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A multitude of unforeseen changes have occurred in the last 6-8 months, many that are here to stay. One adjustment is the move from a physical office environment to virtual teams. Even with some workplaces reopening, it's clear that virtual teams are here for the long term.

As leaders and employees continue adjusting to this evolving reality, there are ways to work more effectively and gain a momentum people can live with. We may not be in the same room for a while, but if we can find our footing, we can still stay together on the journey.

In previous articles and webinars, we've discussed why leadership is essential in a crisis, what employees, clients, and stakeholders need from leaders, and how to use emotional traits and behavioral tendencies to your advantage. As we continue to manage through crises, other strategies, such as best practices for virtual mentoring, utilizing behavioral assessments, and motivating teams from a distance will help you keep things contained and on track.

Effective leadership creates the infrastructure to help people participate efficiently. Leadership is about harnessing vision, balancing responsibilities, and creating a framework that clarifies how to reach set goals. Effective, and yes courageous, leadership is about creating processes that improve people's understanding of changing circumstances and enhance their ability to swim with the tide.

For over 35 years, Omnia’s vision centers on maximizing people-performance through the power of insight. We understand people power businesses, and through The Omnia Behavioral Assessment, we identify the strengths, challenges, and motivations of the people who make up your companies.

Right now, it's essential to identify who is comfortable with rapid change and who may need more steady guidance. No matter how technical you are, how long you've worked remotely, or how comfortable you are with change, you're now working with people who are new to things like remote work and virtual meeting platforms. We know that changing work routines to accommodate innovative technology and norms is challenging at the best of times. Leaders (of organizations, teams, and projects) have to get everyone rowing in the same direction.

"Now is the time, as you reimagine the post-pandemic organization, to pay careful attention to the effect of your choices on organizational norms and culture," Andrea Alexander, Aaron De Smet, and Mihir Mysore at McKinsey remind us.

Below we've captured some of what we've learned at The Omnia Group about how leaders can make a difference to the team's sustainable success through connection, priorities, and pace.

Connection

Leadership connection is about actual, direct time with people. Connecting with your team to understand them individually and as a group will enable you to better diffuse fears, anxiety, disengagement, and pessimism when it appears.

Through every crisis and work challenge, there will be change. For example, with the move to virtual teams, we no longer have the opportunity to walk by the water cooler and engage in spontaneous business conversations. As a result, leaders need to carve out time to attend meetings regularly with other managers, direct reports and cross-functional teams.

What is regular? Is it every day, every week, once a month? Honestly, that's up to you and the people on the team. Some people will need more direct time with you, some people will need more time to quietly process on their own. Those at Omnia who worked virtually before COVID hit say they are actually seeing a lot more of us now than they were before "everything went virtual."

Recently we shared a webinar about Courageous Leadership featuring Ernest Shackleton and his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914 - 1917). During this exploration, his ship, Endurance, became trapped in pack ice and was slowly crushed before the parties could reach land. Shackleton faced a life-or-death crisis. His leadership, connection to his team, and understanding of the human condition resulted in this crisis becoming known as "an epic feat of endurance."

Shackleton insisted on the men eating the evening meal together and socializing afterward. In a virtual office, those connection points can be team meetings, lunch and learns, sales huddles or anything that makes sense in your culture.

Priorities

There is absolutely nothing more important for any business in terms of effectiveness than working on the right things at the right time. Think about what's suspended, what's changed, and what's urgent.

Our teams review priorities every day. We also have rolling 90-day meetings to discuss shifts and changes to priorities. We identify which projects should continue but at a later date and make a plan to prioritize completing those projects at a time better suited to those needs.

A leader must be clear on what the priorities are for the business so that employees can do some of that filtration themselves. How can we make sure that people know if stuff has been paused, cleared out, and then clarify what's urgent? Be clear about the things that matter most right now, and then make sure everybody has priorities.

