Leading printing executives into the future
Change Requires Leadership
By Jerry Scher
Published: January 8, 2013
Well it’s January 2013 and this is the year you've planned to reorganize, revitalize and finally alter your
business model to confront our shifting business landscape. You’ve studied and researched your options and
opportunities and carefully considered all of the barriers to your success. While your plan must be flexible and
adaptable, the time has come to take action. So let’s make sure we’re covering all of the basics. As executives,
we are responsible for four crucial areas within our business: we must carefully develop our strategy for
success; we must provide the necessary human capital or talent; we must ensure that our team executes
properly; and we must provide the financial resources that are essential to a sustainable business.
In particular, human capital is a major concern for many of you. Whether you are in need of more
sophisticated sales people, data management experts, creative designers, logistics/fulfillment coordinators,
marketing professionals, social networkers or the leaders responsible for pulling it all together, a more
vigorous process for identifying, recruiting and hiring talent is a must. In the latest issue of Harvard Business
Review (Jan-Feb 2013) Paul J.H. Schoemaker, Steve Krupp, and Samantha Howla shared their research about
the six essential traits required of executive leaders in their article – Strategic Leadership: The Essential Skills.
The authors carefully point out that a strategic plan must be adaptable and therefore require leadership that
can operate in a changing landscape. The essential leadership traits they identified include:
Anticipate – the proactive monitoring and scanning of market shifts enabling them to anticipate
changes and opportunities.
Challenge – the continuous challenging of assumptions while being open-minded. They are constantly
questioning the status quo.
Interpret – while eliciting complex and conflicting information they have the capacity to synthesize and
interpret all of the information gathered.
Decide – the ability to make tough but educated decisions incorporating a disciplined process.
Align – finding common ground amongst diverse positions and engaging in a process of consensus
Learn – promote life-long learning and building a learning organization where success and failure are
studied in a constructive way.
So how does you leadership team measure up? Have you found that as you’ve attempted to rebuild your
business model one of the human capital obstacles you face is actually your management team? And even
more of a challenge is that they don’t see themselves as an inhibiting factor. Logically, awareness of these
necessary critical traits should enable us to address this challenge. Well, not exactly.
Too frequently the lack of a standardized process for assessing talent, whether for recruiting, promoting or
personalized development limits our ability to build great teams. And in order to optimize the performance of
your management team, you need quality talent on board. Building that team of talented leaders must be a
high level strategic initiative and not just an administrative function. If the six traits/skills described in the
recent HBR article make sense to you, then how do you determine if your current employees or future
candidates possess these competencies (or the customized list that you have developed for you team)? Even if
you've worked with them for a while it is not uncommon to lack an awareness of the strengths, weaknesses
and challenges; especially when they are being asked to assume different and more complex roles and
As with any strategic initiative you must “Begin with the end in mind.” In other words your first step is to
carefully describe and define the appropriate traits you believe are essential and desirable in your managers
and leaders. The soft skills as described above are behavioral competencies that we refer to as suitability
characteristics. They represent traits that we can observe and experience with those around us; and in many
cases we can coach people in these areas. On the other hand, when an individual’s behavioral competences
are the antithesis of what is required, we certainly experience their negative behavior caused by aggressive or
passive behavioral imbalances. Identifying talent gaps within your business as wells as soft skill gaps within
your leadership team is a critical process.
So how can you conduct a talent audit for your leadership team? You certainly should begin by carefully
defining the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for each job and based on your company's culture determine the
behavioral competencies you are looking for. Your diagnosis should include a thoughtful performance review
including all aspects of their job. That includes how their team members perform individually and collectively
as well. In addition to assessing each leader’s traits and skills we also have to determine how well they fit
within your corporate culture. In today’s business environment collaboration and teamwork has become very
important and sometimes even highly skilled employees don’t play well with others.
So how can you accurately assess the behavioral competencies and predict future performance? Well certainly
you must consider past performance and your personal observations. But keep in mind that your personal bias
(or other managers on the team) can sometimes skew your assessment; while personal experience is
important the information tends to be subjective. Gaining a more objective assessment should be a key
component of the process.
By utilizing a highly validated objective assessment tool like the Harrison Assessment , based on extensive
behavioral research, enables you to identify critical behavioral competencies and the levels of
intensity. Whether you’re focusing on individual development, team development, succession planning or
recruitment of new talent, the use of an objective assessment tool enables you to predict leadership
competencies including decision making, strategic judgment, effective enforcing, innovation, organizational
compatibility leading people, problem solving, learning agility and interpersonal skills. The ability to customize
behavioral competency assessments based on your company’s requirements is a valuable capability for
building your management team.
If you would like more information about assessing leadership competencies, please contact Jerry Scher at
email@example.com or 404-931-9291.
You can also get information about the Harrison Assessment at
Stay tuned to this continual series – as we focus on the Why, What and How to build a team of
Jerry Scher has been engaged in the graphic communication industry for over 35 years, Jerry's primary goal make those around him more successful.