Q. Caliper is a measure of a person's strengths, motivations and potential. But, it also has a degree of uncertainty. So, does that impair the search by companies?
A. No instrument or tool can measure with 100 per cent accuracy because of the nature of the human beings. We have a very high level of accuracy. From that, you can find out if a person is suited for a particular kind of things. For example, if we are looking at future leaders in companies than we know from all of our research across 50 years what a leader looks like and what certain attributes they tend to have. It is quite a consistent picture. These can be a shortlist for grooming young people in the organization who have similar attributes, if we give them the skills and the experiences. The profile doesn't say that they can do it just yet, but it tells us do they have the potential to grow and to develop into the future leaders.
Q. Would it be fair to say that this tool would help companies identify people who are high-potentials?
A. Yes, it does help companies identify high-potentials within the organization because it helps them to look at what are the natural tendencies of this person. What we know is that if a person is in a role, which plays to those natural tendencies, they tend to do better. They are more successful and more enjoyable. If we have a group of people and we are trying to make decisions about them, they use this as preset information to find HiPos. If a company has scientifically-based policies and processes in place, which are thorough and diligent, then it is likely to be successful.
Q. In that case, if you want to hire someone from outside the organization, would you use this tool to find out about the person's potential?
A. A large part of what Caliper does is exactly that: Helping companies to select people to bring them into business. We look at what the job entails, what does this person need to do; we look at what the profile is saying and find out if there is a match to it. In some instances, we would find out that the person is a good prospect for the role. Some companies would also try to see if the person matched other roles as well. This is a person who can scale up the levels and we can help there too. A large part of the work we do in Australia and the US is selection of people who come into business.
Q. What kind of levels do you apply the tool - entry level, mid-level or senior-level? Where do you see the highest concentration?
A. We are very happy if people applied at every level. The highest concentration we find is at mid-level. Some clients will apply it at every level because they see it as an investment in good decisions. Yes, there is money investment, but it saves more money in the end. Majority would be saying that we would look at mid-level and above. Probably, the only level that we don't get used for so much is the CEO level. Generally, that is done on track record alone. But, from there down, sometimes all the way down, we will be involved.
Q. Don't you think Caliper should apply to a person who is as important as the CEO especially since a CEO with a proven track record necessarily doesn't perform at the job he's been sought for?
A. Oh yes, we do! But, it doesn't happen because at the CEO level it is based on history. Companies need to change the old-fashioned approach of track record. Even if it is not used in the perspective or saying yes or no its value come through when we know what we are getting out of the person. We can have an idea of how this person will operate, interact with the senior team, the things that are going to matter most to this person. We reckon it is also useful from that perspective because it is also about how the new CEO will work with the executive team.
Q. Is it possible to make a success profile out of Caliper?
A. Yeah, we have hundreds of them in different companies. We have success profiles for leaders. And the interesting thing is they look much the same in every country. A senior leader in India looks like a senior leader in the US and the same is in Australia and China. As soon as you move down from that, they start to look different. So, managers in India look different from managers in Australia and so forth. At senior levels, they look remarkably similar.
Q. In the current economic condition, do you think tools like Caliper will help in anyway?
A. Yes, it will. In Australia particularly, a lot of companies are auditing, they are doing an assessment of the existing staff. We need to make sure that we have people in the right positions, particularly during tough times we have to make sure that we don't have people in the wrong jobs. They will do an analysis of the whole group and redeploy people to get better results. In the real world, some people whose potential for business is quite poor are let go not just on the basis of the profile. The profile might reinforce poor performance and the assessment points out that it is not going to get any better. It helps companies to find out poor performers and weed them out while retaining the high performers. We don't use profile as a way of culling workforce, we don't think it is ethical.
Sometimes, we get a different result when we put the person in a different role. Frequently, they are very successful. So it works both ways: Sometimes it saves a person from being let go because they are really in the wrong job and not performing and put them somewhere where they add value to the company.
Q. What are the biggest challenges for leaders in an emerging economy?
A. The biggest challenge is to maintain critical mass to be able to be an effective organization while you are in a lower demand circumstance. Sometimes, you are going to have make hard decisions. Economies around the world are grappling with the concept of demand being subdued and maintaining a viable company, being very lean and responsive to your market. Anyone in good times when there's lot of money, it is easy to have less than optimum functioning and still do okay. But when times get tougher, you can't be less than optimal. You have to be optimal. That means they are looking pretty hard at what you are doing and whether we have the right people.
