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Assessment Inventories

Leadership & Assessment Inventories

For Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners

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When you don’t have a business coach guiding your development, consider using assessment inventories until you do. Use inventories to highlight your strengths and create awareness of potential blind spots.

What Does This Have to Do with Marketing?

If your definition of marketing is completing a bunch of random promotional tactics, then nothing at all. However, if you define marketing as a leadership role tasked with directing business development efforts, then these skills are essential.

How is Marketing a Leadership Role?

Marketing is, first and foremost, a leadership opportunity to step into and take on. Why? Because the first thing that marketing asks of you are strategic questions about your purpose. Then it asks you to live into your purpose and to get your team to do so as well.

Strategic Questions Asked by Marketing

  • Who are you?
  • Whom do you serve?
  • What is your purpose (mission and vision)?
  • Why choose you versus your competition?
  • What client experience does your brand represent?
  • How do you enroll staff and clients in your mission?

Marketing is centered around leadership. It’s damn near impossible to market effectively without knowing where you’re going.

Marketing as a Leadership Role

As a business owner, you need to become the visionary leader who attracts, enrolls, and engages people. You need to develop your people and processes, to create a brand experience for clients. You also need to communicate effectively to partners, investors, and clients to get them to buy into your mission.

This work is rooted in leadership development.

Here’s The Problem

How many business owners have all their business leadership stuff figured out, before they engage a marketing company? I can tell you from experience, not many.

How do you market a company when almost none of the core leadership work is understood or written down? Without leadership, where does your marketing messaging and compelling story come from?

In the absence of leadership, there is no messaging. You end up spewing a bunch of lame information about who you are and what you do and more blah blah noise that no one cares about. Your marketing will suck, and that is a failure of leadership.

How To Address The Gap

The solution depends on your budget. If you’re well-financed, you engage a coach, consultant and marketing team to work with you. Often, budgets dictate that you must define your mission on your own, while you build up your cash reserves.

The Inventory Assessment Segue

One of the primary jobs of any coach is to offer meaningful feedback and direction. Coaches point out what you can’t see for yourself. This feedback helps guide and direct your efforts and expedites your progress.

But what if you can’t afford a coach? You must look for other ways to help you see the unseen. Personality Inventory Assessment tools are an effective way to discover your blind spots and point out opportunities for growth and leadership development.

What Are Inventory Assessment Tools?

They are instruments designed to profile you and illuminate different things about you. They help you define your values and traits. They highlight how you think, behave, make decisions, and communicate.

They are tools to help you see what everyone else sees but do not share with you. These tremendously useful assessment tools are time, energy, money and relationship savers for entrepreneurs and executives. However, you need to know they exist before you can use and benefit from them. Usually, your coach points them out, but if you don’t have a coach, you’ll need to discover the tools on your own.

What Are Inventory Assessment Tools For?

They’re meant to help you and your team better understand yourselves, each other, and your clients. They provide the insight you would otherwise not see. Why? Because you’re too close to the subject matter to be objective.

There is an old saying that “you can’t see the outside of the box, from inside the box”.

Assessment inventories are like a big convex mirror mounted on a pole to help you see yourself from another perspective. Like a big leadership selfie stick.

You can use them for your own personal and leadership development. You can use them to help you with job definition, screening employees or developing people to succeed in their roles. You can use them to structure teams or help people understand each other and communicate with greater empathy for how clients think.

Why Share This Information?

My awareness and appreciation for inventory assessments came from a combination of many university Psychology classes, my interest in psychometrics, my experience with business coaches, and through my personal development efforts over the last 30+ years.

Unfortunately, these tools are scattered far and wide making it unlikely you will discover them on your own. Even if you work with several different coaches, you may still not learn about many of them.

If you complete these assessments on your own, you’ll start to realize why you and your team are struggling unnecessarily. You’ll appreciate where you’re putting your business at risk and where to focus your efforts.

Assessment Categories

One of the most important things to note about assessment tools is that they are not tests. They don’t measure right or wrong. They seek to place you on different scales or continuums to help you understand your tendencies, blind spots and where to focus your efforts.

I’ve found the following assessment categories to be the most useful in my growth and development.

