A CykoMetrix Spotlight Production
Every week, the Spotlight shines on an amazing professional with a story to tell and lessons to teach. Welcome to the CykoMetrix Spotlight.
The following is an adapted transcript of the exchange between Sylvain Rochon, CMO at CykoMetrix as host, and Greg Magennis, Founder & Partner at Axiom Human Resource Development LLC
Sylvain Rochon: Welcome to Psychometric Spotlight. My name is Sylvain Rochon. I am the Chief Marketing Officer at Psychometrics, a leading-edge combinatorial psychometric platform human data analytics company that brings the employee assessment industry to the cloud with instant assessments, in-depth analysis, trait measurements, and team-based reporting features that simplify informed decision-making around recruiting, training, and managing today’s modern workforce.
Today, we have a Psychometric Spotlight on Greg Magennis. He is the founder and partner at Axiom Human Resource Development LLC, down there in the States, in Texas I think. Greg is a South African Canadian, so he’s been everywhere. He doesn’t know where he lives most of the time. I’m pretty sure he’s traveled the globe, but he immigrated to Canada in August 1994 and then moved to the US in 2009.
So basically, you have no nation. You’re everywhere, man. He has over 25 years of human resource assessment and leadership development, and performance management experience with a diverse group of North American organizations. His initial corporate experience began with the marketing and sales disciplines at SmithKline Beecham Consumer Brands in South Africa, and National Brands Limited also in South Africa.
Greg has helped to grow three private companies since he arrived in Canada and the USA and founded his own company, Axiom Human Resource Development, LLC in 2003. Greg spends his time developing coaching businesses, for-profit leaders, and growing an executive search firm with his wife, Lisa.
That is a great story. I like the globe-trotting there, Greg. Nice of you to join us in the spotlight.
Greg Magennis: Thank you so much. Sylvain, I just love your sense of humor and I’m a metro, I don’t how you would describe my status. Certainly, I feel very connected to both South Africa and Canada and deeply grateful by the way for Canada welcoming me as only Canadians can.
Sylvain: With an apology?
Greg: No, not an apology. I landed and went and moved to Calgary. That was my first home. So, since I’m a Calgary Flames fan and identify with the whole of Canada and what Canada represents, I’m an unofficial ambassador for South Africa and Canada down here in Dallas, Texas.
Sylvain: Well, your career has brought you to all these places, and you’ve been a business leader, a creator of enterprise in all three nations, in an arena that we care about, which is human resources and coaching and also of course assessments.
I’d like you to talk about assessments a little bit, because speaking with you before, you use assessments as part of a journey to help leaders evolve, not only by getting a little touch up but actually get down to a process that I’m assuming gives really good results. Can you tell us about that process?
Greg: Yeah. Thank you. Just to backtrack, when I arrived in Canada, most assessments were still in the domain or in the hands of professional psychologists, and psychometric providers. It was myself and my brother who had a company that we brought from the UK. It was a license that we received.
The only other sort of dominant marketed assessment company was the McQuaig Word Survey. Some of your listeners from Canada might be familiar with McQuaig. So, we literally went through to senior VPs of human resources and CEOs, and we pioneered this idea of bringing assessment into the daily workings of management and teams.
So, that wasn’t used just in the recruiting cycle, it was used as part of onboarding and regular check-ins as part of a coaching cycle and development cycle with people and organizations. It’s taken time, but I think you’re seeing so much more adoption, particularly with the advent of the internet.
I know that’s something with what you guys are doing on the cloud, which has certainly empowered and enabled what was paper and pencil. When I started out, I used to hand type on a typewriter the assessment report. I was trained on how to pull all the bits and pieces, it was a carbonized form, and it was almost done in military style because that’s where a lot of testing was pioneered.
So I feel like I’m dating myself in some respects, but it’s very cool to have started out in paper and pencil with carbon, and literally hand-typing out some of these reports. And now having technology, which in a millisecond is generating some very, very valuable data that we can use ongoing.
Sylvain: Yeah, that’s right. The times have changed. Now you can have instant results as soon as the data is in, basically. The computer crunches the numbers and produces a nice visualized report. That is something that we’ve done, and many, many have done that.
So, tell me about how assessments are applied in your business? For that continuous development journey, how do you actually apply these assessments today?
Greg: Great question. The beginning, it’s obviously the preparation and the training of an organization if they’re utilizing the assessments internally. We like to empower those that we’re working with to actually be brought up to speed and be trained appropriately in terms of how they’re going to use it so that we are not transgressing any of the EEOC legislation.
