Growth. Expansion. Development. Progression. These words translate in a business sense to an increase in size, footprint, market share, revenue and profit or shareholder value. They are common aspirations of most companies eager to accelerate along an upward trajectory, as opposed to crisis managing a downward spiral. In the current climate, most hospitality operating businesses are in aggressive growth mode and faced with “positive problems,” such as how to acquire new contracts, how to staff new openings, or how to satisfy growing customer numbers. For small- to medium-sized businesses in particular, the consequences of rapid growth and its transformative affects can be acute.
Many businesses are projected to double, even triple, in size over a short time frame, and the pressure this puts on all aspects of the current operation is extreme. One area of particularly potent stress can be the company’s leadership. For example, is the management team that has been running 10 hotels equipped to suddenly manage 20 hotels in the next 12 months? Does the management team have the necessary capabilities to manage new layers of organization, to integrate new accountabilities and to adjust to new lines of authority? How does an existing, core team bring in new talent and quickly build the necessary rapport, credibility and alignment? How does the CEO ensure a growing organization maintains alignment with the fundamental values, culture and purpose of the company?
As management ponders these strategic questions, takes stock of the impending growth coming down the track and prepares to equip itself for success, they may want to consider implementing what we at AETHOS call the “Psychometric SWOT” exercise. It is a cost-effective, efficient and simple solution that requires only about two hours to conduct and scales across all types and sizes of occupational teams.
Three Steps for a Successful Exercise… SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats and is a time-tested method for breaking down key performance and market variables into clear, manageable themes, which leaders subsequently use to define goals, set strategies and track outcomes. This analysis is often reserved for shaping business practices, but regrettably it has been underappreciated as an effective exercise for shaping people practices within specific teams, e.g., boards of directors, corporate leadership, etc. Time for this to change.
The exercise consists of three straightforward steps:
- Step 1: Profile. Administer a psychometric assessment to all team members to gain an aggregate team performance profile. Be mindful to use a tool that goes beyond personality traits. Independent research has shown personality to be an inconsistent predictor of workplace performance. Instead, augment personality tests with a competency assessment that measures execution skills, people skills (including emotional intelligence) and cognitive skills (arguably the strongest predictor of workplace performance).
This approach will allow you to evaluate your team’s mind-set and behaviours. As a result, you will see how the team functions as a “single entity” or system; thus, it becomes instantly clear which characteristics, attitudes and knowledge areas are low versus high within the group. This set of strengths and weaknesses reflects your current “team dynamics.”
Most online assessments can be completed easily within one hour, and often times much quicker. Therefore, this step should not be a drain on anyone’s time, and everyone should easily fulfil their part the week prior to the team meeting where the team results would be shared and discussed. One note – facilitators should not share reports on individual team members before Step 2. That only introduces an unnecessary distraction to the process before and during the exercise.
- Step 2: Evaluate. This entails a candid SWOT discussion of the ramifications of the newly revealed “team dynamics.” Maybe the aggregate profile reinforces what you expected, or perhaps you will uncover new information that brings additional context to the team’s performance concerns or aspirations. The discussion, facilitated by an internal or external expert, should soberly address those dynamics that should be maximized or corrected to yield optimal performance. Optimal performance, in turn, is defined as strong alignment across the four dimensions of the Performance Matrix – an organization’s Purpose & Values, Strategies & Goals, Structure & Tactics and Metrics & Outcomes.
The entire SWOT discussion often can be completed in about two hours, though many teams may want to extend the process for a host of reasons. Moreover, an external facilitator offers many advantages over using one’s incumbent HR or some other internal professional. An organizational psychologist or seasoned executive coach, for instance, is arguably best positioned to identify patterns in the SWOT analysis and lead the discussion in an unbiased manner. An impartial expert is not constrained by team politics, potential cliques or brewing power struggles. Therefore, we recommend leveraging the expertise of credible, impartial advisors whenever possible. It is usually a wise investment of time and money.
- Step 3: Calibrate. It is not enough merely to focus on adjusting one’s team dynamics. The exercise should also pay attention to the role of each individual team member in contributing to the team’s success metrics. Consequently, it is imperative for the exercise facilitator to have 1:1 follow-up sessions with all team members about their individual psychometric results, and how they can personally improve to maximize the team’s or function’s performance. In this sense, the Psychometric SWOT exercise happens at both the team and individual team member level.
This part should happen after the full team meeting so that participants are not distracted by their own personal results and become disengaged from the bigger picture of the full team’s Psychometric SWOT. Thirty to 60 minutes is a reasonable standard amount of time to allot for a private debrief, either via the phone or in-person.
Taking action… There it is. We have worked closely with the senior management teams of a number of hospitality businesses that, though of differing sizes and facing individual challenges, found themselves at a crossroads in their organization’s evolution. The Psychometric SWOT exercise proved to be a valuable tool in helping to bring fresh perspective, to reaffirm and realign goals and purpose, and to clearly map the way forward. We urge you to use the Psychometric SWOT as part of your next leadership retreat, annual meeting or strategic planning session. For guidance on planning or conducting your own Psychometric SWOT exercise, contact AETHOS Consulting Group.