If there isn't work for people right now, how are we addressing it? What does that look like? Some organizations are focusing on developing people through cross training, others are working on creating better internal processes, still others are using the time to document existing processes for when hiring resumes.

Pace

Pacing is the leaders' job. It's incredibly essential yet sometimes overlooked in conversations.

How fast do we go? What does that look like? Is everyone with us?

Back to Shackleton and his transcontinental march for a moment. He was in charge of a stranded 28-man team and challenged to keep them alive in the Antarctic for months. It was up to Shackleton to decide when the men would depart the relative safety of the sinking Endurance. It was up to him how long they'd huddle in makeshift camps as the ice they were on continued to drift. It was up to him to select and navigate a party in a single lifeboat on an 800-mile open-boat journey to then mount a rescue mission to save the men back at the makeshift camps, which he did, without loss of life!

What we're facing now may not be a doomed Antarctic exploration, but these are uncharted waters. It's up to leadership to determine our direction and our pace. The rest of the team (employees, clients, and stakeholders) are awaiting your call.

Being virtual can cause additional challenges. Paying attention to where people are is even more critical as there are fewer clues in the environment for people to watch and find out what pace they should work. If you're having difficulty identifying an individual's pace, The Omnia Behavioral Assessment can help. Understanding if you are working with an impatient doer or a methodical processer will help you set and manage priorities in a way that resonates with the employee.

Additionally, it's crucial to ask, "if people are behind, what's the reason for it?" Your structured, systematic employees may be feeling overwhelmed and need a more clearly delineated timeline with fixed milestones. Your fast-paced multitaskers may be trying to do too much at once and getting overextended. Each set of employees will need a different approach from you to stay on pace and meet deadlines. An Omnia assessment can provide that roadmap.

As the leader, it takes courage to roll with the punches, change course and keep everyone working towards company goals, but you can do it. Remember, stay connected, set and manage your priorities and set a pace that keeps people energized and moving forward.

The most successful organizations periodically audit and amend their business procedures for both compliance and effectiveness. By doing so, firms continuously improve their operations and retain a competitive edge. However, these audits often overlook one critical area: the interview and hiring process.

You might be thinking that your company’s interview and hiring process is perfectly fine -- that if it’s not broke, why fix it? However, best practices have changed over the years. Since your employees are the lifeblood of your organization, it’s a good idea to review what your hiring teams are doing -- and make any needed adjustments.

Let’s start by exploring the potential pitfalls of the traditional interview.

How the Traditional Interview Falls Short

Ineffective Questions

Interviews are a crucial component of the hiring process. However, if they’re not conducted strategically, they’re little more than a rehash of the candidate’s resume, with a few tired, ineffective questions peppered in. Questions like “what’s your greatest strength?” or “what’s your greatest weakness?” result in an answer that the candidate thinks you want to hear, yielding no useful insight into their projected performance.

Research shows that the best interview questions reveal how a prospective hire would handle a given situation based on how they’ve approached similar scenarios in the past. Implementing the behavioral interviewing technique, you ask the interviewee to recount specific stories from their work experience. Then, what they say reveals a lot about their personality and soft skills.

Some examples of behavioral-based interview questions include:

Inconsistent Questioning

To compare candidates effectively and fairly, you must put all of them through an identical interview and hiring process. That means interviewers need to ask each person the same questions in the initial interview and score their responses according to a predetermined standard. A scoring rubric can help interviewers provide a consistent and fair interview experience for all job candidates. 

Further reading: Need a little help refining your interview process? Check out our Resources Page for interview guides, interview question ideas, and more.

Interviewer Fatigue and Bias

Depending on your firm’s procedures, your interview process may be long and tedious, requiring extensive candidate research and interaction. So, even though hiring the right people is a worthwhile pursuit, it can be draining. And, when you’re fatigued, you’re not an effective interviewer. You may rush through interviews, fail to process what candidates tell you, and make hasty hiring decisions -- a disservice to the candidates and your company.