I think that’s important in terms of how we treat people, as it relates to information that we’re asking them to give us or assessments that we asking them to complete. So, we like to cover that off to make sure that organizations, if they are going to use assessments, they’re going to use them appropriately.
So, we always start there and then we like to encourage using them as part of the recruitment cycle. There are some assessments that are really good at picking up nuances, the new five-factor models, and cognitive assessments. There are some roles that are just ideal, it could be mechanical roles, certain tasks lend themselves to very specific assessments, so that’s important.
But we lean more on the behavioral side and the team interaction side. We use more of those types of assessments and we use that in the recruitment cycle and then into the onboarding. And then looking at where somebody is on their career journey or their contribution journey as I like to call it.
Then making sure that we are checking in on a regular basis so that we don’t leave people alone, and think that, “okay, I did an assessment when I joined this team. Now, that’s the last time that I’m going to do it.”
So how do we create more of a regular virtuous cycle where we’re checking in with people, letting them redo assessments, looking at what’s changing, and how dynamics are progressing? That’s lending itself to people feeling more connected to what they’re doing, and more appreciated in fact.
When they get those insights on themselves, whether it’s their own individual assessment or using 360s, which is a rabbit hole we could go down because I’ve seen those used very inappropriately in business as well.
Sylvain: How do you integrate that cyclical process? As far as I know, it is a challenge for consulting companies, but it is very desirable for the client and the consulting companies to have this stickiness and that engagement that’s continuous.
How do you manage to do it in a practical sense? Do you have a process or a tool that you use that enables that for you?
Greg: The tools that we are using are fairly sophisticated. The challenge that we have is most organizations have different systems. So, each organization’s going to have a different platform, whether it’s SAP or whatever tool that they’re using.
And some of them still are, which is interesting, or lagging behind, or they have legacy systems that don’t talk to one another as they layer in some of the new systems like Workday. It is one that comes to mind. With our tools and some of the tools I use can talk to these different systems, but that’s a challenge in and of itself.
So, we tend to work with the leaders themselves, senior leaders, and their management teams to get them on the side to part of the old school, but have them integrate assessment, particularly of the individuals and the team as a whole on at least a quarterly basis at a minimum and more frequently if possible.
I have a number of large organizations and mid-market companies that are using technology. Particularly nowadays, where they’re checking in weekly from a team perspective. They might not be assessing weekly, it’s more feedback loops, but the assessments are done on a more frequent basis versus maybe once every year if they’re lucky, or once every two years which has been a bit of a challenge.
And then 360s have come into play. If those are used correctly, we like to do those on an annualized basis, not as part of performance management, but as part of development. There are some key learnings in what I’ve just shared because if we’re using 360s in performance management, they become very punitive. They’re not well-received or well-embraced by leadership or the general employment population, but if they are used as part of development, they tend to be much more valuable and useful.
Sylvain: So that brings the question of how. Like you said, there’s a perception and there’s an approach to actually achieve this with the people that are being assessed so that it doesn’t feel like they’re being bothered, or they’re being measured negatively, or some kind of negative outcomes may come out of it.
How do you approach this issue to make sure that the people that are taking the assessments or the ones that may have the highest likelihood of feeling offended or scared about being assessed — how do you get them on board into the cycle and excited about it?
Greg: Just another great question. The values of the company and the commitments that they’re making. For example, this commitment to be a deliberately developmental organization. Those are the clients that we look for. We look for clients who are right up front as part of their stated commitment when people are onboarded into their organizations, they come in knowing that the commitment that the company is going to make is to allow them to develop and grow as they progress within the organization.
Typically, organizations are moving so quickly, it’s so agile that we believe that development is also part of the puzzle of the individual’s responsibility, not just the organization. So, we’re helping on the coaching side to not have individuals wait for an organization to come along and say, wow, we’ve noticed this, or we’ve noticed that.
It’s really incumbent on each of us to put our hand up and say, here are some of my gaps. If I’m not tracking my own development as much as the organization is tracking me, I’m going to miss out on accelerating where I want to go and where I want to contribute. So, I see that as a massive opportunity going forward and we’re seeing more and more people take responsibility from early in their careers and not wait for organizations to tell them what to do.
So I see a lot of change there.
In terms of how are we helping the companies themselves to let go of that career journey, and embrace much more of a partnered and shared commitment between the individual contributor or leader and the organization itself, we’re not waiting for the development to happen, we’re initiating it together.
