skills by stage

Case: The Ideal Mix of Sr. Executive Team Skills for Success

Case Background

Leaders of fast-growing, early-stage organizations operate at a fast pace. Often, the last thing there is time to do is to assess the top team’s skills and performance to determine how to prepare them for the next stage of growth.

Most team members know each other pretty well. They have a good idea about:

  • What each other is good at doing.
  • What each has contributed.
  • How each has grown.
  • What each should focus on next to improve.

However, team members rarely have the time, energy, training, or nerve to share what they know in a forthright, supportive conversation with one another.

Yet there are serious consequences to not providing feedback when it is needed most. As highlighted in the Wall Street Journal article, “How To Tell If You Are a Jerk in the Office” (C-Suite Strategies, Journal Report, Feb 23, 2015), confidential feedback for executives is important. Not only are leaders and co-workers affected adversely by dysfunctional behavior, but business performance and customer service can be damaged, often permanently, if poor behavior continues.

IntelliVen, a San Francisco-based executive development organization, uses a proprietary approach to help top leaders and their teams address executive feedback issues head-on. For example, IntelliVen worked with a fast-paced, $10M financial analytics firm serving Freddie Mac, U.S. Treasury, and Capital One among other leading financial institutions. The IntelliVen approach was used to assess the firm’s top team of senior executives relative to norms for successful organizations at a similar stage of evolution and to identify individual and team opportunities for learning.

Successful organizations perform better if they have a specific mix of skills for success, varying by stage of organization maturity.

Approach

IntelliVen conducted a two-part performance assessment process. First, individual, in-depth interviews were conducted with the top executives, followed by a 42-item questionnaire completed by each on themselves and also on one-another. Second, an open-ended five-question survey was completed by each executive for a self-report, and also completed by key stakeholders (peers, managers, and direct reports).

Collected data was consolidated and feedback from both Part 1 and Part 2 organized for a facilitated peer-review discussion. The goal of the peer-review discussion was to distill what was most important for each executive to hear loud and clear, and to not overwhelm them with feedback. A growth and development plan forward for the team and for each executive was also prepared and discussed with the leader and then also with the team. Finally, in-person one-on-one feedback sessions with each executive were conducted to administer the consolidated assessment and growth reports.

The IntelliVen Senior Executive Team Assessment Process provides leaders and their teams with the opportunity to compare their collective executive skill-mix with a database of over 20,000 data points collected on executives from varied successful organizations by stage of evolution. Successful organizations, it turns out, perform better if they have a specific mix of skills (in terms of what they KNOW, how they process or THINK about what they know, and what they do to ACT on what they know) for success in each evolutionary stage. 

The chart below depicts the ideal mix of KNOW, THINK, and ACT skills for success by stage of organization evolution:

Skill norms by stage

Description of the database and approach underlying IntelliVen Senior Executive Team Assessments.

In this case, the organization is presently in the advanced stage of Startup heading towards becoming a Credible business. By comparing the team’s skill summary below, with those of successful organizations at the same stage of evolution, executive skills appear to be adequate in the KNOWledge and THINKing competencies. However, further development is needed in the ACTion (or execution) skill area.

Overall executive team KNOW-THINK-ACT scores.
Each KNOW, THINK, and ACT skill is made up of three sub-skills.

Sample Senior Executive Team Performance and Growth Assessment.

Results

The CEO exclaimed that the value to him and his team relative to the level of effort expended in conducting the IntelliVen Executive Assessment was extraordinary.  His further anecdotal feedback follows:

  • “The assessment process was easy and effective.”
  • “This is the first time in 12 years I’ve truly heard what I can do to improve.”
  • “We now have a near-term and long-range executive development road map.”
  • “Now we know what we need to do to increase the odds of our business success as we head into the next phase of our organization evolution.”
  • “We are going to use the IntelliVen assessment process with our executives every year and with the next level of managers as well.”

Next Steps

If you, or someone you know, might be interested in using the IntelliVen Senior Executive Team Performance and Growth Assessment Process, see this summary and/or send a message to: intelliven@intelliven.com.

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About Dr. Green

Brent Green Head ShotDr. Brent Green, is an organization psychology professional with a focus on individual executive and senior executive team performance, and system improvement. He has over 25 years of experience in strategic leadership and organization assessment, training and development, evaluation, strategic wellness program design, and performance coaching.

Editor’s note: Content originally posted March 16, 2015 – updated for August 11, 2020.

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