Color-Coded Leadership

How Mountain America uses a personality assessment to improve management-employee relationships.

Leadership is a responsibility. Sure, there’s perks such as the corner office with the view and a couple more digits in the monthly bank statement. But overall, those in positions of leadership face daily challenges, especially when it comes to management.

Suzanne Oliver, SVP Educational Services and Governmental Affairs, Mountain America Credit Union

That’s why Mountain America Credit Union ($3.9B, West Jordan, UT) began working with Shipley Communication 10 years ago, to leverage the company’s 4-Lenses assessment as a way to better understand the personality and temperament of its employees. 4-Lenses is a personality assessment program inspired by both the research of the Myers Briggs’ Personality Type Indicator and in David Keirsey’s bookPlease Understand Me.

Those who have completed the assessment have their personalities broken down by percentage into four color-coded sections depending on their responses. Gold represents leadership and motivation; blue represents relationship-focused; orange represents fun; green represents analytical and fact-based thinking. Thus far, several hundred credit union employees have completed this program.

In this QA, Suzanne Oliver, senior vice president of educational services and governmental affairs, discusses the credit union’s decision to administer these personality tests, how the information benefits management, and best practices.

Tell me about the beginnings of this partnership. Why did you decide to implement the 4-Lenses program? Was there a need you were looking to fill?

We were expanding our leadership development program. We searched for a vendor to enrich our program the rest of which was developed in house. The 4-Lenses teaches participants self-awareness first, and then enables them to be much more aware of others including their employees and peers. There are many assessment tools in the training industry to measure various aspects of individuals their personality, preferences, type. The 4Lenses fit the learning needs of our managers and supervisors.

Who completes this assessment?

Currently only those managers and assistant managers going through MACU’s intermediate level leadership development program complete the assessment.

Why do you want this information?

Our goal is to develop and grow our leaders. By becoming more aware of their own individual preferences, the participants are then also more aware of the preferences and needs of their employees and others around them.

How do you leverage this information into day-to-day decision making process?

The design of the leadership program is based on the results of the assessments of the individuals in that particular class. By identifying the learning and development needs of the group, we design the training program to address these specific needs with learning modules targeting that concept or area.

How is this program an improvement over past processes that you’ve used to meet similar goals?

Our people really like the Shipley program the modules are very engaging and thought provoking. They value the opportunity to learn more about themselves and in turn recognize that they are also learning how to more effectively work with others.

What are some of the metrics or goals you track to determine the success of the program? How have you done in meeting those goals?

One of the initial goals in measuring the effectiveness of the course was to improve the timeliness of performance evaluations. Some managers were submitting employee performance evaluations late. The metrics after managers completed the program were dramatically better. Performance evaluations were being completed in a much more timely fashion and conveyed a more positive impression to the employees of those managers that this was important to their leader, as it is to the employee. At that time pay increases were tied to the performance evaluation completion. This also meant employees were receiving their associated pay increase on schedule instead of late. Even when it was retro-activated, when these important processes were completed late, it unintentionally gave the [incorrect] impression to the employee that they weren’t very important to their direct supervisor.

What are some of the best practices you could identify for a credit union looking to best use this type of information in the future?

There are times when it is wise to go with an outside vendor on a program of this scope and potential impact to the organization rather than trying to develop it yourself in-house. The opportunity cost of developing everything internally can be high. Time is another factor for consideration when high level programs are developed internally it takes time for CU staff to acquire the knowledge and experience to be prepared to create a higher level program. Training departments do not always have the expertise to design and create all of their own programs and it makes sense to partner with an outside expert. I recommend being very careful in your search for training vendors as there are so many out there. It’s critical to partner with training vendors that have similar values and philosophy of your own organization for the most successful outcomes.

October 9, 2014

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