You’re biased. We all are. Your personal experience and upbringing have cultivated long-standing beliefs about people. Unfortunately, your biases could cause you to hire -- or decline -- a candidate based on a hunch. The key is recognizing this fact and actively nipping those biases in the bud when they creep in.

How Behavioral Assessments Improve the Hiring Process

So, how do you reduce fatigue, mitigate bias, and truly know your candidates so you can make informed, fair hiring decisions? That’s where a behavioral assessment comes in. The assessment takes an inventory of each candidate’s traits, compares it to your current high performers' benchmark data, and translates the findings into useful insight about the candidate’s predicted performance. If administered at the beginning of the hiring process, a behavioral assessment can help you:

How Omnia Can Help

Omnia offers an easy-to-implement behavioral assessment so you can get started right away. Results are instant, digestible, and actionable. If you want even more insight, our team can provide you with an in-depth analysis of your assessment data. Remember: we’re here to help you improve your hiring and interview process so that your company continues to thrive!

Final Thoughts

If you haven’t looked at your hiring or interview process in a while, chances are it could use some help. When implemented together, behavioral interviewing techniques and behavioral assessments provide you with more reliable and valid information than the standard interview. And, behavioral assessments reduce interviewer bias and fatigue. That means your hiring and interview process is more efficient, fairer, and results in better quality hire for your organization. Talk about a win-win-win!

As a leader, you’re invested in the growth and development of your team. You know that properly coached employees can achieve your company’s lofty goals and be more engaged while doing so. But -- did you know that your coaching efforts could fall flat if you don’t have the right insight about your team members?

That’s because every person on your team is unique and will respond to being coached differently. So, for the best results, your coaching must be tailored to each individual, taking into account:

Don’t worry, though. You don’t need to spend years piecing together this intel. You can glean all of this critical information quickly through behavioral and cognitive assessments

Let’s take a closer look to see how.

Revealing Team Member Strengths and Weaknesses

You’ve heard that leveraging your employee’s strengths is the best way to maximize their performance -- and it’s 100% true. Assessment results reveal what your employees naturally do well and where they tend to struggle. This knowledge enables you to craft a custom coaching program that builds on their strengths while addressing their weaknesses. 

When you focus on their current capabilities, you empower them to grow using the tools they have. This lets them achieve quick wins, which boosts their confidence and facilitates continued development. By following the strengths-first approach, you’ll propel them towards greater success in your coaching program as well as their entire career.

Understanding How Your Team Members Learn Best

Every member of your team processes and implements information differently. Assessment results will help you understand how each employee learns best. You’ll instantly know:

With this insight, you can tailor your coaching approach to each employee. For instance, you may need to slow your pace when coaching an employee who processes information methodically. Or, if you’re working with an especially analytical team member, you may want to base your coaching on facts and figures instead of personal anecdotes. Finally, if your employee needs a firm structure to thrive, you might want to ensure that your coaching sessions don't deviate from the scheduled topics.

Of course, the reverse of these scenarios can also be true. You may be able to move through information faster if your team member can handle it. Or, you could tell more personal stories when coaching people-oriented employees. When working with team members who prefer less structure, you can make coaching sessions more adaptive to their changing needs. The bottom line: one size doesn’t fit all, so meet your employees where they are for optimal results.

Uncovering What Motivates Each Team Member

Your coaching will be most effective when it aligns with your coachee’s long-term goals. That’s because your team member’s personal and professional plans drive everything that they do. So, to unlock their true potential, you must uncover what really motivates them. By tapping into their motivation, you can compel them to work harder and continue to grow. 

Behavioral assessments yield this critical insight, allowing you to create a coaching program that’s a true win-win for both your employees and your company. Your team members will be motivated to excel in their roles because you’re helping them fulfill their career aspirations. And your firm will benefit from a knowledgeable, skilled, and engaged workforce.

