Over the years, I have spent a lot of time identifying skills and character traits that I believe are direct contributors to career success. In some cases, those skills are unique to the work that we do at the credit union. In many more cases, however, I find that certain skills and character traits will help you to be successful no matter the life’s work you have chosen or where you are at on that path, whether it be just starting out or heading toward retirement.
I almost always apply those thoughts to myself first. I think about skills that I have developed along my path and that have helped along the way. More often, I think of the skills I still need to develop and my personal areas of improvement.
Of the skills that I have worked on and developed during my career, my ability to evaluate is at or near the top of the list of skills that have helped me create value for myself and my teammates.
When I can effectively evaluate the needs of our members and then provide them with solutions, our members are better for it and our organization gains business. When I can accurately evaluate our personnel, our employees are continually placed in the best possible position to succeed. When I can efficiently evaluate developments and trends in our business and our industry, we will gain an advantage over our competition because we will likely act sooner and achieve our goals more quickly then they will.
The value of evaluation is not by any means limited to our work. Doctors who evaluate accurately and expeditiously save lives as a result. Accountants who do so save their clients money. If you think about it, you probably turn to the person that you normally seek advice from because they can develop a clear understanding of you and your situation and then help you achieve your desired result. They are evaluating every step of the way as part of that process.
So, now that we’ve established the power and importance of evaluation, you might ask how you develop that skill if you have not done so already. I have some good news for you. It starts with you!
(If this is not good news, then you clearly haven’t read enough of my articles and posts, for if you had, you would know that this is exactly where you want the responsibility to be. When the task is in your hands, you hold all the power. And, when you focus on what you can control, you will accomplish a lot more than you ever thought you could!)
So, the fact that developing strong evaluation skills begins with you is good news, but the next step can be tricky because it requires that you look straight into the mirror, literally and figuratively, and honestly assess yourself. What are your strengths and the things that you are most proud of when it comes to your skills and accomplishments? What are your weaknesses or downfalls and the things that you are most disappointed about when it comes to your career? How much ownership have you taken in your career?
If you can take this step and really do the hard work that is necessary to see yourself for who you really are, strong suits and faults, positives and negatives, then you will take a giant leap toward becoming an excellent evaluator. The next step, however, is even more difficult.
The next step is to present your evaluation of yourself to someone you trust and encourage them to be candid as to whether they agree or disagree with your evaluation. As difficult as it is to be honest with yourself, it is even more difficult to be candid about yourself out loud and in front of someone else. There is just something about the innate protector in you, and in all of us, that throws up a barrier when you are about to feel exposed or be vulnerable. Push through that barrier and then practice pushing through it by doing it again with someone else, who’s opinion you value.
However uncomfortable it may be to evaluate yourself in front of someone, make yourself do it and you will eventually be okay with it. I am not telling you it will ever be easy, but I am telling you that if you can evaluate yourself accurately and without fear of discussing the bad with the good, you will unlock the key to being a great evaluator of just about everything else around you. Why? Because there is no more difficult evaluation then a self-evaluation.
When you understand who you are and what the positives and negatives are that comprise you, there isn’t anything you can’t evaluate accurately and there isn’t anything to be afraid of when someone else is evaluating you. No one can possibly know you better than you know yourself when you have learned how to self-evaluate. No one will be a better advocate for you than you and no one will be a harsher critic of you than you. In that sense, you have effectively set a standard for yourself higher than anyone is going to set it for you, which is the ultimate in power and control.
If you are truly committed to self-improvement and comfortable with the fact that you can always learn more and achieve more, no hurdle will be too difficult to clear, and you will consistently be open minded enough to see each situation and person you encounter objectively and clearly.
When you are on solid ground with yourself and you have learned to be a strong evaluator as part of that process, you can turn your sights to further career aspirations and achieving new goals. Every business and every profession needs people who can evaluate fairly and consistently.
Strong evaluators are also excellent strategists. They are also sound critical thinkers. A strong evaluator can serve as a leader who is showing the way by describing and explaining what is needed to complete a job or achieve a goal. A strong evaluator can also be a sounding board or provide support to someone who thinks they have a solution to problem, but may need positive reinforcement or an alternative view.
That is the value of evaluation.
This article is part of Scott Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.