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Sylvain Rochon, December 14 2022

Greg Magennis – Assessments as Part of a Leadership Development Journey

A CykoMetrix Production

Every week, the Spotlight shines on an amazing professional with a story to tell and lessons to teach. Welcome to the CykoMetrix Spotlight.

The following is an adapted transcript of the exchange between Sylvain Rochon, CMO at CykoMetrix as host, and Greg Magennis, Founder & Partner at Axiom Human Resource Development LLC. www.axiomhrd.com

Sylvain Rochon: Welcome to Psychometric Spotlight. My name is Sylvain Rochon. I am the Chief Marketing Officer at Psychometrics, a leading-edge combinatorial psychometric platform human data analytics company that brings the employee assessment industry to the cloud with instant assessments, in-depth analysis, trait measurements, and team-based reporting features that simplify informed decision-making around recruiting, training, and managing today's modern workforce. 

Today, we have a Psychometric Spotlight on Greg Magennis. He is the founder and partner at Axiom Human Resource Development LLC, down there in the States, in Texas I think. Greg is a South African Canadian, so he's been everywhere. He doesn't know where he lives most of the time. I'm pretty sure he's traveled the globe, but he immigrated to Canada in August 1994 and then moved to the US in 2009. 

So basically, you have no nation. You're everywhere, man. He has over 25 years of human resource assessment and leadership development, and performance management experience with a diverse group of North American organizations. His initial corporate experience began with the marketing and sales disciplines at SmithKline Beecham Consumer Brands in South Africa, and National Brands Limited also in South Africa. 

Greg has helped to grow three private companies since he arrived in Canada and the USA and founded his own company, Axiom Human Resource Development, LLC in 2003. Greg spends his time developing coaching businesses, for-profit leaders, and growing an executive search firm with his wife, Lisa. 

That is a great story. I like the globe-trotting there, Greg. Nice of you to join us in the spotlight. 

Greg Magennis: Thank you so much. Sylvain, I just love your sense of humor, I don't know how you would describe my status. Certainly, I feel very connected to both South Africa and Canada and deeply grateful by the way for Canada welcoming me as Canadians do. 

Sylvain: With an apology? 

Greg: No, not the “sorry” apology. I landed in August 94 and moved to Calgary that December. That was my first home. Because of that I'm a Calgary Flames fan and identify with being an “Albertan”. I also see myself as an unofficial ambassador for South Africa and Canada down here in Dallas, Texas. 

Sylvain: Well, your career has brought you to all these places, and you've been a business leader, a creator of enterprise in all three nations, in an arena that we care about, which is human resources and coaching and of course assessments. 

I'd like you to talk about assessments a little bit, because speaking with you before, you use assessments as part of a journey to help leaders evolve, not only by getting a little touch up but getting down to a process that I'm assuming gives really good results. Can you tell us about that process? 

Greg: Yes. Thank you. Just to backtrack, when I arrived in Canada, most “traditional assessments” were still in the domain or in the hands of professional psychologists, and a few “psychometric test providers”. My brother, Sean Magennis, had purchased a license to distribute “psychometric tests” in Canada from a UK Parent Company. I was trained on them in South Africa before immigrating. He asked me to join him in building his Canadian business – that’s how my experience with assessments began.

At the time, one of the few other local Canadian assessment companies was McQuaig Institute, and their “McQuaig Word Survey”. Some of your listeners from Canada might be familiar with McQuaig. My brother had partnered with “The Caldwell Partners, which provided an entree to senior VPs of human resources and CEOs, through this approach we like to think that we pioneered the idea of bringing assessment into the daily workings of management and teams. 

We promoted that assessments should not be used only in the recruiting cycle, but also as part of onboarding and regular check-ins, and as part of a coaching and development cycle with people leaders and within all levels of organizations. It's taken time, but I think you're seeing so much more adoption of assessment, particularly with the advent of the internet. 

When assessment is imbedded in the annual tracking of a leader’s or individual contributor’s development and growth plans it allows for a real focus on closing identified gaps and areas of strength that should be reinforced. The results that accrue from a consistent assessment process over time, far exceed a process that leaves development and coaching up to “chance”.

When we began, assessments were still, in large part, completed in a “paper-and-pencil” format. Our original training taught us to score these assessments by hand and then to be able to type out a report based on the scores. Our language, writing, and descriptive skills had to be particularly honed to generate a professional report. Think about the time that took versus what we now have in literally milliseconds. It’s amazing to reflect back on the work the computer programmers and report writers put into the “expert report generating” software engines, and how that was the “early days” of what we now call “AI” or more accurately “machine learning”. So, I feel like I'm dating myself in some respects, but it's very cool to have started out in paper and pencil, and literally hand-typing some of these reports. 