How Omnia Can Help

Omnia offers both cognitive and behavioral assessments. Reliable and valid, when implemented together, you’ll learn everything you need to know to coach your team members effectively. You’ll understand how they solve problems, process information, apply new knowledge, adapt to change, and so much more. You’ll also become acutely familiar with their personality, allowing you to connect with them on a deeper level and foster trust.

The Omnia assessment results include more than just the data. The assessment reports show you what that data actually means -- and how you can use it to increase performance and engagement. In short, you’ll instantly become a more effective coach because your coaching program will truly cater to each member of your team.

Final Thoughts

A well-developed and committed workforce is your company’s single best asset. By becoming a better coach, you strengthen that asset, positioning your firm for future success. The first step to upping your coaching game is to create a tailor-made development program for each team member based on employee assessment results. Then, leverage the assessment insight in conjunction with employee strengths, and watch your team flourish.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could change our personalities at will? We could reduce conflict, increase communication, and improve productivity with little effort in this magical scene.

As employers, in addition to the above, wouldn’t it be grand if we could seamlessly coach our employees to achieve greater career success by changing their styles of behavior?

Of course, it would. The good news is there's a way to enable and coach different personality styles that actually work. It requires a quick and easy assessment to get started and a willingness to modify coaching and leadership techniques based on personality styles.

Employee behavioral assessments are helpful to understand the personality traits of job applicants and current employees. This behavioral / personality assessment makes it possible to uncover an individual's deeper motivators, preferences, and behaviors, plus how those traits will affect their performance in a particular role.

Sometimes individuals naturally evolve over the years to become more effective in their work and personal lives. And sometimes, we can help individuals consciously develop the characteristics they need in a given job.  However, certain traits are easier to change than others.

With insights gleaned from a behavioral assessment, you can better predict job compatibility by gauging an individual's similarity or dissimilarity to the duties and personality patterns required to be successful in the job, your work culture, and with their peers and supervisor. Behavioral often is a bigger factor in fit than skill sets. Skills can be developed and improved. Some personality characteristics cannot.

Researchers have identified five characteristics that largely govern how our personalities function. These “big five” factors are generally believed to be fairly constant throughout our lives and may be attributed to genetics and the environment.

In concert with this finding, researchers at Stanford University propose that change is possible over our lifetimes. Even more encouraging is a finding that change tends to be for the better. But note that scientists disagree with this proposition. Some observe that while change may occur, it is likely to be nuanced.

Each of the five personality traits tends to develop in different ways through our lives:

1. Conscientiousness (efficient/organized vs. extravagant/careless). People are likely to improve in this area throughout their lives; with maturity comes greater conscientiousness.  We develop this trait most strikingly in our twenties as we take on adulthood's work and family responsibilities.

2. Extroversion (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved). Extroversion is the trait of being energized by interacting with people; introverts are energized, in contrast, through thought and other solitary activities. However, extroverts may perform quite competently and even excel when working alone, and introverts may socialize effectively.

It has been observed that women may need somewhat less social support as they age, but men stay more constant in their extroversion orientation. Both genders may improve their social skills through experience and practice.

3. Agreeableness (friendly/compassionate vs. challenging/callous). Our abilities to get along and emotionally support others may improve as we age. The thirties and forties are the life decades most apt to show development in this aspect of personality.

4. Openness to experience (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious). Openness is defined as a willingness to try new ideas and experiences. This trait may decline somewhat with age. As we grow older, we may become more set in our ways. Still, there is a great deal of variation among people at all stages of life, and we are not doomed to become inflexible over time.

5. Neuroticism (sensitive/nervous vs. resilient/confident). Neuroticism is our tendency to worry and sense instability. Women are more likely to somewhat overcome this trait over the years relative to men.

What you can change. . . and what you may not be able to change.

While these five personality traits are the cornerstones of personality development, many other specific competencies are amenable to measurement via behavioral assessments, which can be changed. The extent of change that is possible varies by trait.

