Case Studies

Improving the assessment of leadership potential

The Local Authority had in place a very costly development centre to identify leadership potential across the Council. However, there were concerns about the number of activities, its duration and cost. Feedback from a number of participants was negative. Indeed in an independently conducted review, the development report based on the personality test was rated as the most useful part of the process. This accounted for less than ten per cent of the overall cost per delegate.

OTL psychologists were asked to review the materials and data from previous centres to establish whether some fine tuning would be possible. On this basis the Centre was redesigned and delivered to managers across the Council by another supplier. OTL psychologists were used to monitor quality and explore relationships and trends in the data.

This analysis revealed a considerable amount of duplication – the same competencies being measured again and again by using very similar tests and exercises. Some of the exercises appeared not to measure participants’ competence in some areas and some were not face valid. OTL psychologists recommended focussing on those elements of the centre which generated the most valuable and reliable information.

Materials were reworked and where they did not add value, they were discarded. Information packs were prepared for senior managers, as their involvement pre and post centre was crucial. Their “buy in” was critical to the success of the process and to influence this senior managers needed to have a comprehensive understanding of it and how participants, the Local Authority and the community would benefit from identifying strong future leaders, and what role they would be expected to take in order to support the development programme. Senior managers would be responsible for identifying participants for selection on to the centre (a questionnaire was developed to facilitate a discussion between the participant and his/her line manager, as part of the selection process for the centre), encouraging their development and monitoring their progress. Poor feedback from previous centres suggested lack of support from line managers had been an issue. It was thus essential that this was addressed and participants were persuaded that this would be a very different experience.

Information packs were prepared and briefing sessions were organised where potential participants had the opportunity to ask questions and be reassured that their personal development plans would be integrated into the appraisal process in order to monitor progress and make any necessary adjustments.

Throughout the process the Council was provided with norm referencing, which enabled participants and their line managers to compare individual performance on the centre with that of other managers within the Council. It is reported that this has helped the Council to identify the standards it expects its managers to reach and to have a valid and reliable assessment of manager performance. The Council report an overall improvement in managers’ leadership competence as well as individual performance in the workplace.

Specific elements of project:

  • Detailed discussions with the Learning and Development team
  • Review of materials
  • Centre redesign
  • Preparation of information pack and questionnaire for line managers
  • Re-working of assessment materials, marking rubrics for assessors
  • Preparing individual participant timetables and information packs
  • Preparation of assessor timetables
  • Pre centre briefing of assessors and role players
  • Manage development centres
  • Manage organisational and participant feedback