When it comes to assessing workplace performance, there are a number of ways to think about what is considered success. Some are easier to identify than others: Did I hit this sales goal? Did we meet our financial benchmarks for the quarter? Did we pass our target for new business leads? For these quantitative metrics, it is fairly simple to determine if you were successful or not. You can pull up a report and quickly see if you are on track. But when it comes to your performance as a leader, it’s not always as obvious to tell if you are being successful.
Identify what needs to be evaluated
While all leaders have their own set of competencies, strengths, and weaknesses, there are some areas across management and leadership roles that require more attention and mindfulness than others. These can be good attributes and skills to focus on when beginning to think about how to evaluate yourself as a leader.
It’s not enough for managers to only think about driving ROI and direct all focus and energy on processes and numbers. Those are certainly ways to measure the success of your team but won’t lead to sustainable results if there isn’t also the component of “soft skills” or considering your employees’ feelings, what motivates them, and their sense of belonging and importance to the team.
According to a study conducted by Green Peak Partners and Cornell University, “executives who lack interpersonal skills–executives who just focus on numbers and processes and wreak havoc on their people–perform poorly over all but the shortest of time periods.” The study found that “Executives who are good ‘people managers’ (i.e., possess strong core leadership skills) on the other hand, produce better strategic and financial performance outcomes.”
But assessing your skills and abilities when it comes to non-numeric–but just as important–metrics can be a little more difficult. Breaking these common pain-points for managers into a few categories can help you identify what needs to be evaluated and how you’re doing in those areas.
Fostering Self-awareness Power
The results of the Green Peak/Cornell study showed that a self-awareness score was the highest predictor of good leadership and overall success in management performance. Self-awareness helps you to identify the areas where you excel, and which ones aren’t your strongest so you can either develop them and/or surround yourself with people who have complementary skill sets. As a manager, you don’t have to personally master every important skill, trait, and characteristic that make up a strong, high-functioning team as long as collectively your team possesses those attributes.
The challenge to this lies in our ability to accurately evaluate our own self-awareness, which ironically requires a certain amount of self-awareness to do so successfully. Research has found that upwards of 95% of people believe they have a good sense of self-awareness. But based on her work, psychologist Tasha Eurich found that only about 10 to 15 percent of people actually had an accurate view of themselves.
Ask yourself: What are my values and do they align with how I’m spending my energy and time? Am I aware of how my reactions and behaviors impact those around me? Am I able to accurately predict how I will react in any given situation?
Requesting feedback from your peers and employees, like through Valor’s Viewpoints solution, is a great way to learn about how you are faring from an external point of view: how your actions are perceived by others and your areas of strength and for improvement. In order to do this successfully, you need to be able to create a system of healthy feedback.
Holding Your Team Accountable
Accountability is one of the most difficult aspects of leadership. According to Harvard Business Review, “far and away the single-most shirked responsibility of executives is holding people accountable.” The research supports that in Europe, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and the U.S. across all levels of management from C-level executives all the way down through directors and middle managers, accountability was identified as the weakest and most neglected behavior. While accountability is important for making sure deadlines are met and that everyone on a team is pulling their weight, it can be tough.
Ask yourself: What is your response when someone on your team doesn’t deliver? Are you making sure your team is aligned on the common purpose and goals? Does your team know what success looks like?
Holding someone accountable means finding out the answers to a basic question: “What happened?” There are ways to do this in the short-term so that you can get immediate feedback on how things are going, or with different, more in-depth approaches depending on what the situation warrants. A useful framework for knowing which approach to take is the Accountability Dial which breaks the “what happened” question into the five stages of the conversation: the mention, the invitation, the conversation, the boundary, and the limit.
Knowing what stage of the conversation you are in can help both parties stay on top of the progress and ideally ahead of any possible hurdles that may arise. This type of accountability means that there is a culture of trust as well as a sense of personal responsibility to the team. The leadership is showing that they trust their employees to get the work done, but that they also have their backs and are there for support if needed. Likewise, the employees know that everyone is invested in the success of the project.
Decision-making and the ability to execute tough decisions in a fair manner are vitally important to any business. Consulting firm Bain & Company found that there is a “95% correlation between companies that excel at making and executing key decisions and those with top-tier financial results.” But despite this information, many managers and companies struggle with sticking to best practices when it comes to making decisions. There is a lot of noise out there clouding our ability to make decisions using the most scientific approach and to add to that, we often don’t track the decisions we make in such a way that we are able to go back and evaluate whether or not it was the right decision.
Ask yourself: Do I make decisions based on emotions or information? Am I able to evaluate whether this decision is one I can quickly make myself or need input from others? How do my own biases play into the decision I’ve come to?
Start by being more thoughtful about the types of decisions you are making and how you are going about the process of making those decisions. Knowing when to bring in outside viewpoints and when the decision can just be made quickly, as well as the difference between reversible and irreversible decisions can help alleviate some of the decision fatigue and analysis paralysis that can plague many leaders who have a lot of decisions to make.
Using a decision-making checklist as an evaluation tool can be a good guide to not only help you figure out what decision to make but also to keep a record of the option you chose and why, as well as the ones you passed on. By holding your decision-making process to a strict framework, you can cut down on the time spent discussing and deliberating as well as end up with a more effective result.
Embracing Productive Conflict
Conflict can be uncomfortable, and it’s up to the leadership to foster a team and organizational culture that supports and encourages productive conflict and differences of opinion. You want to make sure that your team feels safe and comfortable speaking out against ideas if they disagree or have an alternative approach that might be better. We know that there are many benefits to encouraging differing viewpoints and perspectives, such as improving communication, building trust and relationships among team members, getting a broader view of whether you are aligned on your goals and outcomes, and ultimately results in better ideas overall. But if you’re not doing a great job of communicating the need for a variety of perspectives or challenges to proposed ideas, your team will stagnate and whatever trust and cohesion your team has will erode.
Ask yourself: Are you sending the message to your team that it’s not really okay to disagree? When someone on your team expresses a differing opinion, do they get interrogated or put in the “hot seat”? If the team decides to go with the proposed alternate approach, is the person who suggested it held personally accountable if the idea is not ultimately successful?
One way to encourage positive conflict is to encourage other team members to express their ideas or opinions before stating your own. Remind the group that you encourage them to speak up if they have a differing viewpoint or opinion. As long as the organizational goals and objectives are aligned, this type of discourse and discussion within the team or group of stakeholders can lead to better ideas and solutions.
Another way to reinforce this dynamic is to publicly thank people who are willing to take a stand and support their alternate position. When employees speak up against the group with an alternate approach and can lobby for their point of view in a passionate way, it reinforces a collaborative culture, helps your team with engagement to their work, and makes them feel heard and that their contributions are important to the team. It’s equally important for team members to support the decisions of the team when the debate is over. Considering all voices is a great way to foster this engagement and buy-in.
Identifying the skills and areas where you could use a little work is a key component of the success of high-performing leaders. By identifying those areas, you can focus your energy and efforts on making changes and improvements, building out a team with compatible skill sets, and holding yourself accountable when you underperform. This can be achieved by practicing your own self-awareness, requesting feedback from your team members, and working with a coach who is able to be an objective third-party and can help you hold a mirror up to yourself to observe your performance. Great leaders know that they are always striving to get better and improve, and that starts with self-evaluation.