Six Leadership and Team Assessments and When to Use Them

magnifyThere are lots of great tools for assessing work and communication styles, developing leadership skills and building team effectiveness.

Here are six assessments that I highly recommend, based on my experience, along with key features and thoughts about why and when to use each:

Personality and Behavior Style Assessments

Everything DiSC – Workplace – If I were on a desert island with individuals and teams to develop, and I could bring only one personality and behavior style assessment with me, this would be the one. It’s valid and reliable, cost-effective, versatile and easy to apply. The framework of four basic quadrants (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness) is simple to understand but not simplistic. There are further nuances to an individual’s results (one of 12 styles) including personalized narrative about priorities, motivators, stressors and potential limitations. The report also emphasizes clearly and practically how you can best understand and relate to others given their styles.

Like other Everything DiSC assessments, the Everything DiSC Workplace builds on decades of research and usage across all industries and walks of life. It also incorporates adaptive testing, a sophisticated approach where the individual is asked extra “tie-breaker” questions when needed. Results reports are nearly one-third more precise than Inscape’s previous generation of DiSC assessments, which were already solid.

Though I’ve used DiSC assessments for years, I recently went through training and certification from the publisher, Wiley, on the Everything DiSC assessments and the Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team (see below) and was very impressed with the individual products as well as the ability to integrate these tools. In addition to the results report that is extremely user friendly, insightful and action-oriented, there are comparison reports available so that, for example, a manager and her direct report can each get a report that compares their results and suggests tips for working effectively with each other. Facilitator and Group results reports are also available to help with team and culture development.

Leadership Assessments

Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI 360) – I like to use this when a company doesn’t already use a 360 assessment or when they need a good basic 360 assessment rather than a Rolls Royce. Like other 360 feedback tools, this instrument is used to collect and compare input from bosses, peers, direct reports and others about an individual’s leadership performance. The on-line LPI 360 measures the extent to which the individual exhibits Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership, which come from the research of Kouzes and Posner, described in their classic book: The Leadership Challenge.

I like this tool because it covers research-based leadership behaviors that are general across companies and industries. It’s also easy to use and administer. The results report shows the individual’s results compared to overall norms, and it’s easy to understand. One very nice feature that I have not seen in most other 360 tools is that allows an administrator to add customized open-ended questions.

Voices 360 – Lominger (a Korn / Ferry company) has a research-based multi-rater leadership development tool that is among the premium assessments for leadership development. One valuable feature of the Voices 360 is the ability of an organization to choose which competencies – from an extensive list of research-based competencies – will be used to rate their leaders. Then, based on a specific leader’s role, the leader and leader’s manager identify together the most important competencies from the company’s list. Assessors then are asked to provide input on the leader’s proficiency level in each of these competencies.

Results show not only how assessors rated the leader in those competency areas; they also show potential blind spots and hidden strengths, along with potential career stallers and stoppers. As with most 360 assessments, the leader’s results are compared across the groups of raters (manager, peers, self, other) and also to norms for others who have taken the assessment. Results are sliced and diced in several helpful views, and raters are encouraged to enter comments, which are also hugely helpful. One unique and helpful view is a one-page skill importance chart that plots how the leader was rated on the most important skills for the role with an eye towards action planning.

Everything DiSC – Work of Leaders – This self-assessment is unique in that it combines the components of the DiSC style preference assessment with additional items to assess leadership behaviors using a comprehensive but easy-to-remember set of overall leadership tasks: vision, alignment and execution. Extensive research on hundreds of leadership models, assessments and prior research went into the development of the framework and Work of Leaders assessment, and it was tested over several years and iterations of user testing. This is summarized in the book by Wiley Publishing researchers: The Work of Leaders.

I think this is a great new tool and am amazed at the insights this and other Everything DiSC assessments provide based on self-assessment. This will be especially valuable where an organization doesn’t already have a clearly defined leadership competency framework.

(Note: Wiley’s Everything DiSC suite does have a research-based 360 tool (363 for Leaders) that is also a good option. One unique aspect of the 363 for Leaders is “Comment Smart,” which allows assessors to choose from a list of standardized comments rather than writing their own. If you are concerned that assessors will write comments that hit below the belt or if you’re concerned those being assessed will take revenge on people making ‘negative’ comments and want to take extra steps to protect their anonymity short of putting them in a witness protection program, then this assessment may be for you.)

Team Assessments

Shadowmatch – Want a fresh and sophisticated approach to understanding your team’s cultural dynamics and how to improve group and individual performance? The Shadowmatch Behavioral Benchmarking System does this and much more. It came from extensive research born out of a desire to work effectively across government, business, education and religious sectors, along with ethnic groups, in post-apartheid South Africa. Now it’s highly regarded and used by several well-known global businesses and organizations. Unique features include measures across 19 behavior habits (e.g., resilience and responsiveness), task efficiency and conceptual application scores, an attitude result and a timed assessment experience that incorporates problem-solving and “real-life” scenarios.

A person’s responses feed a complex artificial intelligence system that assesses the behavioral patterns the individual demonstrated while working through the assessment instead of merely asking them about their preferences. Once all individuals’ results are completed, a team benchmark is established that can be used for assessing and improving team dynamics and flagging individual development opportunities. It has other uses, too, such as developing recruiting profiles and making staffing decisions. Interactive technology on the back-end allows a facilitator to show and adjust the comparison of team and individuals’ results while the team watches. It’s a very cool tool.

Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team – Patrick Lencioni struck a chord with millions when he wrote The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, one of the best-selling business books of all time. He teamed with Wiley publishers recently to develop an on-line teaming assessment – The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team – that not only leverages the best of the book but also integrates Everything DiSC style components. When taking this assessment, individuals answer the core Everything DiSC questions to reveal their behavior style preferences, and then they answer questions about their team. It’s powerful.

Although people receive individual results, this assessment is designed to be discussed in the context of a team situation where they review individual and team results together. Team results on each of the five behaviors are rated red, yellow and green to direct attention to where the team should focus. The results suggest practical tips and exercises for building each of the five behaviors (trust, conflict, commitment, accountability and results), drawing from DiSC results and dynamics present on the team.

All these assessments (and many others I did not include here) are great and the results reports are easy to understand and actionable.

To get the most value from any assessment, leverage a trained coach or facilitator, who is skilled and knowledgeable with the assessment and with leadership and team development. For more tips on using (or not using) assessments, see Don’t Waste your Organization’s Time and Money on Assessments or feel free to contact me.

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Joe Baker is a Partner with PeopleResults. A leadership consultant, teaming expert and executive coach for over 15 years, he is experienced in using a variety of assessments and other tools to helps leaders and their organizations achieve effective relationships and results that matter. You can reach him at or on Twitter @JoeBakerJr.