The benefit of assessing others is dependent on a manager’s ability to accurately assess. It can be easy to let our personal bias or appearance of competence and motivation of an employee to interfere with our ability to objectively and accurately assess an employee. An inaccurate assessment can take you down a wrong road.
The Pygmalion Effect
There is a concept known as the Pygmalion Effect that can have positive and negative consequences. In a positive way, the Pygmalion Effect suggests that people will perform to the level that is expected of them. If you tell someone enough that they are highly capable, they will begin to believe it and perform as if they were at that level.
The opposite can also be true in that if you tell someone that they are a failure, or incapable, they will begin to believe that. Managers who aren’t careful can help an employee with a self-fulfilling prophecy that leads to their failure.
I experienced this myself through school. I struggled all through school because I was had always been told that I wasn’t a good reader, or that I had a learning disability. After a while, I began believing it. Not until I was in college and started to experience academic success on my own did I realize that I am a capable reader and loved learning.
Movies That Demonstrate
“Trading Places” is a movie about a street bum (played by Eddie Murphy) who is treated as an executive in a large business. Of course, he becomes extremely successful largely because he is consistently told of his brilliance. On the flip side, Louis Winthorpe III (played by Dan Aykroyd) is rejected by the company who has made him successful and he fails miserably.
Preparing to Assess
Beware of your bias as a person. Whether you admit it or not, you have a bias because you are human. So, you have to dig beyond your bias and focus on objectively assessing.
Rather than jumping to conclusions, take the time to check yourself so that you have the right heart for the employee’s success in your assessment. For example, consider your voice as you discuss with your employee their skill and will. When asking questions of the employee, rather than asking leading questions, ask open-ended questions.
Make sure that the skill and will you are assessing is the specific task in question. For example, are you assessing your employee’s skill and will to use a spreadsheet or to create a sales report? Or, are you assessing their skill and will to write or to persuade a prospect to buy?