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Solving the CEO-CTO Clash with Kolbe Assessments: A Success Story

Kolbe Assessment

Using Kolbe Assessments to Resolve a Personality Clash in the Workplace

I first used Kolbe assessments on pre-deal tech due diligence five years ago, in 2018. 

At that time, we assessed a company of about 100 staff, reporting to and assessing the CTO and the CEO. And it was pretty evident from the beginning that the CEO and CTO were clashing. 

When we assessed the management team, they were agitated that the CTO had not delivered on some critical technology-based projects. They needed data to make more use of the data already in the business. He could not deliver, as he had way too many concurrent projects.

The technology team’s Kolbe assessment revealed that the CTO was, what we refer to as Kolbe consultants, a “Quickstart”.

However, we also noticed that he was pretty underpaid. He was the person that invented and built every piece of technology that enabled business growth.

So why was this person not performing well now, and why was he regarded with such contempt? His situation concerned us, considering he was one of the original staff members.

Uncovering the Root Cause of Underperformance

It came down to the fact that this CTO was very good at startup but not particularly good at scale-up. This conclusion was apparent from his Kolbe profile. We could see that from his Kolbe assessment. He was good at innovation and taking risks, combined with a higher propensity to build things himself.

So, in essence, a new CEO had been appointed to scale what was already working. The CEO needed someone who focused on the operations and growth of something previously shown to work – not someone who would build new systems or ideas. What looked like a personality clash was a difference in needs and capabilities.

I spoke with the CTO on a very informal basis. We realised he would be better off if he just left and found a new job aligned with his strengths.

Eventually, all parties decided this was the best path.

So he created a consultancy, and they hired someone more suitable for scaling up the business.  

The thing that’s great about this is that Kolbe depersonalized the dynamic. When we arrived, the senior leadership team were angry and frustrated. Through psychological data, we were able to help increase personal awareness and allow the CTO to leave on his own accord and with dignity.

Kolbe assessments helped us solve the problem and help the CTO in a sticky situation.  And it’s key to understand this was not a personality clash as it appeared to be for all.  The CTOs’ strengths were not aligned with the needs of the business, both needed to part ways to continue growth.

Scaling Up Successfully with the Help of Kolbe Assessments in Tech Due Diligence

Following the CTO’s departure, we also helped the company find a new replacement based on the CEO’s scaling requirements. This requirement meant using a structured data-driven process and Kolbe assessments to find the ‘right fit’ for the team.

Once the new CTO was hired, I coached them to learn how to work with private equity boards. How to produce and present the correct information and strategy more compellingly.  

The Technology Due Diligence took three weeks. But the relationship continued for a year as we helped the company scale up its technology team.

Kudos to the CEO of that firm. He was open to the Kolbe assessments and helped prove there was value to the pre-deal evaluation of technical staff using Kolbe assessments.

Interested in the psychological makeup of your tech team?

If you’d like to know more, please get in touch. I am passionately interested in tech teams’ welfare, productivity, and contribution to the business. Note – fixing tech teams is often cheaper than fixing tech.

Consider the differences between a start-up and scale-up leader
Scaling up a business often means looking at the team dynamics
Technology Due Diligence is often helpful for CTOs
Hutton Henry
Hutton Henry
Hutton has worked with Private Equity Portfolio firms and Private Equity funds since 2015. Having previously worked in post-merger integration for large firms such as Ford and HP, Hutton understands the value of finding issues prior to M&A deals. He is currently the founder of Beyond M&A and provides technology due diligence for VC, PE and corporate investors, so they understand their technology risks before entering into a deal.

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