• Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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Leadership code assessments can revolutionise workplace in Africa – Modiselle and Jidenma

Leadership code assessments can revolutionise workplace in Africa – Modiselle and Jidenma

Clifford Modiselle, Director at Joint Prosperity Pty Limited, South Africa, and Dr Ije Jidenma, Director/CEO, Leading Edge Consultancy Services Limited, and Partner at Kestria Global, both of whom are experienced strategic and human resource management experts with over 20 years of experience, speak in this exclusive interview with BusinessDay’s Olusola, M. Oluwafemi, and Obidike Okafor about how psychometric tests differentiate between strategic and operational individuals in the workplace…Excerpt.

Can you share with us your vision or your mission in Nigeria, and why this visit?

Clifford Modiselle:

My visit was arranged by Dr Jidema in conjunction with the Nigeria South Africa Chamber of Commerce. We were invited to give a presentation on creating the leadership code using the Stratified System Theory, which includes the Competitive Avocation Test (CAT). This test differentiates between strategic and operational individuals in the workplace. It is a unique tool developed and tested on the African continent.

As you know, most psychometric tests we use in Africa originate from America or Europe. However, this test is developed in Africa by Africans for Africans, and it is also suitable for the global market. It has been utilised not only in Africa but also in Australia, the Americas, the Middle East, and Europe. It is culturally fair and unbiased against any population.

The focus is on how leaders think and operate in a rapidly changing environment. The COVID-19 pandemic has further underscored the necessity for adaptive thinking and operation.

Dr Ije and I have been collaborating since 2005, building a longstanding and fruitful relationship. Over the years, we have moved from conceptual discussions to practical, hands-on projects. This collaborative spirit was exemplified in our joint presentation at yesterday’s breakfast meeting.

We not only co-developed the presentation but also delivered it together and jointly answered questions from the audience. This seamless partnership showcases our ability to work as a cohesive team, even under public scrutiny.

Moreover, we have a history of working with Nigerian organisations, bringing our collaborative efforts to practical applications within the local context. Our combined expertise has enabled us to make significant contributions, further strengthening the ties between our countries and demonstrating the value of international collaboration.

Ije Jidenma:

As the director of the Nigerian-South African Chamber of Commerce, I oversee our monthly breakfast meetings, and this June, our family consulting firm is sponsoring the event. These meetings advance the collaboration between Nigeria and South Africa, and we believed it would be a perfect opportunity to showcase a typical partnership between our two countries. This year’s event features a guest from South Africa, highlighting the benefits of such collaborations.

During this meeting, we will present the Complexity Navigation Test (CNT), developed in Africa, which emphasises systems thinking in a world of complexity and ambiguity. Unlike typical ability tests, the CNT is relevant and validated for use at all levels, including CEOs and board members. It has been reliably used not only in Africa but also in Europe, Asia, and beyond.

The importance of this test lies in its cultural fairness and global applicability. Africa deserves a voice at the global level, and it is crucial that our frameworks include African inputs. This ensures that our narratives are shaped within the appropriate context, demonstrating the value of African contributions to global standards.

 “This is a common reason for underperformance among senior leaders.”

How do you measure the success of this kind of intervention in the workplaces where the tests have been used?

Clifford Modiselle:

Yes, we often get called in to diagnose performance issues, particularly with senior executives. These issues typically revolve around two main areas.

First, when a finance manager is promoted to Chief Financial Officer, the role shifts significantly. At this higher level, the individual must think broadly and strategically about the entire business, not just finance. If the executive lacks the necessary strategic thinking skills, they may focus too narrowly on finance in the boardroom, neglecting broader business considerations. This is a common reason for underperformance among senior leaders.

Second, poor performance can also stem from a lack of emotional maturity. Executives may not be aware of how their leadership style impacts those around them. While conceptual and strategic abilities are crucial, personality and behaviour are equally important. Effective leadership requires a balance of these elements.

We’ve also conducted research on young graduates, around 22 to 23 years old, entering organisations. For example, we tracked a cohort that joined a business around 2003-2004. When we revisited them a few years ago, many had progressed to executive roles. This indicates that our tests, which measure reliability and validity, successfully identified young talents with strong conceptual abilities who could be trained to become future leaders. The succession processes in these organisations were highly effective, leading to positive outcomes.

Do you believe that everyone has the resources necessary to make the necessary changes in their lives?

Ije Jidenma:

Whether at a senior, mid, or lower level, our goal is to help individuals and teams in Africa effectively use their resources to actualize their dreams. Understanding fluid and crystallised intelligence is crucial. Fluid intelligence refers to the capacity to solve new problems and think abstractly, while crystallised intelligence involves using knowledge gained from past experiences.

Both nature and nurture play roles in shaping an individual’s abilities. Genetics and DNA contribute to one’s potential, but exposure, training, and coaching are equally important. Our assessments aim to predict potential while recognizing the importance of personal development through various experiences.

Insight into one’s strengths and current level is essential for reaching their potential. While these assessments do not limit individuals, they highlight diverse talents and opportunities for growth. For organisations, optimising placements is vital. For example, an operational role requires someone with a tactical mindset, while a strategic role needs someone who can handle ambiguity and complexity.

Proper placement is crucial for organisational success. In my experience, conducting manpower assessments for an oil and gas company revealed instances where operational individuals were supervising strategic thinkers, leading to frustration. Identifying people with a helicopter view ensures they manage complexities effectively.

Our tool is culture-free, focusing on practical application rather than abstract content. It aids in identifying the right individuals for specific roles based on the organisation’s needs. For instance, a transformation phase requires visionary leaders, while maintaining the status quo may need tactical individuals. Understanding these nuances ensures that ideas are not only generated but also implemented effectively.