Sylvain: Right. So, a bit of a follow-up. How do you develop leaders specifically in this environment, in these processes?
Greg: It’s not for the faint of heart the process that I offer the leaders. I use a framework that was popularized by Peter Kastenbaum, and he put forward the idea that great leaders are exceptionally self-aware and take action.
But then dimensions within two of those; self-awareness is they have an acute ability, to tell the truth about their current reality. So, leaders who rarely are interested, present, and don’t sugar-coat or bias their current reality, and blame and point fingers elsewhere. They take ownership and understand their current reality, but at the same time, they have an elegant vision of where they’re going. Obviously, it takes a pretty emotionally intelligent individual, which is also one of the assessment frameworks we use to help people to really anchor on. Well, if I know where I am and I can tell the truth about where I am, I have a good idea of where I’m going, and I’m collaborating with others and we’re checking in. It’s like going on a hike with a topographical map. We know what we love but we also don’t know what we don’t know. So, there’s that dimension of self-awareness, and then the “taking action” is being courageous. But being courageous with compassion and then behaving ethically.
So not all leaders want to sign up for that. In many organizations that we deal with, people engage with us, and you can see they start to become automatically defensive because they feel that this process is going to be exposing them and it’s going to create all sorts of vulnerability for them, instead of embracing it as, “wow, this is an opportunity for me to get more clear on my current reality and where we’re going, and to be more courageous, but to do that in an ethical fashion.”
Down here in Texas, you’re all familiar with Enron and what happened during those days. So, unethical behavior in business happens all over the place. How can we develop together in a way that we can mitigate some of the risks that we have with leaders? So, that’s how I approach leadership.
Sylvain: I like it. I certainly like the authentic kind of approach and self-awareness and execution. In our language, that would be the drive to results. I totally get that. Greg, can you give us a concrete case of training that you found particularly interesting to illustrate a bit the journey of the process? Something practical?
Greg: Yeah and I love the use of journey, because when you think about the beginning and the duration of our careers, I like to look at that as lifetime value. That’s not something that came to me. It was something that I saw at Ernst and Young. I used to participate and I was on the evaluation committee of the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. So people are nominated and then there’s a committee of us that go out and interview these leaders of all size businesses. It’s profound.
What Ernst and Young have done is they’ve said, “Look, you come into our organization, and you are already alumni.” So, they treat people in a way that those people would want to be treated because they know that you and I, if we work for Ernst and Young, we’re going to leave. We might join one of their client companies, or go and start a company like you’ve started. Then, we also might want to come back. So, they really understand that life cycle, that journey of the contribution that individuals have.
So, I’ve had the privilege of running since 2015, it’s probably the best example that I have of six-month learning journeys. I’ve moved away from what I call edutainment. I used to do a lot of certification training, one-day workshops, all that type of stuff which is enjoyable and it’s still necessary to get people connected but I’m much more interested in the arc of time, the long arc of time.
We found for most organizations a year’s a little bit too long for them. So, we are doing these six-month learning journeys, coming in with it. There’s an assessment on the front end, and then assessments as we go through the course of the journey. The programs I run are all around value and impact, and we’re nesting that inside of critical frameworks, business frameworks, and business acumen.
What is your business leadership like? What is your people leadership like? What is your organizational leadership like? And what is your self-leadership like? Those four dimensions are the dimensions that we measure.
Business acumen; do you know how to read financial statements? Where are you on that? If the CEO had to be trapped in an elevator with you, or you had an audience by chance, and the CEO said, what excites you about our organization? Tell me about what you’re contributing, that you can drop into passionately and authentically describing what you’re doing, how you’re contributing, and how that impacts the business in the bottom line.
Those dimensions filtered into the assessment. We use intercultural development assessments as part of that. What we found for everybody, and I use this as a caveat — no development or transformation occurs without real serious investment from the individual. So, work has to happen.
We think that, okay, I’m going to do an assessment, I’m going to read some data, and magically, everything’s going to be okay. The data gives us a window into potentially where the gaps are, or where the opportunities are, that we can fill and get better and better. So work is paramount. It’s almost like going into the gym and lifting weights. So, we’ve created essentially a gym.
All the processes that we run leaders through are the equipment and the reps that we get them to engage in. And by the time they commence, we never use the word graduate, we always use the word commence, because we believe that once you’ve finished a journey, you’re simply beginning another journey.
So very much a beginner’s mind, a growth mindset is what we promote. And bar none, this program, the company is continuing in other organizations that we run it with. Since 2015, it’s become the most popular program in leadership in the organization.
