Accuracy matters. Ask any cartographer, surveyor, or health care professional.

It also matters in psychometrics – the branch of psychology that develops and interprets the tools we use to measure personality traits, abilities, and more.

Those of us in the leadership development field who use these assessments – including 360 feedback surveys – want the results to be as accurate as possible. It’s our job to provide clients with reliable feedback so they can become more aware and responsive leaders.

What can we do to make these tools better?

Adding more questions would be a good start, because experts in psychometrics will tell you there’s a strong correlation between a test’s length and reliability.

But busy leaders are more concerned with efficiency and convenience. They don’t want to spend time answering question after question. Responding to market demand, publishers have made psychological tests increasingly shorter. (The good news is that these less-reliable results don’t have to be defended in court when they’re used for leader development. Not so for executive selection.)

We can use these shorter, less reliable instruments, but should we?

Do we have other ways to deliver what clients want: leadership assessments that take a minimum amount of time but don’t sacrifice reliability?

The answer is yes.

We have several new, though less-developed, assessments that are starting to gain traction. Here are some of the ways we can use them to assess performance:

Of course, these newer tools come with serious challenges, including privacy and security concerns related to the data collection. We also need to find an effective way to link the different types of data collected – textual, linguistic, and biological.

And how do we link data from a wearable device to the individual’s work context? Is the spike in heart rate caused by a particular interaction or biological event?

We all have minor irregular heartbeats during the day, so how do we tell the difference between a natural occurrence and a heart rate increase that’s due to a human-to-human interaction?

Despite these challenges, we can expect technology to make quantifying and improving leadership effectiveness a natural part of one’s day in the future. Advances in sensing technology in particular – including biological and proximity sensors, indoor GPS, cloud computing, machine learning, and natural language processing – will make it easier to integrate assessments into the daily work flow.

Feedback will be just-in-time, accurate, and reliable. The days of answering long lists of questions will be in the past.

But this future approach to leader development will come at a cost. Are we willing to pay it? Are we psychologically prepared to work in this transparent environment? Time will tell.

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