  • Defining your core values
  • Defining your natural strengths
  • Categorizing your personality traits
  • Identifying how you do things
  • Gauging emotional intelligence
  • Gauging communication effectiveness
  • Gauging leadership effectiveness

Defining Core Values

Unfortunately, I’m not aware of an online inventory for discovering your core values. There are many different approaches but defining your core values boils down to understanding your “Why?”.

It’s not about selecting a bunch of feel-good words. The exercise is about defining what’s non-negotiable for you. Where are the lines in the sand, you will not cross?

In defining your core values, you generally start by creating a list of words from a brainstorming session. The terms are characteristics you admire in others, like integrity or creativity.

Once you’ve developed your list, you refine the list down to a shortlist of keepers. The goal is to eliminate words with an overlapping meaning until you refuse to eliminate further. Try to get your list down to four powerful terms of significance to you and your team.

If you refuse to let a word go, you’ll want to explore why it’s so important to you. Once you have your core values identified, you’ve created a cultural foundation to build upon.

I know I’m grossly oversimplifying the process, but you don’t need to overcomplicate this either. When I lead people through this process, it rarely takes more than an hour or two.

I know when my coach helped me define my core values in 2002, it sparked a renaissance of learning for me. It helped me focus my efforts on what I valued most and how I wanted to create value in my life and career.

I built Accrue on those core values, and they’ve served as my personal and business compass ever since. Give it a try on your own as a starting point.

Defining Natural Strengths

There is a little one-chapter book called Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0. The book comes with an access code, that allows you to take the Clifton StrengthsFinder Assessment. The simplified results highlight your top strengths out of 34. Then you can pay a bit more, to access the rest of your strengths profile.

The premise is, we often place more value on the things that do not come naturally to us. Rather than identifying our strengths and building on them, we do the opposite. We work like crazy to turn our weaknesses into strengths. The book recommends building upon your inherent strengths.

This idea hit me like a ton of bricks. I could see I was working hard to become someone I was not.

Once I recognized my strengths and what I was doing, I aligned my career and my education to build upon my strengths. You might call it maximizing the potential of your inherent gift. I’ve encouraged my children to do the same, and it’s been gratifying to watch them grow into themselves.

To get started, read Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0 and visit their website to learn more. The whole exercise will cost you about $100.

Categorizing Personality Traits

I think the first assessment I ever completed was the Myers Briggs inventory in the late 1980s. It is an extremely common instrument. There is a website called that offers a derivative assessment for free.

It takes 20 – 30 minutes to complete. It includes a summary report with several pages of insight, with an option to purchase a comprehensive 80 – 90+ page report. The full report goes into great detail on your personality type, and how it shows up in different facets of your life and career.

The reports are excellent. I’ve purchased the full set of reports for my team to use. The reaction most people have when they read their report is “Wow! They nailed me.” People generally nod their heads in agreement when they read their colleagues’ summaries as well. It’s enlightening.

What I get, is clarity on why I think and act the way I do. It points out areas where I’m likely to run into trouble and where I need to build up my self-awareness and skills to compensate. It also helps other people in my life understand why I am the way I am. I’m not this way just to be difficult and annoy them (well, sometimes I am).

Bottom line, you get amazing insights on who you are and why, all from a 30-minute assessment and a couple of hours of reading and reflection.

Other well-known and widely used personality assessments include:

These assessments are all useful in their own ways. However, the point is not to become a student of inventory assessments; the point is to get actionable feedback.

Identifying Your Modus Operandi

Distinct from your personality assessment is what’s called a conative strengths assessment. This translates roughly into your modus operandi, or how you get things done. In a work context, this is extremely useful.

The inventory I’ve used is called the Kolbe Assessment. There are several variants, but you start with the Kolbe A Index to gain personal insights.

You are ranked from 1 to 10 on four dimensions. The dimensions are Fact Finder, Follow Through, Quick Start and Implementor. In my experience, the scales are non-linear. I’m not sure if it is logarithmic either, but the degree of difference between any two scores on the same scale are significant. From what I’ve seen, you need to be within 3 points on any scale from a direct report or partner to prevent you from wanting to kill each other. If you have exceptional communication skills, you can expand the workability gap past three points.