Sylvain: Yeah, that's right. The times have changed. Now you can have instant results as soon as the data is in, basically. The computer crunches the numbers and produces a nice, visualized report. That is something that we've done, and many, many have done that. 

So, tell me about how assessments are applied in your business? For that continuous development journey, how do you apply these assessments today? 

Greg: Great question. It starts with the preparation and the training of an organization if they're utilizing assessments internally, and/or, if they use our consulting services. We like to empower organizations we are working with the knowledge and training that will equip them to “utilize assessment” as part of their recruiting, development, and coaching, initiatives. At minimum, following the guidelines for the use of assessments laid out in the EEOC legislation, but also considering how they intend to use and store the data collected over the long term. Using assessments without a specific stated outcome and appropriate approach can be very expensive and often detrimental if not thought through.

How we treat people, as it relates to information that we're asking them to give us or assessments that we are asking them to complete, is foundational.

Based on the outcomes and organization wants to achieve we can then examine which “types” of assessments would fit into their needs. There are some assessments that are good at picking up nuances or changes in behavior over time. Our partners at Axiom Software have built an outstanding behavioral and team assessment as an example. Then there are the newer “five-factor” models, along with cognitive assessments, and 360 feedback assessments that all can play a role. Some roles are ideally suited to certain assessments where speed and accuracy in a role, or precision, is a major part of the deliverable needed for success. These could be mechanical roles, or certain roles that are very task oriented where skills can be accurately measured by assessments.

We have focused a lot on the “behavioral side” along with team assessment and on the career journey “contribution journey” as I like to call it. 

Checking in on a regular basis, at least annually, is an important part of success, where leaders and individual contributors are not just doing a “recruiting” assessment but are given the data and insights they need to manage and “own” their career and contribution journey. 

Our challenge with most organizations is to co-create a regular “virtuous development and growth cycle” where we're checking in with people, letting them redo assessments, at least annually, looking at what's changing in their results, and how the dynamics of business and their own progress are constantly changing in relation to their contribution. This approach is lending itself to people feeling more connected to what they're doing, and more appreciated. 

When leaders and individual contributors receive these insights into themselves, whether it's their own individual assessment or using 360 feedback, the ownership is appropriately shared between the organization and the individual. It becomes a “partnered approach” that is designed as thoughtfully as possible to achieve the outcomes needed by all parties. My colleague, Adam Leonard, in his book “Integral Life Practice”, refers to the “I, We, and It”. The Person, the Team, the Organization/Stakeholders. If we cover off the needs of each, we are including versus excluding and ensuring we are considering multiple perspectives.

Sylvain: How do you integrate that cyclical process? As far as I know, it is a challenge for consulting companies, but it is very desirable for the client and the consulting companies to have this stickiness and that the engagement is continuous. 

How do you manage to do it in a practical sense? Do you have a process or a tool that you use that enables that for you? 

Greg: The tools that we are using are sophisticated. The challenge we have is that most organizations have different HRIS & LMS systems. So, each organization Is going to have a different platform, whether it's SAP or whatever tool that they're using. 

Some are still lagging or have legacy systems that don't talk to one another as they attempt to layer in some of the new systems like Workday, Weekdone, or Teamspace. So, integrating the various assessment tools into these stems is a challenge unless they have been purpose built to “plug-and-play “.

Integration comes from working directly with the leaders themselves, and their management teams. Having a commitment and buy-in is essential to have organizations utilze assessment effectively over the long term. Having assessments part of the KPI or OKR requirements for all jobs provides a measurement dimension that without them becomes “subjective” and somewhat biased at best.

This is where I really like what you and your organization are building.

Technology is enabling instant check-in on results and taking away the “labor” that used to be associated with “test administration” We work with a number of large organizations and mid-market companies that are using technology like Teamspace which focuses on a weekly rhythm of feedback and checkin within teams. If used effectively, always the caveat, teams and the management of team’s contribution can be dramatically improved. The more connected people are and the more frequent the “feedback loops”, the greater opportunity teams and individuals have to respond to the ever changing demands, and the “Dawn of Disruption” as Mark and Dean Furman refer to this period in our lives.

360 feedback can be very useful if designed and executed well. We recommend doing those on an annualized basis or at least every two years, not as part of performance management, but as part of individual and team development. If used as part of “performance management”, they can become very punitive and therefore counterproductive.