Q. Do leaders need psychometric tools? Doesn't it lend an impersonal level of interaction with the person?
A. Much of the selection and promotion of people is left to chance, particularly when you bring people into the organization and you haven't seen them perform. Psychometric tools add science to that process and it will take away the subjective experience of interacting with somebody and liking them to let's have a look beneath the surface. That is where we add value to that process. Only if that is the only thing you did. So we would never advocate that. For example, if I were to hire you as a journalist for Caliper Australia, I would meet you, talk to you and then profile you. Then probably I will interview you again and know a little more about you. So it would be a mix of personal and the objective. Some of the biggest mistakes that people make is hiring people they like when they meet them.
Q. I believe Caliper is about the strengths of a person. What about the weaknesses?
A. We like to call them developmental opportunities rather than weaknesses. Everyone has them. There are very few perfect specimens. What we are dealing with is capabilities and areas that are underdeveloped; it is not so much their weaknesses but the areas where they are not as good a fit in a particular role or job. So, some people are not detail focused, some are not good at time management. A tool like this can help a mid-level manager if the potential is there. Sometimes, a person may be good very technically but when he is promoted to become a manager or a leader and they are not best at that because the attributes of the person, which made him successful in the previous role, may not be help here. So, where we assess them is do you have the natural predisposition to move to this role. My own view is that we do people favors by not promoting them. If we promote them to a role they will fail, it is a great disservice to them because failure itself is very difficult, disturbing and challenging.
Q. You have been an executive coach and also worked with world-class athletes, including Olympians. What insights you get from them when you interact with them?
A. The thing about sportspersons is that you can learn from them is the single-mindedness, clarity and purpose. It is probably easier for athletes to have clarity and purpose with clear-cut goals. Performance feedback is instant. You don't have to wait till the end or till the review comes around. It is like a process of development which is speeded up as the goals are clear and defined. The training and the development program is mapped clearly. The people who are successful in that have clarity and purpose. They know how much they have to do and they deal with the rewards and the setbacks. But, the corporate world does not work in the same way. But, it will help you see clearly how certain attributes will enhance performance and certain of them will detract you. There's one attribute of very successful athletes and you can transfer them to anyone: They have the capacity to stay focused on the moment in front of them, be attentive to what is happening now and not be afraid of about what might happen. It is often said that you can't be afraid to lose to be an athlete; you will have to risk that. People who can master this skill are the champions. In the corporate world, those who have the ability to focus on what is necessary now and are not afraid to lose or risk, they are often champions themselves.
Q. What about long-term vision?
A. It is important in terms of I know where I want to be. What's very important is the linkage of that long-term vision to what I'm doing today. One thing you learn from athletes is that if they want to win a gold medal in the Olympic games, they have a 7-8 year plan. They will have milestones on the day. So when they go on the training track tomorrow, they know what they are doing tomorrow is linked in sequence to where they want to be. There is purpose and meaning to this today because it takes me to my goal. So long-term vision is important and the linkage to what I'm doing today is equally important.
Q. So how does that trickle down?
A. By people who are good communicators. If you look at people who can convey what that meaning is, what that vision is and present it in a way that is meaningful to them; if you look at the best leaders, the way in which they talk to people who they lead and get them to willingly follow them is they will often talk about their long-term vision in a different way to a different audience. They will put in a way that have more meaning to the person and why you will enjoy and get benefit from joining that journey. Good leaders are able to connect to their audience. Leadership is not just about having a plaque on the door and a nice car, it is about getting people to follow you in places where they otherwise might not want to go.
Q. Do you think Indian leaders are open to using Caliper?
A. I do think they are open. They use Caliper as a sophisticated assessment tool. My understanding of the Indian marketplace is that it is quite sophisticated and there is strong awareness of these kinds of tools and their value, the value of Caliper being one of the higher end better products of its kind. Being in international business, we can compare this with something in China or Malaysia and I find that India is quite is quite appreciative of this kind of work.