23 Nov 2017
101. SELF-ASSESSMENT IN A NEW ROLE
When you start a new role it's important to look inside and examine what core strengths and knowledge you can bring to the job. Crystallising your leadership style, vision and philosophy will be a priority.
Words: Alice Hoey
The process of considering and applying for a new role should always include a period of self-assessment, because you will need to ascertain that you are the right fit for the job and the organisation. However, even after you have accepted the position such reflection is essential.
The first reason for this is that in order to succeed, at the start of your role, you’ll need to pick the low-hanging fruit and score some early wins. That means knowing what your strengths are and, having performed your assessment of the situation and needs of the organisation, where you can apply them to maximum effect.
Perhaps, for example, you’ve identified that one of the pressing issues is a lack of clear direction among the team. If you already know that you’re an engaging speaker and can communicate complex information with clarity then play that card early on.
It may help to make a written list and then compare what’s on it with the issues that need to be addressed in the organisation. Where does the supply and demand match up?
How, though, do you know what your core strengths are? Seeking the opinions of an inner circle of trusted advisers, people who know you well and whose opinions you value, can be helpful here to separate fact from conjecture. Coaches and mentors are ideal for this, particularly those who are not dependent on you in any way and who you trust to be open, honest and not conflicted in their opinions.
There are also formal tools for understanding yourself, your preferences, strengths and weaknesses, one of the most popular being psychometric testing. Many players, coaches and managers in sports and business are already finding these tests helpful when used in conjunction with their own experience and intuition. Types of psychometric testing that you may come across include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Strength Deployment Inventory, Insights and the 16PF test.
The second reason for self-assessment is that you must be aware of and be able to manage any weaknesses before they manage you. Once you have identified those areas where you lack confidence or experience, try to prioritise them in terms of your immediate survival and seek to develop them while you have the chance. You may have little time to do so when you’re in the thick of it.
Best practice and the competitive landscape are always changing, so the worst thing a leader can do is assume that what has worked before will always be enough. Re-assess your skills and approaches and consider whether they need a revamp in the context of your new situation. If so, what information and support might help you to do that?
VISION AND BELIEFS
The third reason why self-assessment is essential to success early on is that, while there are many different paths to success, what links all great managers is the clarity of their values and beliefs. Research over the past 30 years has shown that the most important characteristics that followers want from their leaders are honesty and authenticity. Ultimately, they want to know what their leader stands for and to see that their actions and words match up.
A period of reflection and self-assessment will help you to crystallise what kind of leader you are and what values and beliefs you hold dear. Those values will be the bedrock of your behaviour, and so in turn that of your team.
Your passion and vision and your ability to turn that vision into reality are critical when trying to successfully implement any necessary changes. This demands that you have a very clear view of the future you want to see; you must know exactly what you want to put in place, why and how. Great managers recognise that without this ability to constantly keep one eye on the horizon they will always be getting bogged down, and limited by, what is happening day to day.
It’s the manager’s responsibility to provide a framework that gives the team the best chance to improve, perform and succeed, individually and collectively. That requires you to have a very clear picture of the team and individuals you want to develop, while always being prepared to adapt this ideal to what is possible and to the needs of each week.
How well you can make such adjustments will also depend on how firmly you stand by your own ideas and approach, how passionate you are about your chosen direction and how well you have communicated this to your team.
There are multiple styles of leadership and no right or wrong way. Indeed, some research suggests that it’s best to adapt your leadership style to the situation. Ultimately, though, your style must be a natural part of you, so while it is valuable to take inspiration from others, don’t waste time figuring out how to lead like someone else. Spend time thinking about what you’re like at your engaging best and practise being that way. Often, style matters less than whether your leadership has substance and depth, and whether it is grounded firmly in beliefs and values.