How a top team spent a little time and took a big step to the next stage of growth.

Skills by stageBackground

Leaders of fast growing, early-stage organizations operate at a fast pace. Often the last thing there is time to do is assess the top team’s 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 what each other is good at, has contributed, how they have grown, and what each should focus on next for success. 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. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “How To Tell If You Are a Jerk in the Office” (C-Suite Strategies, Journal Report, Feb 23, 2015), for example, highlights the importance of confidential feedback for executives. 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 organization improvement firm, uses a proprietary approach to help leaders and their top teams address top executive feedback head-on. Early this year, for example, IntelliVen worked with a rapidly evolving, $10M financial analytics firm serving Freddie Mac, US Treasury, and Capital One among other leading US financial institutions. The IntelliVen approach was used to assess the 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.


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 distributed to each executive for a self-report, and also distributed to stakeholders (employees, peers, manager, and direct-reports to each executive).

After collecting the data, IntelliVen principals consolidated and analyzed feedback from both Part 1 and Part 2, and led a peer-review of the consolidated assessment for each executive. Discussion in the peer-review session was to crystalize the most important messages each executive needed to hear loud and clear, and to not overwhelm them with less important feedback. A growth and development plan forward for the team and for each executive was also discussed. After the peer-review meeting, face-to-face feedback sessions with each executive were then conducted to administer the consolidated assessment and growth reports.

IntelliVen summary feedback provides organizations the opportunity to compare their collective executive skill mix with a data base of over 20,000 successful executives from diverse organizations by stage of evolution. Successful organizations, it turns out, perform better if they have a specific mix of balanced skills (in Knowledge, Thinking, and Action) for success in each evolutionary stage.  The following chart illustrates the ideal skill mix by stage of evolution.

Skill norms by stage
Click to see the ideal skill mix for success by stage of organization evolution.

Click to see a full description of the data base and approach underlying IntelliVen Executive 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 organization’s in 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 areas.

Skills and Sub Skills
Each skill category is composed of sub skills.
Exec Assess Bars
Click to see overall executive team score in the three categories.


Click here to see a sample Executive Team Performance and Growth Assessment.


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 have already begun to use it with the next level of managers as well.”

Next Steps

If you, or someone you know, might be interested in using the IntelliVen Executive Team Performance and Growth Assessment Process, see this summary and send a note of inquiry to:

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Sample Executive Team Performance and Growth Report

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How to Give Employees Feedback While Also Showing they are Known and Appreciated

How to Set Up and Run an Executive Incentive Compensation Program


Dr. Brent Green, Ph. D. Organizational Psychologist, contributed heavily to the creation, execution, and documenting of the content presented in this post and to the post itself.

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