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close this bookManagement Self-Development - A Guide for Managers, Organisations and Institutions (ILO, 1985, 282 p.)
close this folderChapter 2. Self-assessment and planning one's own future
View the document(introduction...)
View the document2.1 The self-assessment process
View the document2.2 Our higher and lower selves
View the document2.3 Obtaining information about yourself and your performance
View the document2.4 Clarifying the questions and issues facing you
View the document2.5 A self-development plan
View the document2.6 Suggestions for further reading

2.1 The self-assessment process

Self-assessment compared with assessment by others

To some extent we are always assessing ourselves. Every time you feel pleased with something you have done - or dissatisfied with it - then you are in a way assessing yourself.

Often, however, that is as far as it goes. In other words, you do not do anything as a result of your feelings of satisfaction or dissatisfaction. At the same time, the whole process is a bit "hit and miss"; sometimes you are aware how much or how little you have achieved, sometimes you do not notice - or, perhaps, you choose not to notice!

Often, of course, you are forced to look at your performance, or rather someone else forces you. This is usually your boss who, no doubt, from time to time gives you feedback - tells you what he or she thinks of what you have done. Unfortunately, it almost seems a basic human principle that we are much more ready to give negative feedback and adverse criticism than we are to give thanks and praise. Perhaps you should bear this in mind when giving feedback to your subordinates.

Assessment by others - usually your boss - is therefore quite common. There are, however, some very important differences between this and self-assessment. In a sense, they start in the same way with feedback of information. That is, information about you and what you are doing. The difference lies more in the next step.

In conventional assessment, the other person not only gives you the information, but then tells you what to do with it. He or she not only tells you what they think of what you have done, but they also tell you how you must improve, what steps you must now take, what you must do. This is really very much assessment by others.

There is, of course, the approach known as management by objectives (MBO). In theory, this involves you and your boss in a joint negotiation about what you should do, and can therefore be said to be a step towards self-assessment. However, in practice this rarely seems to work out as planned and MBO usually regresses to being a slightly more systematic form of assessment by others.

True self-assessment again starts with you receiving information. This means relatively factual feedback about what you have done, and what has happened as a result. It does not include judgements about what you should have done, or what you ought to do now. So the nature of the information you are getting is different. There are a number of sources of this, some of which are shown in figure 6.

Obviously, other people - including your boss, perhaps - provide one important source of feedback. However, the difference is in what happens with the information. In the case of self-assessment, you decide for yourself what the feedback means, you make your own judgements about yourself, you decide for yourself what to try to change or improve. In all these, you examine what you yourself think, feel and want to do, to refer back to the three inner processes discussed in chapter 1.

However, this is not to say that you ignore other people. Of course not. As has already been mentioned several times, one or more others can be very helpful in discussing things with you, sharing their ideas and experiences, helping you to think about the advantages and disadvantages of your proposed actions. However, in all this they should be helping you to make up your own mind; they should not be giving advice, or instructions, unlike with conventional assessment.

It is not easy to be helpful in this non-directive way; it requires considerable skill. Since you are likely at times to be acting in this role with your colleagues or subordinates, some notes about it are included in chapter 8 under "Working with a speaking partner".

At the same time, you do not live in total isolation from other people and it would therefore be wrong to take no account whatsoever of their feelings and wishes. This would be both selfish and foolish. We will return to this later in this chapter. In the meantime, table 2 summarises some of the important differences between assessment by others and self-assessment.

Table 2. Self-assessment compared with assessment by others




Source of feedback information about yourself and your performance.

Other people - especially your boss.

As in figure 6, namely

· a range of other people

· your own analysis of things that happen ("critical incidents")

· other means of self-analysis

· analysis of your whole life, its themes, meaning and purpose ("biography").

Type of feedback information.

Factual and judgemental, with advice and instructions.

Factual, non-judgemental; no advice, no instructions.

Who then decides what the information means, what should be done as a result.

Other people - especially your boss.


Role of others.

Source of information, judgement, advice and instruction.

Source of information.

· Help you to reflect on information and to decide what to do with it.

· Their thinking, feeling and willing to be considered by you when you make your decisions as to what to do.


Formally: infrequent, often once a year.
Informally: when they feel like it (often when they are displeased with you).

When you are ready.
Hopefully, a continuous process.

It will be seen that table 2 also includes a timing factor. Assessment by others is done when they want to - usually either when they are unhappy or dissatisfied with what you have done (informally) or, more formally, at some sort of annual appraisal. Self-assessment, on the other hand, is for when you are ready. It is up to you to decide when to seek feedback, when to analyse your experiences.

Some of the methods of self-assessment described in this chapter and in the appendices tend to be suitable for doing just once, or fairly infrequently. This is particularly true of the questionnaires - although you might find it interesting and helpful to do them again from time to time to see if any differences emerge.

Other methods, especially feedback from others and analysis of critical incidents, can be done often and help you be assess yourself more or less continuously.

In this chapter the various stages in assessing yourself have been explained very systematically. This may give you the impression that the whole thing is a very mechanical process. However, it is important to realise that this need not be the case. As you become skilled at this sort of thing, the separate steps will tend to merge, and again self-assessment will become more continuous, or continuing. Instead of technique, it will become a way of thinking, a way of approaching life.

So, if you like systematic, step-by-step instructions, that is fine. If not, please be tolerant!

Stages in the self-assessment process

Figure 6 presents a summary of the self-assessment process. We will shortly look at each part of this process, but it will be helpful to start with a quick survey.

Figure 6. The self-assessment process

As has already been discussed, the process starts with you receiving information about yourself and your performance, from various sources. Receiving, collecting and analysing this information leads to an awareness of the main questions and issues facing you.

Thinking about these questions and issues, often with the help (but not direction) of somebody else, leads you to come up with some possible alternative courses of action: what might you do next? How might you do it?

Each of these possible alternatives can now be evaluated - that is, by examining their consequences, not only for yourself, but for the other people involved. From this, you can make a choice, to which you are committed; this leads, then, to your intentions.

Having quickly surveyed the steps in self-assessment, we will look at each one in a little more detail. Before doing so, however, it will be useful to look at two particular aspects of our inner selves - our higher self and our lower self, as these play a big part in the way we respond to feedback information.