In a recent Time cover article, Questions to Answer in the Age of Optimized, Eliza Gray points to the newest trend in hiring, personality testing for all applicants. Gray writes:

“The New Rage for personality testing is being driven by a collision of two of the business world’s hottest trends. The first is Big Data [collecting as much data as possible]…the second…is called analytics [wherein data patterns are analyzed] to optimize performance."


Enter the Q’s

As people, measuring things about ourselves has always been a part of the human experience. In 1912, the IQ or intelligent quotient was created by German psychologist William Stern. IQ was designed to be a measure of intelligence though it has largely fallen out of use in the hiring practice.

In 1990, Emotional Quotient (EQ) was coined by John Mayer and Peter Salovey. Emotional Quotient was deemed to be the ability to judge and regulate one’s emotions. Hiring managers took to this concept to heart, and began to evaluate emotional aptitudes.

But now a new quotient is emerging, one that Gray calls the XQ, as she and others aren’t quite sure what to deem this new measure. Thus the X represents an unknown variable, the “it” factor that sets some apart from others.

I strongly suggest that the X is NOT an unknown factor. What the X term refers to is human potential—thus, Potential Quotient or PQ. What hiring mangers, academic admissions coordinators and bosses are really looking for is the answer to the following question: How much potential does the candidate for hire, admission, or promotion possess to rise up to the challenge to accomplish the needed goals and vision while also leading others in the endeavor?

Athletic coaches have operated in this realm for some time, especially at the lower levels of sport. At many tryouts, novices join more experienced players of average athletic ability but who have played select sports. The select players will obviously perform better at the tryout initially, but the novices, while at first inferior in performance, may possess greater potential to become an all star when given an opportunity. It is crucial that the coach be able to assess this potential for the long-term success of the program. Potential is much easier to assess on the athletic field than in the vocational/professional realm. Coaches can test vertical leap, 40-yard dashes and other skills and aptitudes that apply to the athlete’s game performance.

There IS a way to measure this potential in the professional, academic, and vocational world. What the Time article calls XQ, is actually a desire by leaders to measure the potential of humans. The ultimate ability of a high XQ candidate is the potential to influence others. This potential quotient (PQ) separates the mediocre and average from those who excel, those who can influence others to do the needed tasks and lead others to move toward a final vision.


How the Potential Quotient (PQ) differs from Personality or Leadership Preference Styles

The X of Gray’s XQ is not an unknown quotient. It is human potential. This is what every hiring manager, boss, and academic official is looking for. They may not know the concrete way to assess the potential quotient, but it is what they seek out in others, even if they approach this assessment unconsciously or intuitively.

There are seven key traits which need to be accurately measured to assess potential. These are like the vertical leap test, backpedaling rate test, strength test, and 40 yard dash test used at the NFL Combines to assess a collegiate player’s potential to make the jump into the professional level.  Without these measures, scouts and coaches would be making a blind leap in bringing someone onto their team.

You need to know your candidates’ Potential Quotient.

These seven measures of PQ include a person’s:

1.      Confidence

2.      Commitment

3.      Courage

4.      Passion

5.      Empowering

6.      Trustworthiness

7.      Likeability

Confidence is having the ‘we can do this’ attitude. This is one’s mental attitude towards believing in, trusting in, and relying on oneself and one’s abilities.
Commitment is the underlying force behind achievement. The more determined a person is to reach a specific goal, especially in the face of adversity, the more likely success will come.
Courage is the strength to face difficult circumstances (or even difficult people) head on.
Passion is the fire in the spirit. It is the expression of enthusiasm and eagerness, and starts the engine for success.
Empowering is the ability to support peers and share knowledge with them. It also reflects how you reward people who make a contribution.
Trustworthiness is a high virtue, and is fairly self-explanatory. It is worth noting though that of all the influence traits, this is usually the most crucial. If trust is lost, one instantly loses influence.
Likability is more than being friendly. It’s a measure of the capacity to create positive attitudes in others, and focus those attitudes towards a common goal.

Through scientific research and unique partnering with Clemson University’s esteemed Business Graduate School, Karen Keller International has determined these Seven Influence Traits® are THE KEY to assessing future potential.

The Seven Influence Traits® are the X factor of Time magazine article’s XQ. Personality tests and leadership preference tests measure a static, unchanging facet of the person tested. Once a personality test spits out a personality type, there is little to nothing that can be done to develop the person. Personality is largely a fixed quotient.

And more importantly, we see many DIFFERENT types of personalities flourish in the same role. As an example, American President Calvin Coolidge was one of the most introverted Presidents in US history. Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, was an incredible communicator and very comfortable on the speaking platform. Historians give BOTH high marks for successfully leading the nation. (More from Time magazine on introverts and extroverts success.)

Leadership style preference tests do get us one step beyond personality tests. However, while some minor movement through development is possible, most people will simply be making minor tweaks within their own style.

Potential on the other hand is quite dynamic. Each of the Seven Influence Traits®, which are a measure of potential, can be assessed for that day, month, or year, and developed. It is scientifically possible to measure a large increase or even a decrease in potential by gaining insight into the seven aptitudes most needed for success. Different personality types might express the seven traits in a different manner but all seven are proven to be needed by research studies to possess a truly increasing level of potential.


How Can Potential Be Measured?

PQ can be measured through a unique, scientifically validated  assessment called the Keller Influence Indicator®.

Test takers are led through a series of questions which dynamically assesses the current measure of ability in each of the Seven Influence Traits®. The assessment generates a score, call the K-Factor®, which gives a measure of future potential and clear steps to develop a person into a true influential leader.

Coaches, consultants, MBA heads, and CEOs are now using this test to assess their clients’ and team member’s PQ. This allows a clear picture of what developmental efforts need to be made with which individual to capitalize on their existing strengths and to target aptitudes needing improvement.


Start Measuring Your PQ Today!

Take a FREE TRIAL of the Keller Influence Indicator® to gain an understanding of this unique tool’s power and effectiveness at measuring and providing development guidelines for you and your team. 

Stay tuned for part two of the Potential Quotient series where we look at the role Potential Quotient plays in measuring future success and how potential can be developed.  The best leaders are those that identify and most develop their team members potential.


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From regional manager to international executive with quadruple the pay, Karen Keller’s unique blueprint carefully outlined the step-by-step process for creating high-impact influence and let me know when I was being influenced in a way that didn’t serve me.
Lloyd Moore
Global Director Supplier Quality & Development - Lear Corporation – South Carolina