Sylvain: So that brings the question of how. Like you said, there's a perception and there's an approach to achieve this with the people that are being assessed so that it doesn't feel like they're being bothered, or they're being measured negatively, or some kind of negative outcomes may come out of it. 

How do you approach this issue to make sure that the people that are taking the assessments or the ones that may have the highest likelihood of feeling offended or scared about being assessed --- how do you get them on board into the cycle and excited about it? 

Greg: The values of the company and the commitments that they're making to develop people come into play here. For example, the commitment to be and become “a deliberately developmental organization” sets up a relationship that looks at the “lifetime value” of an individual and their contribution. Organizations that make this type of commitment are the ones that we look for. If they are right up front as part of their values and stated commitment when people are onboarded into their organizations, individuals come in knowing that the commitment that the company is going to make is to allow them to develop and grow as they progress within the organization. 

Typically, organizations are moving so quickly, our environments are so “agile” and “disruptive” that we believe development is also part of the puzzle of the individual's responsibility, not just the organization. So, we're helping organizations to embrace coaching and sharing how individuals can even coach themselves, versus waiting for an organization to come along and say, wow, we've noticed this, or we've noticed that. 

It's becoming incumbent on each of us to put our hand up and say, “these are my development gaps and this is what I have found that can help me close those gaps.” If I'm not tracking my own development as much as the organization is tracking me, I'm going to miss out on accelerating where I want to go and where I want to contribute. So, I see that as a massive opportunity going forward and we're seeing more and more people take responsibility from early on in their careers and not waiting for organizations to tell them what to do. 

We are committed to helping organizations to let go of the “career journey”, and to embrace much more of a partnered and shared commitment between the individual contributor or leader and the organization itself, we're not waiting for the development to happen, we're initiating it together. 

Sylvain: Right. So, a bit of a follow-up. How do you develop leaders specifically in this environment, in these processes? 

Greg: Developing or “continuous growth” is not for the faint of heart. It seems “corny” but it’s no different to exercising our bodies to stay healthy in spirit, mind, and body. The process that I offer the leaders was developed and refined by my mentor, Randy Parkin, a founder of the Covey Institute in Canada. We call it “PATHS to Leadership”. Imbedded within that is another leadership framework that was popularized by Peter Koestenbaum, where he puts forward the idea that great leaders are exceptionally “self-aware and take action”. 

Self-awareness is about a “vision of the future” whilst simultaneously having the ability to “tell the truth about the current reality.” Action is about “the courage to step outside the box” and to “execute/make things happen ethically.” This is a leader who is curious, present, and does not sugar-coat or bias their current reality, or blame and point fingers elsewhere. They take ownership and understand their current reality, but at the same time, have an elegant vision of where they're going. (Obviously, this takes an “emotionally intelligent” individual, to have the courage to operate this way. Daniel Goleman, the godfather of EI suggests it the “difference maker.”) When I know where I am and I can tell the truth about where I am, and I have a good idea of where I'm going, and I'm collaborating with others, and we're checking in, the chances are that we are going to arrive at the place are dramatically increased. It's like going on a hike with a topographical map and a compass. We may deviate from the PATH occasionally, but a great leader and team members who diligently examining the map and use their compasses, invariably arrive at their destination. (Making sure we all have the same “maps” is another challenge.)

Not all leaders want to sign up for “providing a map and compass” approach.  Navigating without them is perilous. In many organizations that we deal with, when people engage with us, you can see and feel that they start to become automatically defensive because they feel that this process is going to be exposing them and it's going to create all sorts of vulnerability for them. We support them to embracing it as, “wow, this is an opportunity for me to get clearer on my current reality and where we're going, and to be more courageous, but to execute and take action in an ethical fashion.” (Sometimes teams are operating from different maps, or none, and no one has a compass.)

Sylvain: I like it. I certainly like the authentic kind of approach and self-awareness and execution. In our language, that would be the drive to results. I totally get that.

Greg, can you give us a concrete case of training that you found particularly interesting to illustrate a bit the journey of the process? Something practical? 

Greg: Yes, we love the use of the word “journey”, because when you think about the beginning and the duration of our careers, it’s more like a marathon than a sprint, even though we will need to sprint at times to get things done. The journey can also be seen in terms of “lifetime value”, something that I saw at Ernst and Young and while working with Philip Roark, who built their “Alumni Technology Platform”.

What Ernst and Young have done is they've said, "Look, you come into our organization, and you are already an alumnus from day one." They treat people in a way that those people would want to be treated because they know that you and I, if we work for Ernst and Young, are going to leave at some point to further our careers. We might join one of their client companies, or,  start a company like you've started. Then, we also might want to come back to E&Y at some point. They really understand that life cycle, that “journey of the contribution” that individuals go on. Their “Hero’s journey”

With that as the backdrop, my most recent and high return “leadership journey” is one that I have had the privilege of starting and now leading since 2015.

