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Assessment tools to build strong cultures

Dena Cordova-Jack, Building Culture

The highest-functioning cultures are built by developing strong leaders and teams. Nevertheless, there is a strong temptation to build our teams to resemble a herd of “Mini- Mes,” when research overwhelmingly reveals diverse teams are simply smarter.

“Working with people who think differently than you and bring varied skill sets to the table may challenge your brain to overcome its stale ways of thinking and sharpen its performance,” a 2021 Harvard Business Review article asserts. The challenge, however, is finding out who at work thinks differently and how they can help the organization.

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One of the most successful ways to identify those people is through assessments. There are countless evaluations on the market, all claiming to achieve the research that you want and need, but the reality is that different assessments will be aligned to specific goals.

One good recommendation is the Gallup Strengths Finder, an excellent tool for graphing where your teams fall on a continuum and identifying gaps from a team perspective. It assists team members in identifying their strengths, then assigns each of those strengths a numeric factor and provides insight on how to build upon those strengths. This assessment is simple, straightforward, and relatively inexpensive, and the results will give you a methodical approach for building a balanced team.

A company’s cadence, mission, vision, and values are owned by leadership, who are responsible for providing a clear picture of the company culture. It’s why a strong leadership is so essential for a thriving culture. According to Dr. Sunnie Giles, an organizational psychologist who studied 195 leaders in 15 companies in over 30 global organizations, here are the top 10 traits of a strong leader in today’s world:

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1. Has high ethical and moral standards

2. Provides goals and objectives with loose guidance direction

3. Clearly communicates expectations

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4. Is not myopic, and as the flexibility to change opinions

5. Is committed to ongoing development

6. Communicates often and openly

7. Is open to new ideas and approaches

8. Creates the feeling of succeeding and failing together

9. Is committed to growing next-gen leaders

10. Creates a positive culture and provides safety for trial and error

Interestingly, there is scant difference in importance between the 10 traits—they all matter. What is the best way to ensure the leaders we choose either have these traits or have the core competencies to develop them? Hogan Assessments is a socio-analytic tool that clearly explains a potential leader’s prominent personality traits. It uses three modules to evaluate different aspects of an individual’s personality: typical personality characteristics, core value drivers, and career derailment risks. This gives a 360-degree perspective into an individual’s psyche and helps determine their traits and leadership suitability.

Assessments should be one of many tools utilized when making decisions on hiring and promotion. They bring insight but should be combined with other factors such as education, career accomplishments, work history, observation of the individual in a team environment, EQ, and IQ.

Begin your analysis at the top of your organization to ensure your leadership is aligned. With that alignment, your teams will have the north star needed to achieve results. Then, utilize the same process on all groups and departments within your organization.

World-renowned author and thought leader Peter Drucker states that “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” and he is right. The magic of a dynamic culture comes from strong leaders, teams, an engaged workforce, a clearly articulated vision and mission, and when individuals are empowered. No matter how well thought out your business strategy is, the execution of that strategy will flounder in a culture that is not optimized. Assessments are a simple tool that can provide a quick and efficient path to help you achieve cultural success.

Dena Cordova-Jack built her 30+ year career with GP, Boise Cascade, Foxworth-Galbraith, and most recently as VP of Organizational Development for Kodiak Building Partners. She currently serves as Vice President for Misura Group. Reach Dena at

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