In both the leadership and HR communities, there has been much spirited debate in recent years on the subject of performance reviews and appraisals.
Many organisations have moved away from the burdensome processes of the last few decades to a less formal, bureaucratic approach. Some have even abandoned the idea entirely.
Those who see the benefit of a focus on performance and target-setting, but want to reduce the administrative distractions of form-filling, are beginning to move towards a self-directed high-performance approach.
Fundamental to making this work is the concept of key people being able to evaluate their own performance objectively and accurately.
In many ways, the whole growth of performance reviews was based on an assumption that people can’t or won’t have an accurate idea of how they are performing. Much of this may be based on the old-school and “Theory X” belief that people can’t be trusted, and need to be supervised in order to reach expected standards.
Today, our greater understanding of motivation and human psychology has enabled us to recognise that self-evaluation is potentially far more powerful, especially when used by leaders and technical specialists.
What to evaluate
The key, then, is to find ways to help people build an accurate picture of how they’re doing, so that they can make some key decisions about the following:
1. How am I performing against expectations?
2. What are my areas for development?
3. What strengths and capabilities can I deploy for greater impact?
4. How should I change my behaviour and approach?
These four questions are absolutely essential for anyone hoping to enhance their performance and impact. They need to be able to answer each question with sufficiently accurate knowledge, feedback and insight. So what’s the best way to evaluation your own performance?
Effective self-assessment tools
Psychometric profiles such as DISC or the Five-Factor Model are an excellent source of insight into behaviour, compatibility with others, team contribution and job-role “fit”.
Organisations and leaders need a regular benchmark to analyse change and progression. Our own Leadership 101 is very effective as a measure of progress, and is used by hundreds of leaders as part of regular self-evaluation (get in touch if you want to try it).
Another helpful tool can be to self-assess against recognised frameworks, such as the competencies used in many organisations, the formal systems represented by such things as the national occupational standards, or for leaders and managers, relevant units of the CMI Leadership & Management qualifications.
The Johari window provides an excellent basis for getting feedback on the perceptions of others. Seeking out the views of a useful range of colleagues for insight on your behaviour, approach and performance is always helpful, as long as you ask a representative sample, and ask them specific questions to which they can give straight answers.
For example, asking “How would you describe my behaviour?” is vague and difficult to answer, whereas “When I am in meetings, how do I typically contribute?” is likely to get more detailed and insightful answers.
By far the most detailed, accurate and insightful guidance to be gained is from yourself. You know yourself better than anyone, and have the largest “database” of information to draw on.
For this to be effective, however, you need to ensure that your perceptions are accurate rather than wishful thinking, and that you consider the widest possible range of evidence of your behaviour and achievements (for both good and bad).
At Babington’s National Centre for Strategic Leadership, our leadership programmes are founded on this idea. We have developed them on the basis that the most useful form of leadership development is accurate and deep reflection, coupled with constant learning, trial of new ideas, and observation of impact.
In summary, the best way to evaluate your own performance, or support others to do so, is to make use of the right combination of the factors discussed here for you and your situation. To begin your journey towards more effective leadership, create your personal leadership development plan.