Making the most of assessments

If you’ve been part of a leadership development program, you’ve probably taken some sort of assessment designed to increase your self-awareness and help you relate more effectively to others.  There are hundreds of assessments to hedoglp you learn about communication styles, learning styles, approaches to conflict, and strengths.  They range from complex instruments backed by scholarly research to icebreaker-type “get to know you” quizzes.  I even found over a dozen that predict what sort of dog breed someone would be.  (Consensus is that I’m a Labrador Retriever.)

Here are two “do’s” and one “don’t” to help you get the most from these assessments.

  1. Do analyze your reactions.  They can give useful insights into your leadership strengths and potential blind spots.  Which results seem intuitive and obvious?  Which seem completely wrong?  I’ve found that I often react more strongly to items that have a grain of truth than I do to ones that are completely off the mark.  Consider asking a trusted colleague to review the results with you – it can be very informative.
  2. Do look for themes.  Any given assessment may or may not ring true for you, but if the same message keeps repeating, it’s worth consideration.  A few years ago I took several assessments in a row and they all described me as a big-picture person with a tendency to be impatient with details.  This wasn’t news, and it’s not completely accurate.  I love the big picture, and I like details too – in the right place and time.  My first reaction was to ignore the development tips, but instead I took it as an opportunity to pay attention to my behavior in project teams.  Sure enough, I could feel myself getting frustrated with people who, in my mind, were moving too quickly into the process details without exploring all the alternatives. Stepping back, taking a deep breath, and then exploring their viewpoints helped me to be a better leader and team member.
  3. Don’t use the results as an excuse to avoid doing hard development work.  It’s a good idea to focus on your strengths and abilities when making development plans.  However, results of assessments shouldn’t be used to get off the behavioral hook.  For example, I usually score as an introvert on style assessments.  That doesn’t mean I don’t have to do networking.  It means I need to build connections in more introvert-friendly ways.  As a new employee, I had a lot of one-on-one appointments and coffee breaks to get to know my new colleagues.  And when I’m going to be involved in a day-long meeting, I plan some down time afterwards.

Have you taken any assessments that helped you develop as a leader?  What insights did you gain from them?

Dee Anne Bonebright


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