Trudy Bourgeois, an amazing leader, and business owner, approached me to partner with her in co-creating this “six-month learning journey”. There's an assessment on the front end, and assessments as we go through the course of the journey. The program, at its core, is all about value and impact, connecting across differences, and building the leadership “muscles” of “inclusive leadership”.

Trudy brought her “learning framework” of “Business, People, Self, and Organizational Leadership” to bear inside of the program, along with David Emerald’s Empowerment Dynamic, of which I am a decade and more long certified practitioner, where we guide leaders in partnership with an employee they are leading, to rigorously own their careers and their contributions.

We use an “intercultural development” assessment, IDI, as part of the program to support “connecting across differences.” The developmental opportunities in this area can be a game changer for many. What we have found is that for there to be a real return on the investment an organization makes, individuals have to do significant and meaningful work, basically doing what we prescribe them to do. No development or transformation will occur without a real and serious investment from the individual.

A “growth mindset” is foundational to all our programs. Since 2015, this six-month program has become one of the most popular programs in leadership within the organization. 

One of the stated outcomes from this program is to drive retention. However, some leaders do leave the organization post the program because of “unintended consequences”. Individuals become very self-aware and very connected to how they're taking action or executing through the course of the program. They realize that in some instances, there isn't a career trajectory for them in the organization, and they leave.

Some start to show-up bolder and more courageous and they get “poached” because suddenly, their confidence, in a humble way, comes online, and they realize that they could be contributing a lot more. Organizations must be prepared for that. They must be prepared for when they engage with individuals, and they start deliberately developing the value and impact, and they may find that people need to leave. However, if you remember my example of E&Y, people never forget an organization that has invested in them, and they may come back. They will most certainly promote the organization to others and hold them in high regard. The value of that is priceless.

Sylvain: Yeah. Wow. 

Greg: The gratitude expressed by participants in the program, the empowerment they experience, the increased commitment to the organization and the increase in their productivity, are measures by that have allowed the program to continue and flourish. It’s a true partnership with the organization, us, and those that go through the program. We call it “the gift that keeps on giving”!

Sylvain: Well, that's really it right. Like when you're doing consultations and just offering a service in general, if the outcomes for the business are positive, well they'll re-invite you. Typically, yeah, even though like you mentioned, on a micro level, there are some events that may seem on their own, like bad events, like a person leaving. 

One would say, well, you're here to try to help prevent attrition. So, what's happening? Well, based on what you're describing here, you're helping the individuals and the teams figure out who should stay, and who is better off leaving. Because that person that should be leaving also benefits the team most likely because that individual would not be a good fit because motivations are misaligned, and the culture may not be great, or that different aspirations and whatever that is.

I know in our assessments we've told that story, another time we can talk about this, but there is a way where you can identify potential individuals that require that kind of discussion in there, and that's important. That's a healthy process inside a business. 

You want to keep the individuals that are committed aligned, they have a good time there. This is a very, very soft kind of mentality or soft skills, culture, purpose, alignment, all that stuff. If you can optimize that within a team through a process, through a journey, well, then you have a lot of growth going on. 

And so, yeah, they want to hire you back. And what's cool about assessments, at least for me is that in many ways, you can measure the impact of the consulting presence through multiple assessments, and you see things change. 

Greg: Yes, for sure!

Sylvain: For me, being a data guy, that's really important. How many times have we been ourselves assessed and you get a report that says something about you which is really cool, and then nothing's done about it? You may feel good about the training, there was a fun time. But then, the ball gets dropped. So, you feel like ultimately, it was fun, but it was kind of a waste of time in the end. 

So, what is your plan? Because this seems to be a disruptor in your approach, like in the way you're doing things. What are your plans for your business to expand and expose this type of process throughout the world? Do you have any big plans, or is it more local? 

Greg: The challenge for programs like this, I think is the interpersonal connection, being in-person. So, think about pre-Covid, because the experience that we've had going through the pandemic lockdowns globally has been obviously very, very difficult for people. The negative consequences have been dramatic. But we were fortunate to have communication and learning platforms that empowered us to stay virtually connected. The fact that you and I connected virtually in this kind of environment is fantastic. 

The “silver lining” is that this organization committed to continue the program virtually, and we were very lucky. This client, instead of saying, "Hey, we're stopping”, migrated into a virtual environment. We had to “rejig” the curriculum and delivery to fit with what is achievable in a virtual format. It has not been ideal, but it has worked and the return in investment is still very high.

