The Building Blocks of Accurate Self-Assessment

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Self assessment

In my last article, we started to navigate through self-awareness, which is the art of going deep inside of yourself to get to know your own desires and motivations, and it is composed by emotional self-awareness, accurate self-assessment and self-confidence.

The first step in this journey was emotional self-awareness, and now, since we have already learned to identify and understand our emotions, it is time to learn about accurate self-assessment.

When people think about self-assessment, two moments may come to their minds: the evaluation process at school and the annual performance evaluation process in their company. This is when people confront themselves; evaluating their own knowledge, skills and attitude, usually against a parameter, a competency or value-based model.

However, these should not be the only moments to practice self-evaluation. The good news is that, more and more, a continuous evaluation process has replaced this old concept of annual performance evaluation process at many organizations. Instead of an isolated moment of the year, a continuous feedback culture has been implemented in many companies, which creates additional moments of dialogue and reflection throughout the year.

Research shows that professionals engaged in self-assessment are found to be more interested in their work, more capable of understanding their value and the meaning behind their tasks. Additionally, it builds ownership and high commitment to their own development.

Although, self-assessment is an ongoing process that brings improvement, it is sometimes quite challenging and naturally a difficult task. One of the reasons is because there is no “fixed” self to be evaluated. Although there is an idea of a fixed self, which people design based on observations of the past, the fact is that behavior could change through time in response to different contexts and needs.

A data-driven world

Currently, people live in an environment that changes constantly, with high level of complexity and uncertainty. This is an environment of interconnectivity and hyper connectivity that brings agility, but tones of information that are irrelevant and useless, which deviate people’s attention from what really matters.

The result is superficiality and non-linear interactions, which do not bring value. In this sense, when making self-assessment, people lack crucial information necessary to reach accurate evaluations. Besides, the main sourcing of information, their leadership, is failing in delivering structured feedbacks.

Although, the practice of feedback is increasing over time, the process is still lacking quality. Managers constantly provide feedback based on their own bias, which brings inconsistency and difficulty to their employees to recognize and internalize the feedback to promote change. Therefore, these inferences based on such limited and misleading data does not support employees in their own process of evaluation.

Gaps in Perception

People's perception of their competence often differs from their true level of competence. After completing a task, for example, individuals could rank their performance below the median (a negative performance illusion) or above the median (a positive performance illusion).

READ: The Human in HR: Becoming People Centric Organizations to Drive Success 

This variation happens, because people usually think about the difficulty of executing a task and not if they were able to complete it or not. There is a tendency to evaluate the effort, the time that the person dedicated to executing the task rather than the performance, the value added and the result itself.

In both cases, negative or positive performance illusion, the main issue is how perception gap affects action. If people are not aware or they do not recognize their areas of improvement, they will not be able to accurately self-evaluate their performance as well.

The Turning Point

It happens when people realize that they are not alone in this process of self-awareness and self-assessment. They can rely on their family, friends and co-workers to keep improving and developing.  

Many interesting tools could improve self-awareness, trust and the feedback process at work. As an example, the Johari window model.

Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham developed the Johari window model in 1955. More than 60 years later it is still used to uncover blind spots in business and employees.

This model clarifies the self-awareness concept, to support people understand their relationship with themselves and the way they interact with others, through four quadrants:

  • Open – what is known by the individual and by the group
  • Blind Spot – what is known about the individuals by the group, but the individuals do not know
  • Hidden – what the individuals know about themselves but do not reveal to the group
  • Unknown – these are neither known by the individuals nor known by the group.

To develop accurate self-assessment, leaders should provide a psychologically safe environment, where people feel safe to show weakness and ask for feedback. It takes courage to ask and receive honest feedback from others and to face their own dilemmas and difficulties.

People should aim to have as few blind spots as possible, and it is possible through constant feedback. In my experience, one of the best methods of ensuring ongoing honest feedback is by having frequent one-to-one sessions with co-workers. Within these sessions, it helps to ask these questions:

  • What should I start doing?
  • What should I stop doing?
  • What should I continue doing?

In this way, people will have valuable source of information to analyze, when making their self-assessment. Moreover, that could also bring more accuracy to the process.

“Making resolutions is a cleansing ritual of self-assessment and repentance that demands personal honesty and, ultimately, reinforces humility. Breaking them is part of the cycle.” Eric Zorn

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