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The Nine Box: A Tool You Can Use to Identify and Retain Key Talent

Do you read the comics section of the newspaper? I do, too.

I particularly like to read “Dilbert,”  Scott Adams’ strip known for its satirical office humor about a white-collar, micromanaged office. 

In his strip, Adams portrays corporate culture as Dilbert, the main character, views it.  His is a bureaucratic world where office politics stand in the way of productivity, where employees’ skills go unrewarded, where busy work is praised, and — according to the “Dilbert principle” — where the least-competent employees are promoted to management to limit the amount of damage they will do.

In a recent column, Dilbert’s boss asks him whether he’s interested in becoming a manager.

Dilbert answers: That would never work. Managers are supposed to hire people who are smarter than they are. That’s easy for you, but how would I ever find anyone to hire?

To which his boss says: I don’t understand.

And Dilbert comes back with: And that makes you a perfect manager.

If you’re a manager reading this, I entreat your sense of humor. But let me ask you this: Is your management team more sophisticated than Dilbert’s boss when it comes to selecting managers?

Do you use some type of leadership talent management model to assess your talent rather than resort to the “Dilbert principle” or some other equally suspect method?

The problem, of course, is that methods like the “Dilbert principle” never work and you end up with ineffective managers, disgruntled employees, poor productivity and lost profits.

So try this. Take a few minutes, right now, to learn about one of the most widely used tools to identify leadership talent: the nine box talent model also called the nine box grid (or matrix) or simply “the nine box.”

“The nine box” looks somewhat like a tic tac toe game board:


 
But it isn’t a game.

What is “the nine box?”
“The nine box” is a useful tool commonly used to aid in a discussion of employee strengths and development needs.

If you’re not familiar with “the nine box,” it assesses employees on two dimensions: a person’s past performance and his future potential

To use it, you identify the confluence of one horizontal box (leadership performance) and one vertical box (leadership potential) that best describes the employee you are assessing.

“The nine box” is often used in a group setting, where, together, managers review current performance and potential of  their workforce. Individual managers can also use the grid as a planning tool

Why use the nine box?
Well, to begin, because it’s a simple, effective way to assess leadership skills. In addition:

  1. It will provide a structured way to discuss employees with your senior leadership.
  2. It will help overcome many of the pitfalls with talent assessment including: 
      • overemphasis on current performance
      • over reliance on a single opinion
      • lack of assessment criteria or inconsistent criteria
  3. It will facilitate a shared sense of ownership of the organization’s talent pool.
  4. And last, but certainly not least, it will help you identify development needs and transition to development planning

Look again at the image above, and you’ll see that the upper right box — where high performance intersects with high potential — indicates your star employee. Kitty corner from that, the lower left corner box indicates someone who performs poorly and shows little potential.

For succession planning, you’ll focus on the upper right corner boxes (1, 2 and 3). The employees you identify for these boxes, make up your high potential pool. Once you identify them, your goal is to keep them engaged and prep them for more responsibility.

And yet (here comes the true usefulness of the nine box), you have many valuable employees with their own unique capabilities and talents who don’t fit into the upper right corner. You can use the “nine box” to determine where they do fit and what action to take with them to keep them engaged, motivated and contributing — or, whether it’s time for an exit strategy for some.

Here’s a more comprehensive nine box grid that will give you “what to do with your assessment results” information:



 
Here’s the bottom line: You have many ways to assess potential and select your leaders. But this tool is simple, and it works.

So you can use Dilbert’s principle and essentially shoot in the dark, or you can find the right assessment tools. One of them for you might just be “the nine box.”

A couple more suggestions for your consideration:


Your Solution Toolbox: Two Tools for Identifying Managers


Not everyone is cut out to be a manager (or wants to be a manager). So how do you find employees who are? And once you find them, how do you get the most from them?

Let me suggest:

I. Profile International’s ProfileXT®
The ProfileXT® assessment is a superior tool for measuring how well an individual fits specific jobs in your organization. It also offers many reports to assist with hiring, coaching and training your managers.

One of these reports, Profiles' Managerial Fit, uses data from ProfileXT® and measures critical aspects of compatibility between managers and their employees: self-assurance, conformity, optimism, decisiveness, self-reliance and objectivity.

With this information, you can assess hen your manager needs development. A manager can use this information to adapt his style to get the most from each employee, improve communication, reduce employee turnover, and increase engagement, satisfaction and productivity.

II. Profiles International's CheckPoint 360º™
The CheckPoint 360º™ can help you learn about your managers’ competency and help your manager with self-development.

Basically, you use CheckPoint 360º™ to gather job performance evaluations from the people around your managers — their bosses, their peers and the people they supervise.

From this feedback, you can compare others' opinions with your own perceptions to positively identify your manager’s strengths and pinpoint job performance areas needing improvement.

CheckPoint 360º™ focuses on a manager's job performance in eight competency areas: communication, adaptability, task management, productivity, development of others, leadership, building relationships and personal development.

To help a manager read, understand and effectively use the data for self-development, CheckPoint reports have colorful graphs and charts, and narrative descriptions of evaluation results. Further, its special personal growth section coaches managers helping them improve performance in development areas.

The CheckPoint report also encourages managers to link to an online system called CheckPoint SkillBuilder, which takes them through a step-by-step process of developing a comprehensive and personalized development plan.

If you would like more information about the Profile XT® and Profiles CheckPoint 360º™ or any of Profile International’s assessments, call me today at 952-322-3330 or send an email to mgorski@mgassessments.com.
HR Consulting
Call me, too, if you are looking for professional assistance with your personnel questions. We’ll help you learn how to:

  • Understand your workers’ strengths, weaknesses and interests
  • Match people to job demands
  • Increase employee performance throughout your organization

Let's Talk! We offer a no-obligation consultation to informally assess your current policies, procedures and practices. This may help determine what's missing in your current programs. Again, call 952-322-3330 or send an email to mgorski@mgassessments.com.