There's very little, at least in my experience, that can substitute for that human experience, that connection, that energy of learning from others in-person, and going through that dynamic together. 

In the future, I've thought of building a more scalable approach with a combination of virtual options and in-person. There are so many platforms that have emerged during the pandemic, it’s now a matter of experimenting with the best and seeing what is the most sustainable and cost effective. 

The challenge for people like me is that I love to be facilitating and enjoying the interaction with facilitating a dialogue and experience that empowers others to develop and grow.

I think there's a huge opportunity but maybe you and I could have a discussion about how approaches like this can be scaled? 

We currently don't offer a public program and just focus inside organizations. A public offering that retains the intimacy of smaller learning communities may be a great experiment.

Sylvain: I think that's fantastic insights into how you do things in generating continuous success and growth. This is the world we live in now. I mean, most employees nowadays want to have growth. Just like your Ernest and Young example. They want to have that kind of environment. 

They want to feel like they can grow, change companies, and improve themselves. 

And it's become kind of an employee market in part because of that, and you are tapping into that. Basically, that desire and companies that want to tap into that for their own growth as well. So, I would encourage anybody that's watching this or reading this in an interview format, on print or online. 

Well, you can contact Greg. If you want to have access to his programs and his processes and technology and ideas, whether you're in South Africa, Canada, the US, or anywhere else in the world, I think Greg is going to be very welcoming. 

This is an excellent, excellent, program. I can tell. Thank you so much to be in the Spotlight, Greg. 

Greg: Thank you so much, Sylvain. What a privilege to be here with you. 

Sylvain: Thanks so much. 

About Greg Magenniswww.axiomhrd.com

Greg is a "South African Canadian" who immigrated to Canada in August 1994 and moved from there to the USA in 2009.

He has over 25 years of human resource, assessment, leadership development, and performance management experience, with a diverse group of North American organizations. His initial corporate experience began with the marketing & sales disciplines of SmithKline Beecham Consumer Brands, South Africa, and National Brands Limited, South Africa.

Greg has helped to grow three private companies since he arrived in Canada and the USA and founded his own company, Axiom Human Resource Development LLC, in 2003. Greg spends his time between developing and coaching business and not-for-profit leaders, and growing an Executive Search firm with his wife, Lisa.

A graduate of Rhodes University in Business Administration, Economics and Commercial Law, Greg is committed to a lifelong journey of learning, continually seeking opportunities to make a difference and contribute to the success of individuals and groups. His passion for people is self-evident.

Greg feels privileged to have a wonderful wife and daughter and his purpose is “Building Value, Authentic Influence, & Positive Impact.”

Greg Magennis - Purpose Statement “Building Value, Authentic Influence, and Positive Impact”

Why: “Celebrating Life”

“For as long as I can remember I have always seen the light in people’s eyes versus the darkness. I can feel what is possible for others no matter what their age, stage of development, circumstance, or culture, may be. I cannot choose for anyone, but I can be a stand for the possibility of their best or highest-self emerging in a form that is completely unique to them and their experience of their world. “Building Value, Authentic Influence, and Positive Impact” is not a destination but a compelling vision of what is possible. It calls for an authentic choice to be made to honor whatever is at our core and to bring that out into the world whenever and wherever possible for the benefit of self and mankind.

I can argue for what is possible in this regard, but I will not argue for any limitation, real or imagined. I am an optimist and experience life as a gift worth living fully, no matter what shape I am in. In turn I am held accountable to build my own value, authentic influence, & make a positive impact for my world and therefore there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide, just life in the raw, “hips over feet”.

It’s all about “Celebrating Life”.”

Gratefulness Top 10

1. God, Lisa, and Sydney

2. Health (5 Senses – Wow!)

3. Family (Parents, Siblings, Relatives)

4. Relationships, & all the challenges & tough time’s life throws at me, the brutal realities, and the fierce conversations.

5. Extended World Family (Special friends and Angels there at every turn.)

6. Ability to work, create, play, & make a difference

7. Food and water

8. Shelter

9. To be alive knowing fully the fragile nature of life and that I am a mere mortal.

10. Earth (All its oceans, lakes, flora, fauna, and the creatures thriving in/on it.)

About CykoMetrix - www.CykoMetrix.com

CykoMetrix is a leading edge combinatorial psychometric and human data analytics company that brings the employee assessment industry to the cloud, with instant assessments, in-depth analysis, trait measurements, and team-based reporting features that simplify informed decision-making around recruiting, training, and managing today’s modern workplace.


Written by

Sylvain Rochon

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