Finding a Path to Pathfinders

Steve LudwigPathfinder AssessmentLeave a Comment

a path through the woods

Existing companies and B2B tech startups have a similar problem.

How to know that the person you are tapping to expand the business, lead a team into a new market, and otherwise help blaze new trails has the right set of deep skills to be successful?

A recent survey by a trade group for universities in the United States shows that employers want employees to have soft skills such as the ability to work in teams, think critically, write clearly, and others.

A recent survey by a trade group for universities in the United States shows that employers want employees to have soft skills such as the ability to work in teams, think critically, write clearly, and others.

Source: AAC&U

However, we know that when push comes to shove, bot screening tools, HR departments, and hiring managers default to hard skills.

While understandable, we also know how challenging this is. How many people that you have worked with or known that have been great individual contributors only to be promoted to a management role and fail?

This has been dubbed The Peter Principal. That’s where people promote individuals that are great at their job, moving up the ladder until they are not good at their jobs. It’s known as promoting people to the “level of their incompetence.” Fun stuff.

To help with this, companies are turning to personality tests in droves. Each year, more than 100 million workers worldwide take what is known as psychometric tests—checking for personality and aptitude. It’s estimated to be a US$6.5 billion industry by 2027.

There are good and bad tests on the market. They usually tell an individual how they like to communicate, how they like information, where they get energy, and the like.

Cartoon stating "Now that I know my personality type, I have an excuse for behaving exactly the same".

Source: The New Yorker

But what they don’t test for are the deep skills needed to be the first salesperson at a B2B tech startup or to be the person to tap to lead a team that needs to think in new ways or open new markets. These are your Pathfinders.

Pathfinders will hack through the proverbial jungle, developing the trail others follow.

How are Pathfinders different from other employees? Their characteristics include:

  • A strong ability to deal with ambiguity. When in situations without precedent, Pathfinders need to be agile and not just deal with ambiguity, but actually find a way to thrive within it.
  • Not being told what to do and operating without a playbook of any kind, the Pathfinder also needs to be self-directed. Specifically, Pathfinders are able to fully engage in tasks/roles largely, or even entirely, motivated by meeting a need. Broadly, Pathfinders see a need and jump in and figure things out as they go.
  • A curiosity that allows for creative solutions. This is critical when a lot of latitude is provided to find new solutions, products, or markets.
  • A hunger motivated by something quite different to many career climbers. We’d characterize this motivation as intrinsic rather than extrinsic. They are looking for something that is deeper and has a personal meaning for them.

We help you find Pathfinders through an online assessment and rules engine that classifies candidates as a Pathfinder or a Non-Pathfinder and which covers both these ‘deep’ skills as well as the vocational skills required for the role.

This is not a personality test but rather a deep skills assessment.

How we get there is through a highly respected process developed by academics. When you take the assessment, you respond to statements that indicate a Pathfinder’s intangible factors.

It’s not a direct measurement, like getting your blood pressure taken; it’s an indirect measurement using these indicators. There has been extensive research on these types of measurements to ensure they are valid.

Our proprietary process was developed by starting with known and validated scales and modifying them to assess for Pathfinders. We then validated the findings through statistical analysis to ensure there is an internal consistency to the results.

In the Pathfinder online assessment, we look for unique characteristics in four primary categories: approach, motivation, perspective, and relationships. Each is a critical component of a Pathfinder.

For the first sales hire of a B2B tech startup, we already have The Right Five, which covers both the deep and vocational skills required to be successful. You can watch a demo here.

For every other type of Pathfinder, we’ve decoupled the intangibles, the deep skills from The Right Five assessment and now offer this as a standalone online assessment through The Pathfinder Company.

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