Why We Don’t Use Assessments
For most of us, work is the biggest relationship that we have. Why a relationship? When we launched Inspired Work, my work engagement company, the practice of using career assessments was quite popular. But an assessment only measures superficial aspects and truths about a person’s skills and probable best roles. A great relationship towards work, on the other hand, requires a wide variety of characteristics that include the person’s outlook, gifts, beliefs, life skills, and behaviors. Each characteristic influences the other. For example, someone can be on the right path but failing because they are missing the necessary life skills to be successful. Without knowing what those life skills are, the individual may define their career as a failure. But when we discover that those missing life skills are learnable, we immediately have access to the tools for building a highly successful relationship towards work. And, we consistently find deep and meaningful value when a person explores each characteristic of their relationship towards work versus relying on the limited views of assessments, surveys and performance reviews.
In the late 80’s I was making a lot of money but not very happy with work. I paid quite a bit to go into a career assessment program at a major university. There, I poked holes in paper for an hour. This data was sent off to a big computer where an extensive database determined that I could be a research librarian or a plant biologist. Really. I was tempted to ask if those choices came with a rope and a stool. I’m not putting down the roles. But, I was used to having others tell me what to do. My adoptive father had insisted that I become a physician despite the fact that every time I had to dissect a bug, mouse, or something larger, I simply passed out. Not good doctor material – right?
A few years after the assessment, I encountered the work of Cherie Carter-Scott who taught me the power of Socratic process. Thousands of years ago, Socrates believed that if we asked people the right questions they would come to their own truth. In the time I worked with Cherie, she never told me what to do. Cherie always asked questions that led me to what I wanted. Today, while I find sophisticated assessments like Gallup’s Strength Finder to be valuable and helpful, there is no substitute for the moment that someone stands up and declares, “This is who I am. This is what I am here to do. This is how I am going to do it.”
Candidly, I find that most organizations, before they actually experience a fully engaged team, are afraid to tell people to describe what their lives would look like, in detail, if they were fully engaged. For years, client companies would ask us to give The Inspired Work Program to individuals who were having difficulties or ready to embark on a new career. Rather than give the program to everyone, we were asked to develop leadership programs that used our philosophies that create great relationships towards work. But engage everyone with the truth about their lives, dreams, aspirations, visions? To define what meaning would like on a practical day-to-day level? God forbid, everyone would pack their bags and leave. But, what we are learning is these are the very conversations that are part of fully engaged living.
Assessments are great for the disengaged. We can awaken a part of the person but not enough to make them boldly come out of the cage fully awake and ready to contribute. Ready to tell the truth, which can be frightening! I remember working with an executive team that was going through horrible external circumstances. The questioning process was triumphant for them. But, after two days, we were exhausted. We had experienced so much together. Some members of the team had previously avoided each other at all costs. Now, they had bonded for life. No one knew what to say. I looked at everyone and whispered, “So there you have it, the truth will set us free. But first, it will piss us off.” Everyone broke into laughter. That team changed the future of their organization.
The rate of change impacting anyone who works has reached such a state of ferocity that half measures will avail us nothing. We need 100% from our talent. No one can manipulate that out of them. We need 100% of their presence, their soul, their interest, and above all, their truth. We will not get that truth if we tell them, “OK, we are interested in only this part of your truth but the rest is irrelevant.” We need talent that is so engaged they robustly learn how to keep bringing more to their lives, to others and to the world around them.
We are living in an era where those of us who don’t learn how to live at this level tend to get thrown under the bus of underemployment pretty quickly. The problem is the underemployed sector is growing so quickly that even the awakened are adversely impacted. What do I mean by that? The awakened will have to take care of the unawakened or drive around them. This is why teaching others how to change is best received when it is democratic, compassionate and driven by mentorship.
Your truth is why the Socratic process will capture my interest over an assessment on any given day.
I don’t want to tell people what they might be. I’m here to support the moment where they not only tell us their own truth, they become confident in that truth. This is when we stop asking others to define us. This is when we engage with the world because we know what we have to give.
Brought to you by David Harder, President – Inspired Work, Inc.
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