We all appreciated your relentless stimulation and the really important points you drove home to our group.
Hon. George P. Shultz, Secretary of State (1982-1989), United States of America

Teaching Self Evaluation

What soft skill drives learning and growth more than any other?

Regular productive honest self-evaluation against clear standards: That is not only the fundamental building block for teaching/learning the rest of the self-management skills, is the fundamental building block for teaching/learning all of the soft skills, not to mention every hard skill. Not to mention practically any other kind of significant learning and growth. When it comes to continuous improvement of any kind, self-evaluation is the beginning, middle, and end.

Consider starting with some big picture assessment tools – tools that profile personality types, interests, values, and/or communication style. Try to identify (and vet) several of them, the more the better.

Where can you find them? Your organization may own some already – ask someone in HR. Or you can look on-line – there are plenty you can find for free and plenty more for sale. You can find them in books. You can often find a consultant who will be happy to help. Or you can create one yourself without too much trouble based on any competency model or any list of traits, characteristics, behaviors, skills, or preferences.

These tools are a great short-cut to jump-start anybody’s path to greater self awareness. The down-side of these tools is they usually take for granted that one’s type is fixed — the idea is “this is who you are” and that’s not going to change. That’s one reason I so strongly advocate using several different models so at least they gain a wider perspective on “who they are.”

Once you get employees familiar and comfortable with self-assessments, they might find they like it. If they really catch the bug, there is a good chance they will go on-line and find any number of self-evaluations that are more (or less) to their liking. You might even consider assigning them to go on-line and do some self-directed learning by finding a number of self-evaluation tools, trying them out, and letting you know which ones they think are best. Over time, you will build up a considerable catalogue of these tools.

Get everybody measuring everything… at least everything that matters.

More and more organizations are integrating into their cultures a regular practice of “measuring.” The question is: What are they in the habit of measuring? Too often what gets measured most is removed from what individuals feel they can actually control. So the “numbers” they are always hearing about don’t tell them very much about their own performance and how they themselves can specifically improve.

When it comes to using self-awareness to drive continuous improvement, the key is measuring concrete actions within the control of the individual.

Once you get your employees into the habit of regular self-evaluation, take it the next level by having them start measuring the concrete actions within their own control — the ones that matter — every step of the way.

In other words, teach them to keep score for themselves on everything they actually do at work. Help them create their own self-evaluation tools to monitor, measure and document everything they do – or even better you can help them create their own self-evaluation tools:

  • For every project, there should be a project plan, including every goal and deadline along the way, complete with guidelines and parameters for every goal. Why not teach employees to use project plans as tools for ongoing self-evaluation? Every step of the way, they can track where they are on every goal.
  • For every recurring task or responsibility, there should be standard operating procedures, complete with checklists. Why not teach employees to use those standard operating procedures and checklists as tools for ongoing self-evaluation? Every step of the way, they can track their progress on every task, one “check” at a time.
  • To measure activities, log every activity.
  • To measure time, create schedules and time-logs.

If you can get them in the habit of using these kinds of self-evaluation tools to monitor their own performance – measuring their own concrete actions against clear measurable goals – you will put them squarely on the path to continuous improvement. These tools also give you a great tool to guide your ongoing guidance, direction, support, and coaching when it comes to discussing their ongoing work. Their scorekeeping will double as a great source of ongoing real-time documentation.

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