Clifford Modiselle:

I also acknowledge the importance of diversity within a team. A diverse team is essential because having only operational or only strategic individuals creates problems. If everyone is strategic, who will ensure that plans are executed? Conversely, if everyone is operational, who will drive forward-thinking and innovation?

Diversity in skills and perspectives is crucial. It’s not about one being more important than the other; strategic and operational roles are equally vital. It’s about understanding where the business currently stands and where it needs to go, then ensuring the team fits these needs.

Each role has a voice and contributes to the overall success of the business, reflecting the importance of diverse talents and perspectives in achieving business goals.

Where does this test fit in when it comes to the future of work, and does it help people improve their skill sets to avoid getting lost in technology and automation?

Clifford Modiselle:

Indeed, the test primarily measures problem-solving style and the ability to navigate complexity, which are crucial skills across different organisational roles. Whether someone is a teller, a finance manager, or a chief finance officer, each role demands a distinct approach to problem-solving and handling complexity.

By pinpointing an individual’s problem-solving style and complexity management capabilities, the test reveals areas where skills may need enhancement. For instance, if a CFO demonstrates operational tendencies, they can strategically address this gap by hiring a strong deputy with superior strategic skills.

Such insights are invaluable because they highlight innate talents that can’t simply be developed through training alone. This approach ensures that organisational roles are filled with individuals best suited to handle their unique challenges and responsibilities effectively.

Ije Jidenma:

You’re right in pointing out the increasing automation of tasks, which elevates the importance of grappling with ambiguity and complexity, particularly in strategic roles. While fluid intelligence plays a significant role, it doesn’t mean others lack these capabilities—it simply suggests untapped potential. Assessments like these can provide valuable insights, guiding individuals towards personal growth and development over time.

By enhancing their skills, individuals can position themselves for higher-level roles that are not at risk of automation. Personally, I find this concept intriguing and relevant to our current needs. It offers clarity on where one fits within the evolving landscape and encourages personal development aligned with emerging demands.

Adopting such approaches is pivotal for staying competitive and relevant in a changing environment. It is a positive step towards self-improvement and aligning oneself with future opportunities.

What do you think would be the acceptability level, challenges, and opportunities for this in Africa? How positive would this be perceived by Africans, considering potential challenges and resistance?

Ije Jidenma:

We’ve been using this approach for the past three to four years, particularly in Nigeria where we have amassed a substantial database of close to or exceeding 1,000 entries. In evaluating its viability and effectiveness over time, I can confidently say it has proven to be quite effective and beneficial for all involved.

However, I understand your concerns. At the core of our operations is a commitment to ethical values and integrity. We prioritise doing what is right, ensuring that our processes are fair and transparent. I’ve encountered situations where our assessments have highlighted discrepancies, such as when a preferred candidate did not perform as expected. Despite pressure to alter results, we stood firm on maintaining integrity and accuracy.

Challenges do exist, particularly in environments where corruption or favouritism may influence decision-making. These are real obstacles that can undermine the acceptance and effectiveness of such tools. Yet, promoting integrity and objectivity remains crucial. For instance, in my experience working with an oil and gas company, adherence to objective assessments led to noticeable improvements in hiring quality. The transparency ensured that the best candidates were selected based on merit, not connections.

While psychological tools may not provide a perfect solution due to the complexities of human behaviour, they significantly enhance our ability to make informed decisions. They validate intuitive assessments with scientific rigour, leveraging normative samples to ensure fairness and reliability. This approach is essential for navigating the complexities of organisational dynamics and promoting a culture of meritocracy.

Clifford Modiselle:

I have a compelling example from our work with a global organisation where we assessed a candidate for an executive role overseeing corporate affairs, communications, and marketing. Despite our assessment indicating the candidate’s operational orientation, the board and CEO decided to appoint them based on their extensive experience and impressive interview performance.

Initially, the candidate excelled in discussing communications and corporate affairs strategies aligned with the organisation’s existing direction. However, a year later, when the organisation’s strategy shifted, the candidate struggled to adapt. Their performance began to falter, leading to concerns within the organisation.

Eventually, they approached me seeking insights, recalling our earlier discussions. I had cautioned that while they could articulate well and had significant experience, their operational mindset might hinder them once the organisational strategy evolved. Unfortunately, this prediction proved accurate, and within a year, they were no longer suitable for the role and had to exit the organisation.

This example underscores the importance of aligning leadership roles with not only experience and interview performance but also with strategic and operational capabilities. It highlights the risks of overlooking assessment results that indicate potential challenges in adapting to changing organisational needs. Effective leadership requires a balance of both strategic vision and operational agility to navigate shifts in strategy successfully.

Instead of forcing someone into a role that doesn’t match their natural strengths, is there a way to integrate their strategic abilities into the organisation effectively?

Ije Jidenma:

We do have advice readily available for such situations, and it’s something we emphasise consistently. Sometimes, it is beneficial to recognise that a person may not yet be fully prepared for a particular role. In such cases, investing time in coaching programs can significantly enhance their capabilities and readiness. While your point about needing strategic alignment is valid, especially in the case of a CEO where there’s only one position available, thoughtful consideration is crucial.

Across the globe, there’s a growing recognition of the effectiveness of these approaches. Personally, I can offer insights based on past experiences with assessments that highlighted both strengths and weaknesses. Addressing these weaknesses with targeted efforts allowed me to improve and perform more effectively. This proactive approach is increasingly vital in today’s complex organisational landscapes.

Modern organisations face multifaceted challenges with intricate reporting structures that extend beyond traditional hierarchies, spanning geographies and functions. Managing these complexities demands specific skills not everyone possesses. Recognising these factors early on allows for proactive planning. Otherwise, there can be lingering uncertainties about a person’s ability to handle various responsibilities effectively.