I've taken a lot of assessments -
Strengths Finder, Caliper, Hogan, MBTI, Flippen, DISC, 16PF, MMPI, and so on. At this point, I can't tell if I'm giving real answers or just repeating the results of the last test!
You may know the feeling. Chances are, you've taken at least one along the way, and you may be considering an assessment for your team. It's a booming trend. Forbes cited research that over 60% of HR professionals use assessments in the hiring process. Overall, it's a $500 million annual industry and growing, says SHRM.
But are we getting our money's worth?
Companies often use assessments for hiring but nothing else. Individuals may not even see their own results. In other cases, we see them, but they end up in a drawer. When this happens, we leave value on the table, and are missing a critical developmental tool.
"Seeing ourselves on paper quantifies things we've guessed along the way "
Perhaps the clearest benefit of assessments is that they help us know ourselves better. We're invited to reflect about who we are, how others see us, and our way of interacting with the world. This can be intimidating! I often seen a mixture of curiosity and apprehension when someone is about to see their results. "What will this say about me?" "Does it show those weak spots that I thought were hidden?"
Seeing ourselves on paper (or digits) helps us quantify things we've guessed along the way. We get an objective framework for our strengths and weaknesses, as well as benchmarks to measure change.
"Even the way I had set up my office was NOT helping me care for others."
Such objectivity helps expose our blind spots - weaknesses that we are NOT aware of. Several years ago I took an assessment that revealed I wasn't so good at caring for the needs of others. (Not a good trait for a leader.) If you walked into a meeting and we were one chair short, I would not have jumped up and said, "I'll get you a chair!" I worked with people who would have, and I could get there if I thought about it, but it wasn't instinctive.
Even the way I had set up my office was NOT helping me care for others. I'd placed a standing workstation against the wall opposite my office door. When you walked in, you saw...my back. A clear signal of "bug off, I'm busy!" Hardly an invitation to engage! So I switched walls, moving the workstation next to the door. When you walked in, we had instant eye-to-eye contact and could engage.
"We may even have different motivations for identical actions."
Assessments also give us a window into the people we work with. A very human tendency is, "I see the world a certain way, so that must be how you see it too!" The truth is, we all have unique ways of observing, thinking, and interacting. We may even have different motivations for identical actions. One person may be abrupt because they are ticked off, while a colleague may be abrupt because they grew up in Boston (like me) - or are in a hurry. Seeing ourselves at one end of an assessment scale is the first step to understand those on the other.
"When you already have feedback in print, they have permission to agree."
A mentor taught me that an assessment's greatest value may be its ability to start a conversation. Let's face it: most of us are terrible at giving feedback. Some of us are scared at the thought. Others of us relish it and so do it poorly - "I've got something to tell YOU!" It's rare to find the person who is comfortable giving direct, critical feedback in a way that is compassionate and with the best interests of the other in mind.
The result? People we work with HAVE feedback to give - but are not giving it. Or we blow it off because of delivery. This is even more exaggerated in leaders, as the higher you go, the more difficult it is to receive candid feedback.
With an assessment, we can approach a team member and say, "I was looking at this. I realize that I have a tendency to -------. What do you think? How can I improve?" When they see that you already have the feedback in print, they have permission to agree. They can paint the picture of how those tendencies impact the team and the work, for good and for bad. With their help, you can take action to improve.
An assessment belongs not in the drawer, but in our hand, as a tool for understanding and growth. Let's work to get the full return on our assessment.