So, it’s driving retention. They do lose people out of the program because of unintended consequences people get to connect to, “Wow, I didn’t know that I had this talent. I didn’t know that I had this value.” Or “Sorry, I’m waiting, I think my life with doubt.” You’re an editor you’ll be able to do a good job then so what?
So, what happens is individuals become very self-aware and very connected to how they’re taking action or executing through the course of that program. They realize that in some instances, there isn’t a career trajectory for them in the organization.
They literally either get poached because all of a sudden their confidence, in a humble way comes online, and they realize that they could be contributing a lot more. So, companies have to be prepared for that. They have to be prepared for when they engage with individuals, and they start deliberately developing using assessment and letting people go on that journey themselves in partnership, you may find that people need to leave.
Sylvain: Yeah. Wow.
Greg: But the gratitude, the empowerment, the increased commitment to the organization and productivity, and all those things are measured by the organization that goes up quite dramatically. So, we wouldn’t be invited back year after year if we weren’t doing something right.
Sylvain: Well, that’s really it right. Like when you’re doing consultations and just offering a service in general, if the outcomes for the business are positive, well they’ll re-invite you. Typically, yeah, even though like you mentioned, on a micro level, there are some events that may seem on their own, like bad events, like a person leaving.
One would say, well, you’re here to try to help prevent attrition. So, what’s happening? Well, based on what you’re describing here, you’re helping the individuals and the teams figure out who should stay, and who is better off leaving. Because that person that should be leaving also benefits the team most likely because that individual would not be a good fit because motivations are misaligned, and the culture may not be great, or that different aspirations and whatever that is.
I know in our assessments we’ve told that story, another time we can talk about this, but there is a way where you can identify potential individuals that require that kind of discussion in there, and that’s important. That’s a healthy process inside a business.
You want to keep the individuals that are committed aligned, they have a good time there. This is a very, very soft kind of mentality or soft skills, culture, purpose, alignment, all that stuff. If you can optimize that within a team through a process, through a journey, well, then you have a lot of growth going on.
And so, yeah, they want to hire you back. And what’s cool about assessments, at least for me is that in many ways, you can measure the impact of the consulting presence through multiple assessments, and you see things change.
Sylvain: For me, being a data guy, that’s really important. How many times have we been ourselves assessed and you get a report that says something about you which is really cool, and then nothing’s done about it? You may feel good about the training, there was a fun time. But then, the ball gets dropped. So, you feel like ultimately, it was fun but it was kind of a waste of time in the end.
So what is your plan? Because this seems to be a disruptor in your approach, like in the way you’re doing things. What are your plans for your business to expand and expose this type of process throughout the world? Do you have any big plans, or is it more local?
Greg: The challenge I think is the interpersonal connection. So, think about pre-covid, because I think the experience that we’ve had going through the pandemic lockdowns globally has been obviously very, very difficult for people. But the unintended consequence is we’ve had to learn things like you and I connecting in this kind of environment is fantastic.
So, the beauty of what happened for us is we used to do all of this learning in person, and we were very lucky. This client, instead of saying, “Hey, we’re stopping, we migrated into a virtual environment.” So, we had to rejig the curriculum. We couldn’t have full days together because, over the six months we get together four times during the course of that six months for two days consecutively with time in between. So that rapport building, particularly for teams just beautiful.
There’s very little, at least in my experience, that can substitute for that human experience, that connection, that energy of learning from others, and going through that dynamic.
But what we’ve learned is that the virtual space has actually worked. We’ve got just as high marks doing it virtually as we were doing it in person. So, in the future, I’ve thought of building and morphing into more of an academy. Almost thinking about an online framework where people can come in almost like a river. With tributaries, you can come in, and on ramps and off ramps if you’re thinking of a metaphor for a highway, and ancillary roads connecting to the highway, and using technology to do that.
The challenges for people like me I love to be facilitating and getting the interaction with communities going and facilitating that dialogue. I think the opportunity lies in empowering others to do the same. So, growing that is literally going to be a function of how many people can we equip inside of organizations to just keep the virtual cycle going, and paying it forward. And by the way, we do that in our programs of virtuous cycles.
So, we have many people that have gone through the same program three or four times now. And every time they go through it, they report it’s like the first time. They’re doing pretty much the same stuff because they’re focusing on those dimensions of the business that are critical to the bottom line. It’s not just business acumen or business leadership, it is people leadership, or it’s self-leadership, or it’s organizational leadership, and they go in that virtuous cycle paying it forward. And everything that we give them, we ask them to teach, take back to their teams, and create little mini-learning parts.
