Thursday, 30 January 2014

Oh The Power of the Business Psychologist--A Big Green Light for Paul Flowers?

Today I read Jill Treanor's article in the Guardian, Ex-Co-op Bank chairman Paul Flowers aced psychometric tests –deputy.  As a business psychologist who has delivered a number of in-depth executive assessments, and is certified to administer a range of psychometrics, I felt I had to respond.


The problem with Paul Flowers’ selection as Chair
lies more with the tendency of companies,
when hiring CEOs or selecting a Chair,
to woo potential candidates, rather than to assess them.


Here’s a selection from the article:

"The former deputy chairman of the Co-op Bank, Rodney Baker-Bates, told MPs that he lost out to Flowers in becoming chairman... To laughter on the committee, Baker-Bates said he had been told Flowers had been picked as chairman because he had done well in psychometric tests. David Davies, another deputy chairman, said he had been told Flowers – a member of the Co-op Group board – had been chosen for his leadership skills and admitted he had been surprised by the results of the psychometric tests."




The article throws into question the use of personality measures in hiring Paul Flowers, without highlighting the misuse of them.  Psychometrics vary with regard to their reliability and validity, and so any psychometric used in selection must be chosen carefully and with full understanding of what it does and does not provide.   In the case of senior executive hiring, the consulting business psychologist who has run a proper assessment centre with several psychometrics,  workplace simulations, and rigorous behavioural event interviewing, should also be consulting to the Board on the assessment results, and what they predict the performance of the executive would be.   Thus equipped with knowledge and understanding, Board members should then actively and discreetly use their personal networks to reach out to others who have worked with the candidate to collect some form of 360 feedback.  They need to ask of themselves, “Can I personally be confident that this candidate is the leader we really think s/he is?"


The problem with Paul Flowers’ selection as Chair lies more with the tendency of companies, when hiring CEOs or selecting a Chair, to woo potential candidates, rather than to assess them.  Too often, Board members fear seeming ignorant in front of a favoured candidate, or being the one to be too evaluative amongst colleagues.   It is irresponsible for Board members to be passive during key selections.  The quotes in the article portray Board members as bystanders, awaiting whomever administered psychometrics to Flowers to give them a Big Green Light.  If responsibility doesn’t lie with each Board member, where can it possibly be?


Victoria Hall
M.A. Organizational Psychology
Founder of Talent Futures



For further reading on the horrors of senior executive selection, I recommend Rakesh Khurana’s book, Searching for a Corporate Savior: The Irrational Quest for Charismatic CEOs

No comments:

Post a Comment