Self-Evaluation: The Genesis of all Improvement

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Business leaders often find themselves in the position of being the expert on a subject, with the knowledge of how to make improvements or solve problems. When leading a team, it is tempting to continually advise others what they need to be doing to improve, but this can often lead to disappointing results and frustration on both sides. The best leaders are those who inspire the individuals on their teams to evaluate what they can be improving upon themselves, rather than doing it for them.

The tricky part is the the leaders often know what would be “best” for their subordinates to change or modify, but imparting that knowledge is so much less impactful than inspiring them to develop and evaluate themselves.

I believe that absolutely no improvement, and yes I mean zero, can happen without self-evaluation.

The importance of self-evaluation is an incredibly valuable lesson I learned from one of the greatest pitching coaches of all time, Dave Duncan. Coach Duncan is widely known in MLB as the man who can take an underperforming pitcher and relatively quickly get him pitching at or above his potential. There are numerous examples of the Cardinals taking a chance on a pitcher who other teams wouldn’t even consider, only to have the pitcher turn his career around after spending a little time with “Dunc.”

One such pitcher explained it to me this way: “Dunc doesn’t get in my face and tell me what I need to do. He asks me what I think I need. What 1 change do I think will help? He makes me come up with something. I try it, and if it works, great. If not, he asks me again for another idea. At some point if my ideas aren’t working, I may ask him. It’s not like he won’t give suggestions. He will. He will give me a few ideas, but then again asks me what I think. He is always making me evaluate what I need.”

Telling someone what they need to improve can be helpful, especially if you are an expert in the area of discussion. Asking the right questions and getting him to self-evaluate is much more effective.

Take a moment to think about how often you truly evaluate what you are doing. What is it that you evaluate? Do you evaluate how you are doing at work, or how you are doing at home? Do you evaluate where you are now versus where you thought you would be at this point in your life? Do you evaluate whether you are you experiencing happiness?

As you are becoming more conscious of how and when you will evaluate your performance, watch out for these roadblocks to improvement:

3 Biggest Evaluation Mistakes

1. Emphasizing Perfection vs. Improvement: Most people are so focused on achieving perfection that they lose sight of improvement. When a person or team emphasizes improvement over perfection, progress accelerates. Give yourself credit for making improvements, even if you haven’t hit your ultimate goal.

2. Emphasizing Results Over Process: Normal people define success with results. Highly successful people have learned to define success with effort and process. The great Coach Wooden said, “true success is defined with effort, not results.” Give yourself credit for the effort you put in, even if it didn’t yield results in the short-term.

3. Emphasizing Negative Instead of Positive: It’s totally normal to want to evaluate what went wrong. How common is it for you to leave work and on the drive home replay the mistakes or shortcomings of the day? Stay focused on what you are doing well, rather than where you are falling short. A focus on the negative will lead to more negative and more underperforming. A focus on the positive will promote more positive behavior.

You do not need to remain in a constant state of judgment of yourself in order to be promoting personal or professional growth. In fact, that is counterproductive to your happiness and success. Instead, decide on just 1 thing you should be evaluating, and how and when you will evaluate your “1 thing.”

For example, you may decide to evaluate yourself on how well you are motivating your team at work. Then set aside a time each day to rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 on how well you motivated your team that day.

Self-evaluation WILL drive improvement if you let it.

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