Three Steps for Using Leadership Assessments to Pinpoint Personal Strengths and Weaknesses

A Primer for Hospitality Executives

By James Houran Managing Director, AETHOS Consulting Group | December 21, 2014

"If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself."

Max Ehrmann (1927) from the classic prose poem, Desiderata

The sobering truth is that personal and professional development hinges on the ability to be self-critical. Some might use softer language like "contemplative, introspective, and reflective," but that undermines the rather raw and unforgiving nature of the task itself. Frankly put, when you're not self-critical -- when you do not honestly examine yourself -- you'll never be aware of performance blind-spots, much less improve your efficiency and effectiveness over time. Those two elements are the heart of competency.

For leaders in hospitality or in any industry for that matter, performance feedback - if given at all – typically consists of summarized or edited comments in a traditional 360-degree appraisal. This can be a valuable approach to gain insight, but it's incomplete as the perspectives of raters are limited and highly subjective. A standardized assessment is a best practice supplement for a critical reason – it provides objective feedback on your skills, attitudes, and knowledge areas compared to rigorous benchmarks of high performers.

Drawing on a collective expertise in psychometrics, workplace psychology, and the hospitality industry, this article presents candid, insider information that walks you through three fundamental issues on how to use the right type of assessments to yield a personal SWOT analysis (strengths-weaknesses-opportunities-threats):

First, Choose a Performance, Not Personality, Based Assessment

For decades personality tests have been popular for employee screening and development, although personality traits have serious limitations when applied to workplace psychology. Research shows that personality tests are poor predictors of workplace performance, whereas measures of General Mental Ability (reasoning, planning, abstract thinking, comprehending complex ideas and learning quickly) and role-specific skills are stronger and more consistent predictors of performance. In fact, the popular O*net database of job classifications and corresponding requirements (http://online.onetcenter.org/) describes positions in terms of trainable and malleable skills and competencies rather than broad and rigid personality traits.

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.