Once you understand your score and those of your team, you can seek out people to fill in the gaps and compensate for inherent challenges or misalignments in job roles. The Kolbe Assessment is extremely useful and practical. For information, visit and consider taking the Kolbe A Index.

Gauging Emotional Intelligence

When I read Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ by Daniel Goleman, I had an epiphany. The book points out a whole array of different forms of intelligence that our school system ignores. It also highlights research showing emotional intelligence (EI) accounts for more of our success than the traditional forms of intelligence schools focus on.

If you’re a small business owner, looking to develop your leadership competencies, an EI Assessment Tool is particularly relevant and useful. I suggest reading the Emotional Intelligence book and then completing one of the assessments here to gauge your strengths and gaps.

Gauging Communication Effectiveness

When I first became a manager, my coach pointed out my communication shortcomings. He suggested I read L.E.T. Leadership Effectiveness Training by Thomas Gordon for a glimpse into where I was off-track. He did not tell me my communication train was entirely off the rails, but that is how I felt after I read the book.

Once you read L.E.T., you’re likely to have an “Aha” or “Ah Crap” experience too. Fortunately, the book is excellent, and you’ll see where to focus quickly. This is an extremely high-leverage opportunity. Don’t skip this one. You may want to consider taking a course or engaging a coach to help you master your active communication skills. This book and the subsequent learning helped me more than almost anything else I’ve learned.

360 Degree Leadership Assessments

Another brilliant assessment tool is the Leadership Circle Profile. It is available as an online assessment as well. It evaluates your leadership practices in 29 dimensions. These dimensions are segmented into 8 groups in 4 broader categories, with each scored on a percentage basis. The assessment generates a report detailing strengths and opportunities for growth. To learn more or take the assessment visit their website here.

I can’t do justice to the utility of this profile in this article. What I like are the 29 scales. I can see very quickly where I’m struggling and where I need to focus.

Where to From Here?

Complete these inventory assessments. You can buy all the books, complete the assessments, and get the detailed reports, for about $500. You would be hard-pressed to engage any business coach for that much. There is no value comparison, as long as you do the work.

What you’ll get is invaluable insights and direction on yourself and your leadership. You’ll likely feel completely overwhelmed and possibly discouraged. I know I was. It’s not easy to stare at all your opportunities for improvement and not get discouraged. However, once you get over the shock, you’ll find the solutions are rooted in a relatively small set of overlapping and complementary skills.
Once you’ve gained the insights, you can continue reading and working on the skills development on your own, or you can engage a coach and trainers to help you address your gaps.

Everyone Learns Differently

Some people like to read; some prefer structured learning, while others prefer a more experiential approach. It does not matter where or how you start learning about personal and leadership development. What matters is that you start. If you don’t, you’ll struggle unnecessarily as a business owner.

These skills are essential to so many different aspects of your business, but especially to your management, sales, marketing, customer service practices and your productivity, relationships, and happiness. Don’t wait until you can afford a business coach before you dig into and take this work on. It’s far more valuable than you may think and if you’re disciplined about it, you can make a lot of progress on your own, before you engage professional help.

Back to Sales and Marketing

You’ll find sales and marketing will be far less confounding once you’ve started down your leadership development path. Both are built on your leadership and communication foundation. Once you’re clear on your direction and comfortable with the skills, you’ll find sales and marketing will make infinitely more sense. Then you’ll be better prepared to direct and leverage your sales and marketing investments.

Where to Start

Once you’ve got your head around your leadership goals, consider reading our book Mastering Marketing: Leading a Journey of Becoming. You’ll find it’s a natural segue from your personal and business development efforts. The focus is on your journey of becoming what you’ve defined for yourself.

About the Author

John Watson is the president of Accrue Performance Marketing and the author of Mastering Marketing, the Being Profitable Program, several ebooks and an avid blogger. He serves as a sales and marketing coach and fractional Chief Marketing Officer for companies that cannot yet justify a full-time CMO. He's focused on helping startups and growth-focused companies develop powerful brands, customer-centric websites, sales leads and complete commercialization programs.

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