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Four Tips To Turn A Low Self-Assessment Score Into A Growth Opportunity

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Founder of Leading With Courage Networking, an all-virtual, B2B networking group for advisors with 10+ years of experience.

We’ve given hundreds of self-assessments to executives from our catalog of about 40 different assessments. One of the comments we’ve frequently received before the self-assessment begins is, “I’m worried about the kind of score I’m going to get. What if I don’t wind up with a favorable one?”

The truth is this: It’s hard not to get a favorable score. You can almost always get a favorable score just by answering the questions the way you think the designers want them answered.

But then what’s the point of taking the assessment? Is it to get a high score or to shine a light on a blind spot or hidden strength? Consider this: Research by Dr. Tasha Eurich shows that 95% of people think they are self-aware while the actual number is closer to 12-15%. It illustrates how big the gap is between how we see ourselves and how others see us.

Yet, even with the potential for positive bias in one’s favor, resistance from the C-suite still exists. Many executives use the pushback line of “Well, what do I need a self-assessment for? That’s why I’m the CEO!” While self-assessments may not be perfect, they can be an essential step for understanding emotional intelligence, self-awareness and relationship building.

Make self-assessments more effective.

We have found that many knowledge workers, such as accountants and lawyers, are very good at reading and rating their technical expertise and that of their colleagues. But, in my experience, many of these professionals are too hard on themselves when it comes to rating their relationships. Hence, their scores may actually be higher when perceived by others. When they get a low score, they often want to re-take the same assessment right away, but then a common fear reveals itself: “What happens if I don’t get a good score that second time? What does that say about me?”

Rather than re-taking the exact same self-assessment (and probably getting the same result), it makes more sense to undertake a 360 assessment, which shows how others see you compared to how you see yourself. You can sign up for any number of 360 assessments that are on the market.

But there’s an even simpler, less expensive and faster way to check if you’re being too hard on yourself. Consider giving the self-assessment you just took to a few people you trust to be honest with you, asking them to complete it based on their perceptions of you. This method has its drawbacks, but it can tell you if you’re being too hard on yourself.

Don’t overreact to the feedback (you can’t change everything anyway).

People who really want to know how others perceive them usually ask a few people for feedback who aren’t exactly raving fans. Assuming they can be trusted to be candid in their ratings and constructive in their feedback, they’ll probably provide you with some of the best advice you’re going to get.

There will be some things in the feedback you receive that you will want to change right away. However, you can’t change everything in every category; it’s just not possible, nor is it even advisable. It’s much better to focus on two or three things that you want to do differently that are also likely to have a “knock-on effect, ” meaning when you have those two or three things done, move on to the next two or three. Share with your team what you plan to start doing differently to show them how you have learned from their comments and what you are doing with their advice.

You also shouldn’t worry too much about one “outlier” in a 360 assessment, such as a person who is clearly out to “get you” because their results are so negative compared to everyone else. Sure, it will skew your ratings, but don’t let the outlier invalidate the entire exercise. It’s a challenge, but try to ignore the impact that one person has on your motivation to improve.

Ask questions if you don’t understand.

It’s not unusual to receive some comments that you don’t understand. But you don’t know who said that comment and you probably wouldn’t want to identify them. So what do you do? Approach everyone who rated you and make it clear that you value all the feedback you received. That way, you can genuinely ask them to help you clarify the comments in question. Through the course of a conversation, you can uncover other points of clarification that you may not have even considered: “Can you help me understand this comment?” “What do you think this sentence or two is conveying? I’d like to work on it.”

By sharing what you learned and what you plan to do, people who provided you with feedback can play an active role in helping you be successful. They’ll even see themselves as being contributors to the company’s success.

Demonstrate that you’ve listened by doing.

You can talk about the value of listening and what you’ve learned from the experience of receiving an assessment. But you will never show that credibly until you demonstrate your actions as proof. Here’s one way to do that: Ask a few people you trust and who see you in a variety of situations to let you know when they witness you are making the desired change and when you’re not. For example, if you want to be a better listener, as demonstrated by not interrupting others too often, ask a few people to tell you when they see you practice this. Then, after the meeting or event, ask them to let you know when you didn’t interrupt people and when you did.

After working on two or three items in your action plan, you can then start to ask one of the most important questions any leader or manager can ask of their team: “How am I doing?”


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