Mayor Ed Koch used to ask the people of New York, “So, how’m I doin’?”—sometimes to mixed results. It was a brassy but effective technique to get citizens thinking about how their leader was performing.
Assessments are just as valid in business. Most managers in small businesses fall somewhere on the scale between Mother Teresa and Captain Bligh, but to get a more precise measurement of where your skills are—and where they can be improved to better serve the business and its employees—regular surveys are an indispensable tool.
Joe Johnson is the Chief Operating Officer for TAG Employer Services, a Phoenix-based administrative services organization for mid-tier employers nationwide. He says that being an effective manager and being an effective leader are two different skill sets, each with their own implications for the organization. “Management assessment is rooted in a few basic principles: Communication, developing others, delegation, organization, results orientation,” he says. “Leadership assessment is measured by motivation and mentoring, setting an effective vision and mission, doing the right things, and effecting positive change to achieve a business strategy.”
Being a good leader and a serving as good manager is frequently a balancing act, but it’s important to get it right.
Types of Management Assessment
No matter which tactic you use, nothing will happen unless there’s a clear plan in place to execute the survey (which should include strengths and opportunities for growth), a plan to discuss the feedback, and a clear path to taking action and staying motivated.
- From outside the company: Johnson says the most effective way to analyze a manager’s effectiveness is to go through a third-party, independent assessment to learn a leader’s skills and his or her impact on the organization.
- Employee feedback: Transparency and honest dialogue with employees is critical for any team to run effectively—up to a point. “Most employees are reticent to provide substantive feedback to their leaders when it comes to strengths and weaknesses,” Johnson says. He says that employee input is helpful, but to make an impact, there needs to be a large enough pool so that anyone saying something critical won’t fear being identified through the comments and getting punished for them.
- The 360 assessment: Some companies combine the feedback of peers, subordinates, supervisors, and even external clients to gauge an employee’s work. An effective survey has confidentiality, a plan for receiving feedback, multiple follow-up sessions and specific action items to improve performance, and support from the top. “When it’s done poorly, 360 programs create mistrust, anger, conflict, and can leave a team with lower morale than when you started the exercise,” remarks Forbes.com contributor Eric Jackson in a story about why 360-degree feedback programs fail. However, “When they’re done well, they can be a major part of driving accelerated growth for a team and an organization,” he says.
- Self-assessment: “The wide variety of self-assessments and their historically low impact on organization performance is sufficient indication that their value is extremely limited,” Johnson says. He adds that often, mid-tier managers—who are critical to an organization’s success—cannot see their roles or performance objectively, and often, without feedback from others, won’t be able to mark a clear path forward to improvement.
“The most effective way to determine what is needed to become more successful at managing a team is for a manager to evaluate how much time he or she is ‘doing the work’ versus communicating, facilitating results, and coaching individuals to achieve results,” Johnson says. He adds that if the leader is spending more than 30 percent of the time planning, doing the staffing, controlling, problem-solving ,and delivering results, his effectiveness as a manager plummets. “The next step would be to evaluate the next layer of employees and work on developing their skills to achieve a more balanced organization,” he says.
Management Assessment Tools Online
When it comes to leadership assessment, you’ll find thousands of tools—the trick is finding which ones work. Johnson recommends Hogan Assessments as one possible resource. ThinkWise also has an array of tools helpful to businesses of all sizes.
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