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So, you’ve been asked to “self assess” … what do you do now?

With the performance review season on us, many of us face the daunting task of self-assessment. It’s a common practice, but often not effective. In this post, we'll explore why traditional self-assessment might not be as beneficial as some believe, and propose an effective method for responding when asked to self-assess.  And in a way that enhances your personal growth and professional reputation.

The Problem with Self-Assessment

Extensive research across psychology highlights that self-assessments are frequently flawed, holding only a weak relationship with actual behavior and performance. This discrepancy is evident across various domains - health, education, and notably the workplace. People tend to overestimate their abilities, often rating themselves as "above average".  We are overconfident in our prediction of our skills. This problem is truly pervasive, extending from employees to CEOs and impacting decision-making and career success.

Inaccurate self-assessments of our work stems from various factors. We often lack objectivity, either overestimating our abilities due to self-serving bias or underestimating due to low self-esteem. What's more, the fear of potential negative consequences resulting from the “wrong” self-assessment can lead us to provide untruthful evaluations. 

So, an individual asked to provide a self assessment would be wise not to rely solely on their view. Instead, he’s what they could do? 

A More Effective Strategy: Seek Feedback

Before you sit down to write your self-assessment, consider reaching out for feedback from various sources – colleagues, supervisors, and even clients. In our book, "Fair Talk: Three Steps to Powerful Feedback," we discuss the importance of diverse perspectives for accurate evaluation, and how you can use sources of feedback to gain clarity on your work and you are perceived.

Start by asking specific questions about your performance and areas for development. This approach not only provides a more rounded view of your work but also demonstrates humility and a commitment to growth – qualities highly valued in the corporate world.

A simple way to gather feedback is to send an email outlining in a few words why you have chosen them, why you are requesting feedback, and why it's important for you. Then, ask them to answer just three questions:

  • What should I continue doing? 

  • What should I stop doing?

  • What should I start doing?

The answers will reveal stakeholder perceptions of your strengths and unique qualities, potentially problematic areas for performance and career progress, and suggestions for development. 

Check out podcast episode "How to ask for the feedback you need" for more ideas.

Once you gather feedback, align it with your career aspirations. Are the areas of strengths in line with your career plan? Consider the roles you'd like in the future and how you can align the feedback you have with those roles. Are their experiences missing which you can highlight, which align with your career goals? Use the information collected to prioritize your development areas. In our forthcoming book "Move Up or Move On", we stress that aligning stakeholder expectations and perceptions of you and your work with your career objectives is crucial for success. This brings us to the next point.

When you inform your boss and peers that you sought external guidance, it reflects positively on your personal brand. It shows you're proactive, open to constructive criticism, and dedicated to self-improvement. Such transparency can significantly enhance your reputation within the organization.

In conclusion

Self-assessment is a critical part of performance reviews/ But, without input from others, we are likely to get it wrong.  That has the potential to damage our reputation.  By incorporating multi-source feedback, you can gain a more accurate understanding of your performance and demonstrate qualities that are highly valued by those whose opinion of you matters for your career. Now, you don't have to rack your brain for what to write in your self-assessment or second-guess what others wanted.  Instead, you’re

humble and self-aware. Double win!

This blog expresses our personal opinions. Not the view of any associated organizations. With thanks to Laurenz Kleinheider for the image.

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