Chances are, at some point in your career, you’ve been asked to complete a leadership assessment – either for yourself, or rating someone else’s leadership abilities. Based on your experience, you might have found the exercise enlightening or a waste of time not-so-great.
People are naturally skeptical about assessments and for good reason – I’ve seen some really poor execution of an assessment process. But it doesn’t have to be a train wreck. A reputable researched-based assessment, interpreted by a knowledgeable coach, can be invaluable to your professional development. The key is to understand how assessments are structured. From there, you can make the experience work for you, rather than feeling like something has been “done to you.”
What’s So Great About Assessments Anyway?
By nature, an “assessment” has an evaluative component to it. People hate this; they feel their everyday work should speak for itself. Fair enough. But ask yourself this – is it possible that there is a partially overlooked aspect to your behavior – that if you were to learn about it – could shift how you show up at work each day? Would it be worth it to you to explore what that might be?
Two Main Types of Leadership Assessments
Leadership assessments fall into two categories: self-scoring and 360-degree.
In a self-scoring assessment, the leader completes the assessment based solely on his/her perceptions. In a 360-degree assessment, the leader completes a self-assessment and invites others to give feedback as well. Typical respondents in a 360-degree process include the leader’s team members, the leader’s supervisor and a cross-section of peers and/or customers.
There are pros and cons to each type of assessment. Ultimately it comes down to the objective of the assessment process: what are you trying to accomplish with the assessment? Self-scoring assessments are great for professional development; they work nicely with Individual Development Plans that are often a part of an organization’s performance review process. A 360-degree process is useful if there is a need to conduct a more in-depth look at a leader’s strengths and areas for improvement because “raters” (people who give the feedback) can provide detailed, behavioral examples.
What If I Don’t Measure Up?
This is a common concern. Think about an assessment as being a single data point, a snapshot in time. It does not reflect everything about you, or describe your worth as a human being. True, it can be threatening to think your value as a leader is being put under a microscope. This scrutiny might be uncomfortable, but is doesn’t need to be excruciating. The best way to approach your feedback session is to adopt an attitude of inquiry. “What can I learn about myself today that I may not have considered before?” and “Wow, I’m getting some surprising information out of this. I wonder what to make of it” are two possible things to reflect upon after you receive your feedback.
Making a Leadership Assessment Work for YOU
Remember this: you are in charge with what you do with the feedback you receive from a leadership assessment. You can accept it, or reject it. It’s entirely up to you. If you find the narrative comments in the feedback puzzling or off-putting, seek out someone you trust and ask their input: “is it possible that I come across this way at work?”
Another point to consider: choosing to reject the feedback you’re given will most likely have consequences for your career advancement. The best leadership assessments are those that help you make choices about how you want to live out your leadership. If, ultimately, there’s not a fit in your current role, it may be time to consider moving on. And, that may not be an entirely bad thing. An assessment can provide focus and perspective – two things that are vital to any leader’s development, whether it’s for your current role or another opportunity elsewhere.
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