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Get leaders ready now by investing and assessing the right way

If you're facing a talent shortage, look to build the right assessments and right kind of feedback to makes growth happen faster.

4 min read


Talent strategy


Every business needs great leaders — now. But for most, they are hard to get. Despite rising investments, leadership readiness is falling short. Something is clearly missing, but what is it?

One thing is true: For your organization to stand a chance at growing leaders at the speed of business, you’ll need to look deeper, and start sooner. That means you’ll need a solid process that helps you focus your investments on the people who can learn and grow quickly. Once you’ve identified them, next will be to understand exactly what each individual needs to accelerate growth, and get ready for the next leadership jump.


The talent review is a bit like the ground-control operation for a space mission. It’s where management comes together to take stock of the organization’s talent and launch all other activities associated with accelerating leadership growth.

But Houston, we have a problem.

As leadership shortages worsen, many organizations find themselves needing to cast a wider net. The talent-review process has to not only take stock of current leadership and plan for executive-level succession, but it also has to look deeper into the organization to identify individuals with leadership potential who can begin development, and earlier in their careers.

This adds a new layer of complexity, and many are struggling to get it right.

Sorting out all the objectives, agendas, and time pressure can be mind-numbing. But some organizations are having tremendous success. They start by combining talent discussions with business discussions, cleverly staging talent reviews in the midst of operational business reviews. In so doing, they elevate the evaluation of talent to the same level as the evaluation of business progress. The approach makes the effort radically more efficient and engaging, while at the same time preserving energy for all the critical development activities that happen after the talent review.


But knowing who you’ll invest in isn’t enough. It’s what comes next that really matters. Accelerating growth means taking risks. Risks that stretch leaders into bigger assignments, more critical roles, and with more at stake. If you’re not prepared to take some chances, growth will happen too slowly. The question is how can you manage that risk?

The answer? Great data about your people. And not just any data — the right data, about how your leaders stack up against your business context.

Assessment is risk management. As you accelerate the growth of key people, you’ll need to do careful scenario planning to make accurate predictions about how your leaders will perform when stretched into bigger assignments. Without the right intel, senior management becomes highly risk-averse in these situations. And who could blame them? Failures are costly and painful.

A test or multi-perspective (360-degree) feedback tool won’t enable the future-oriented planning that accelerated development requires. Simulations (which can be extremely efficient, scalable, and exciting for participants) bring an entirely different and essential type of insight. We call them Acceleration Centers because they supercharge growth and make it happen faster.

When incorporating the right personality and motivational measures, acceleration centers supply senior leaders with benchmarking data and comparative analytics that help them become shrewd and accurate decision makers.

And for individual leaders, the right assessment — with the right kind of feedback — makes growth happen faster. It inspires leaders to take bigger chances with their development, make better and more frequent use of feedback, and apply new approaches that create more impact and positive change.

It’s true, good data about your people leads to far better returns on your leadership investments. Studies spanning hundreds of organizations and thousands of leaders show that as organizations deploy leaders into bigger assignments, the use of the right assessment data sparks faster growth, leads to better performance, and generates heftier bottom-line business impact — that is, revenue and profit!


Matthew J. Paese, Ph.D., is Vice President of Succession and C-Suite Services for Development Dimensions International (DDI). Matt’s work has centered on the application of succession, assessment, and development approaches as they apply to boards, CEOs, senior management teams, and leaders across the pipeline. He consults, coaches, speaks, and conducts research around all those topics and more. His co-authored book Leaders Ready Now was released in June and is available at

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