sort of scientific research. Validity is one of the most important aspects of a leadership test. A valid leadership test is one that will help you determine which candidate is the best fit for a job opening, or who should be in your high potential pool. A short test can promise you the moon, but unless there is strong validity evidence to back up these fantastic claims, you should be skeptical about any claims made around the usefulness of a five minute leadership test.
“Consult your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise routine.” – This warning is easy to ignore. It’s easy to want to kick start your resolution and skip asking your doctor before you begin your new workout routine or start your new diet, but this can cause trouble down the road. Certain health conditions don’t mix well with all diets and exercise routines, and a diet pill could interact with prescription medication. Implementing a new leadership test is a lot like starting a new diet or exercise in that you need a checkup before you begin. Although instead of a physical, a new leadership test requires a job analysis. A job analysis is a process that is used to determine which knowledge, skills, abilities, and other attributes are needed to perform a given leadership job. This information allows you to select a leadership test that is the best match for the job(s) in question and helps to prevent a variety of long term problems that can arise from selecting an inappropriate leadership test.
So what can you do to keep your Leadership Resolution? When selecting a leadership test to help you meet your goals in the new year, make sure you conduct a job analysis, and make sure the test you select is reliable, valid, and that it measures the spectrum of leadership. This will allow you to meet your leadership goals in the new year and to move your organization forward.
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Rachel King is a consultant on the Testing and Assessment Design team at DDI.