What Does a Behavioral Assessment Actually Measure?

Our pre-employment / behavioral personality assessment is based on the use of an adjective checklist. It’s a fast, unintimidating, unbiased, and accurate way to get an individual to reveal their natural behaviors that might not be readily apparent on their resume or in their interviews.
This concept of measuring a person’s behavior is called psychometrics, which defines non-pathological behavior. Omnia breaks this down into four key groups:

Assertiveness:  The need to make things happen.

Communication Style: The need to work with people versus the need for proof.

Pace: The speed at which a person operates.

Structure: The degree of dependence on rules.

The Omnia behavioral assessment is known for its easy-to-read, easy-to-interpret eight-column bar graph that displays these four behaviors as pairs of columns because every trait has the opposite. Just one assessment and eight columns will give you all the information you need to make your next hire successful!

The competencies that are the easiest to alter are generally those that are primarily relevant to the work environment. Coaching and training can help willing student progress in oral and written communications, political savvy, chairing effective meetings, planning, goal setting, and customer service.

At the other end of the “changeability” spectrum are those characteristics that are most resistant to change. Intrinsic intelligence is difficult to improve, though book learning is, of course, possible. Creativity, analytical skills, integrity, energy, assertiveness, and even ambition remain unyielding to training and coaching.

In the middle are certain behaviors that may be susceptible to change, but the process is not easy. These competencies include listening, negotiation, change leadership, being a team leader, and conflict management.

All in all, it is important to understand our own personality traits and associated competencies as well as these characteristics in those we employ. Acknowledging how traits vary in their amenability to change helps us determine how to help employees contribute most effectively to the workplace and select (and achieve) appropriate career goals.

Let's face it; sometimes people end up in a management position who might not belong in one. It happens for a variety of reasons. Fortunately, not all is lost. There are some things you can do to help a non-leader lead!

In fact, it happens all the time: You thought you had the perfect person to take charge of a team: they had enthusiastic references; they used to do the job, and they rocked at it; they managed a different department and had amazing success. All signs indicate they should be doing great, but for some reason, things just aren’t working out. You have unmotivated employees, deadlines are being missed, production is falling. What do you do?

Well, you don't have a time machine, so you'd better make the best of the situation now. It was possibly just a bad-fit hire, or maybe it was a promotion that should not have happened. Too often, top performers are rewarded for their successes with promotions to management. This may seem like the perfect prize for their contributions, but unfortunately, the qualities that make them a top performer in their current role may not be the same qualities that make a successful leader.

Let's look at some scenarios. Take Cal, a friendly, helpful, conscientious customer service rep., a top performer. As a manager, his best traits could work against him. He could be too cautious, too uncomfortable with conflict, and too uneasy dealing with situations that are not outlined by written procedures. Now take a look at Martha, a top producing salesperson who closes deals quickly and innovates frequently. In a leadership role, she could set overly aggressive goals, she may not enforce important rules, and she might not want to mentor or coach employees. While these are top performers in their fields, it does not translate seamlessly to ideal leadership.

That’s not to say top employees can never lead, or that a struggling manager can't be coached; some may need more guidance than others.

Here are 6 tips to turn things around:

1.    First off, make sure the person still wants to manage (or see if they ever did). The promotion might have seemed like a wonderful thing at first, but if the individual is experiencing daily, soul-crushing anxiety, maybe it’s time to let them step back. Make it clear that a reduction in management duties would not be a punishment, just an adjustment. And mean it.

2.    Find out where the problem is. Are employees not being held accountable, is morale lagging, are people lacking direction? Observe the situation, talk to the leader, and consider having them take a behavioral assessment to identify strengths and challenge areas. Interview the staff if necessary.

3.    Be prepared to mentor and coach, focusing on the biggest problem area first. For example:

4.    Once you figure out the problem, create a plan to correct it based on the biggest challenge areas. Check-in regularly to make sure progress is being made.