So, I think there’s a huge opportunity but maybe you and I could have a discussion about how you accelerate that kind of platform that has a much broader reach versus just being isolated inside of individual organizations.
So, we currently don’t offer a public offering, because of the structure and the design of the program, and also just the numbers for intimacy and for learning. Virtually, we’ve got around 40 leaders at a time, and they partnered, by the way, we have a manager and an employee teamed up. That’s been an absolutely ground-breaking change.
Instead of managers going and getting trained with other managers, the managers with one of their employees in a program, they both do the same work. And that’s having a profound impact in terms of how they see each other, how they connect, and how they partner with each other to continue to contribute in the way that the company needs them to.
Sylvain: I think that’s fantastic insights into how you do things in generating continuous success and growth. This is the world we live in now. I mean, most employees nowadays want to have growth. Just like your Ernest and Young example. They want to have that kind of environment. They want to feel like they can grow, change companies, and improve themselves.
And it’s become kind of an employee market in part because of that, and you are tapping into that. Basically, that desire and companies that want to tap into that for their own growth as well. So, I would encourage anybody that’s watching this or reading this in an interview format, on print or online.
Well, you can contact Greg. If you want to have access to his programs and his processes and technology and ideas, whether you’re in South Africa, Canada, the US, or anywhere else in the world, I think Greg is going to be very welcoming.
This is an excellent, excellent, program. I can tell. Thank you so much to be in the Spotlight, Greg.
Greg: Thank you so much, Sylvain. What a privilege to be here with you.
Sylvain: Thanks so much.
About Greg Magennis – www.axiomhrd.com
Greg is a “South African Canadian” who immigrated to Canada in August 1994 and moved from there to the USA in 2009.
He has over 25 years of human resource, assessment, leadership development, and performance management experience, with a diverse group of North American organizations. His initial corporate experience began with the marketing & sales disciplines of SmithKline Beecham Consumer Brands, South Africa, and National Brands Limited, South Africa.
Greg has helped to grow three private companies since he arrived in Canada and the USA and founded his own company, Axiom Human Resource Development LLC, in 2003. Greg spends his time between developing and coaching business and not-for-profit leaders, and growing an Executive Search firm with his wife, Lisa.
A graduate of Rhodes University in Business Administration, Economics and Commercial Law, Greg is committed to a lifelong journey of learning, continually seeking opportunities to make a difference and contribute to the success of individuals and groups. His passion for people is self-evident.
Greg feels privileged to have a wonderful wife and daughter and his purpose is “Building Value, Authentic Influence, & Positive Impact.”
Greg Magennis – Purpose Statement “Building Value, Authentic Influence, and Positive Impact”
Why: “Celebrating Life”
“For as long as I can remember I have always seen the light in people’s eyes versus the darkness. I can feel what is possible for others no matter what their age, stage of development, circumstance, or culture, may be. I cannot choose for anyone, but I can be a stand for the possibility of their best or highest-self emerging in a form that is completely unique to them and their experience of their world. “Building Value, Authentic Influence, and Positive Impact” is not a destination but a compelling vision of what is possible. It calls for an authentic choice to be made to honor whatever is at our core and to bring that out into the world whenever and wherever possible for the benefit of self and mankind.
I can argue for what is possible in this regard, but I will not argue for any limitation, real or imagined. I am an optimist and experience life as a gift worth living fully, no matter what shape I am in. In turn I am held accountable to build my own value, authentic influence, & make a positive impact for my world and therefore there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide, just life in the raw, “hips over feet”.
It’s all about “Celebrating Life”.
Gratefulness Top 10
1. God, Lisa, and Sydney
2. Health (5 Senses – Wow!)
3. Family (Parents, Siblings, Relatives)
4. Relationships, & all the challenges & tough time’s life throws at me, the brutal realities, and the fierce conversations.
5. Extended World Family (Special friends and Angels there at every turn.)
6. Ability to work, create, play, & make a difference
7. Food and water
9. To be alive knowing fully the fragile nature of life and that I am a mere mortal.
10. Earth (All its oceans, lakes, flora, fauna, and the creatures thriving in/on it.)
About CykoMetrix – www.CykoMetrix.com
CykoMetrix is a leading edge combinatorial psychometric and human data analytics company that brings the employee assessment industry to the cloud, with instant assessments, in-depth analysis, trait measurements, and team-based reporting features that simplify informed decision-making around recruiting, training, and managing today’s modern workplace.