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The Effect of Influence on Executive Performance Measurement

October 6, 2017

Influence and Executive Performance

Executives: They are the ones who drive the development and strategic direction of an organization, manage the day to day operations, and shape organizational culture. So, it's obvious that the selection process for your future leaders is critical. But, practitioners who implement pre-employment assessments at the executive level face a big challenge: difficulty in demonstrating their validity or ROI using typical approaches. Here's why:

  1. Samples are small. Often, there are not large populations of executives within individual organizations to include in validation or ROI studies. If an adequate sample size (100 or more) is not available, it is difficult to be confident in the observed results. 

  2. It is often difficult to measure executive performance. Leaders have very different functions within organizations, so performance metrics can't always be consistently measured. Further, relying on supervisor ratings of job performance is nearly impossible because there are a limited number of individuals who observe leaders’ performance on a daily basis. These leaders often don’t have many (if any) individuals above them in the organizational hierarchy. As such, the accuracy of ratings suffers.

  3. Leadership is complex. Leadership is an interaction between leaders, followers, and situations. This makes it difficult to parse out how much leadership (as opposed to the followers or situations) is driving these performance outcomes.

Given all of these challenges, one might think that conducting validity or ROI studies at the leader level just isn’t worth it. But we're just not willing to accept this notion! In fact, Select International has been successful in conducting these types of studies at the leader level and we have found that, in some cases, you might just need to get creative and focus on different (and arguably better) performance measures.

We recently conducted a study that examined the effectiveness of the executive assessment process in identifying leaders for VP, DVP, and SVP roles at a large national retail organization. We examined unique performance measures in this study.

Performance Measures Examined:

Succession Management Data

  • Number of promotions
  • Salary changes

The number of promotions and salary changes indicate how valued leaders are by the organization. One would assume organizations would only promote and increase the salary of the leaders they believe are high performing and influential within the organization. Therefore, if we can establish a link between these variables and the assessment, we can gain insight into how well the assessment is predicting leader performance.

Social Media Engagement and Usage
  • Number of original posts
  • Replies to other posts
  • Total followers
Influence and Executive Performance

More and more organizations are adopting the use of internal social media platforms to promote engagement, collaboration, development, and information sharing across individuals and departments. What is particularly interesting about these performance variables is that they likely exist with equal opportunity for participation and equal importance across all leaders within an organization. In essence, then, this source of performance data is more consistently evaluated across leaders working in different functions than other individual or team-based performance metrics.

These social networking sources of leader behavior are also valuable because they are essentially providing an objective look at influence. Influence is a concept that has been at the core of leadership definitions for decades, but it's rarely measured effectively. It is often cited that successful leadership involves the influencing of followers’ attitudes and behaviors. The notion of influence has continued to appear in more recent descriptions of leadership as well. The types of information captured in many of these social media platforms provide a window into the level of influence a person exerts within the organization. Indices such as the number of replies to a post and the number of followers a leader has, likely highlight the level of influence that person has with their coworkers and followers.

Feedback Data

  • Number of feedback requests
  • Unsolicited feedback sent

Additionally, the feedback variables may also serve as an additional measure of influence. Specifically, if leaders are requesting more feedback, this indicates that they try to obtain information about themselves to help them continuously improve. In other words, these individuals are not afraid to receive negative feedback to obtain an accurate picture of themselves. Further, if leaders provide a greater amount of feedback to others, even when it is not requested, this would suggest that leaders are exerting their influence on the job by being open to having difficult conversations and providing constructive criticism to others.

All in all, this study was a really fun one to conduct because it involved investigating the relationship between the executive assessment process and these cool, new, and unique measures of leader performance and influence!

So, what did we find?

See for yourself in this whitepaper:

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Alli Besl, Ph.D. Alli Besl, Ph.D. was a Research Consultant based in the Pittsburgh office of PSI. Her areas of expertise include: employee turnover, selection and recruitment.