5.    Since you don’t have a time machine: Hire right the first time. Make sure you do your due diligence when selecting people to lead your teams, and offer coaching from the outset. Even natural leaders will need some time to get up to speed.

6.    Find other ways to reward your best performers if they are not necessarily interested in or suited to become leaders. Offer more responsibility, chances to cross-train, or opportunities to contribute in a natural and appealing way.

As a leader, you’re expected to achieve company goals by effectively utilizing your most valuable resource - your team. So, how do you unlock their potential and guide them towards success? Honestly, you need to know your team to lead your team.

Getting to know your team on a deep level can take years of discussion and observation. But, it doesn’t have to work that way. You can learn all you need to know quickly by using a behavioral assessment.

What is Behavioral Assessment?

A behavioral assessment is a tool used to measure an employee’s personality traits related to expected job performance. This form of assessment will give you critical insight into what makes each employee tick. The knowledge gained will enable you to form and leverage highly effective teams that achieve great results.

While data from a behavioral assessment can help you handle every part of the employee life cycle, let’s look specifically at how the results can impact how you train, communicate and lead.

How Results Improve Your Training

The behavioral assessment results will reveal both your employees’ strengths and potential challenge areas. While you should always cater to their strengths, knowing where they can improve facilitates personalized development plans

You’ll also learn how they process and adapt to new information, which informs the method and pace you should use to train them effectively. Incrementally, you can help each employee grow professionally and add more value to your team.

Results in Action: Training a Remote Workforce

When your team isn’t in the office, and training needs to be conducted virtually, the behavioral assessment data will help you make decisions such as:

How Results Shape Your Communication Style

The behavioral assessment results will tell you exactly how you should tailor your communication style to each employee. You’ll know if they respond better to facts and figures, or if they’re more captivated by personal stories and emotional appeals. You’ll also have a sense of how much information they can handle at one time and what support they’ll need to process it. 

Besides, and perhaps most importantly, you’ll understand how they handle stress. That means you can craft your message so that it provides the necessary information and avoids overwhelming them.

Results in Action: Communicating with a Remote Workforce

You need to communicate with your remote employees as much as you would if they were in the office, perhaps more so. The results from their behavioral assessments will help you determine:

How Results Guide Your Leadership

The behavioral assessment results will help you get the most out of your team. You’ll have a clear understanding of what drives each employee, how fast they work, and if they’re a rule follower or a rule stretcher.

You’ll also understand how much recognition to give them and how much oversight they require to get the job done. You’ll also know how they interact with people, making it easier to facilitate collaboration with other employees with complementary work styles.

Results in Action: Leading a Remote Workforce

Your remote employees need an effective leader that encourages and empowers them to accomplish the company’s objectives. The behavioral assessment results will help you:

Leaders: Assess Yourself

If you want to be the best leader possible, you need to understand your own personality traits. When you think about yourself, you’ll naturally have some blindspots. Using an objective measure like a behavioral assessment will give you a clear and true picture of your leadership strengths, opportunities for improvement, and general tendencies. The bottom line: by really tuning in to who you are, you’ll be better able to understand and guide others.

How Omnia Can Help

What we’ve covered here is just the tip of the iceberg. An Omnia behavioral assessment will provide you with a full understanding of each employee’s personality -- including your own! That understanding is the key that unlocks your team’s potential, driving your workforce to higher levels of success.

The Omnia behavioral assessment is easy to implement. Employees take an inventory of themselves by using an adjective checklist. Next, our analysts will create a detailed report discussing each employee’s results and what they mean for you as a leader. Then, all you’ll need to do is act on the insight and watch your team become stronger than ever.

Final Thoughts

Whether your workforce is remote, in the office, or a mix, you need to truly know each employee to effectively lead them. An Omnia behavioral assessment will give you the knowledge that you need quickly and easily. That way, you can connect with your team on a deep level and successfully fulfill the company’s mission together.

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