360-Degree Assessment: What I can Learn From Overestimating My Financial Management Abilities

You can be a strong financial manager even if you don't manage a budget

Garrett Mintz , Wed 17 February 2021
A 360-degree assessment helps you understand your professional performance by having both you and your colleagues assess your abilities across several key skills. 

The goal of a 360-degree assessment is to identify blind spots and vulnerabilities in your professional skillset. By getting feedback from your colleagues and comparing their perspectives to your self-assessment, you can get a deeper understanding of your work performance.  

There are generally 3 outcomes from a 360-degree assessment: 1) somebody has underestimated their abilities, 2) somebody has overestimated their abilities, or 3) somebody is self-aware about their abilities. 

This article is going to address some possible problems and solutions that might arise for people who have overestimated their abilities. This article is part of a series I’m writing about Ambition In Motion’s 360-Degree Assessments and how their results should be interpreted. There are ten other articles addressing the two other possible outcomes of a 360-Degree Assessment available here:

When somebody has overestimated their abilities, they are essentially giving themselves a greater score for whatever category is being measured compared to their colleagues’ scores of them.

At first glance, this can sting because you are essentially learning that your perception of yourself is greater than your colleagues' perception of you which may cause one to think “I must not be as good as I think I am” or “My colleagues must not realize all of the things I do to be strong in this area.”

For most people, the answer is somewhere in the middle. 

When my team and I at Ambition In Motion facilitate mentorship programs, we also include a 360-Degree Assessment and report to each participant. We do this for two reasons: 1) these reports can help reveal opportunities for growth in one’s professional skill set, and 2) deep self-reflection is a major launching pad for fostering vulnerability in a mentor relationship. These two components are crucial to developing strong, valuable mentor relationships. 

The 5 core areas we measure in our 360-Degree Assessment are: People Management, Innovation, Leadership Ability, Communication Skills, and Financial Management.

Next, I’ll explain the significance of each of these categories, and then suggest ways that someone can learn after finding out they are overestimating their abilities in each category. This should be an opportunity for growth and understanding, not a time to be defensive and stubborn.

Financial Management

Financial management is a skill that is often overlooked but can have a large impact on the company. Financial management is based on one’s ability to manage the resources they oversee (including their time and the way they are spending their time at work), a company budget, and others’ perception of a person being fiscally responsible.

If you have overestimated your financial management abilities, you have either given yourself a moderate score and your colleagues rated you low or you gave yourself and high score and your colleagues rated you moderately or low.

You rated yourself moderately

If you rated yourself moderately in terms of your financial management, there are a few possible explanations. Perhaps you aren’t in charge of a budget, or maybe you don’t think that managing finances is that critical to your role. 

If your colleagues rated you low for financial management then that is a sign that there is an opportunity for growth for your abilities.

This is also typically a sign that others believe you could be more effective or efficient with your work. Even if you aren’t in charge of a formal budget, you are responsible for your time and how effective you are with the time you spend at work. 

By giving yourself a moderate score, you might think that you are doing enough to get by and do the “normal” amount of work compared to your colleagues. But if your colleagues rated you low, they clearly do not see it that way.

Your colleagues' low score indicates that you are either spending either company dollars or company time on things that aren’t helpful to the business. We aren’t robots; everyone does this to some degree, but once your colleagues start to notice, that’s a strong sign that you need to do better.

Dr. Robert Cialdini has a concept called “what is focal is causal” meaning that what people see is what they perceive and internalize as important or significant. If people are giving you a low score on your financial management ability, they perceive you as lazy, or looking for ways to get out of work, or as someone who spends money recklessly; no matter which way they perceive it, they end up realizing that you shouldn’t be trusted with a budget.

Before getting your results on a 360-Degree Assessment, you may think others aren’t noticing, or that others in the company are way more wasteful than you. However, clearly in the perception of your colleagues, that is not the case and you have been put on notice.

You rated yourself highly

If you rated yourself high on your financial management abilities but your colleagues gave you a low or moderate score, it indicates that you aren’t as strong of a financial manager (in the perspective of your team) as you think you are.

This typically stems from a lack of communication. If you manage a budget and your team sees you spending money on things that seem lavish and unnecessary (from their perspective), this can cause them to feel like you aren’t managing your company’s finances appropriately. This feeling is magnified if they feel underpaid while seeing this. If you don’t manage a budget and your team gave you a low or moderate financial management score, it means that they don’t believe that you spend your time at work effectively or that you are overpaid for your work. If salaries aren’t public information, people make assumptions for income based on your lifestyle, and if your lifestyle appears to be better than others, especially if they see you doing the same or less work than them, they will notice.

If people at your work are staying late and getting in early, and meanwhile they see you working the base 9 to 5, then that may cause them to become frustrated. They might think that either you are lazy, or that you are expecting more from them than is fair. What they may not realize is that your work responsibilities might be deeply analytical and have a compounding impact on the business, or they might not see the parts of your job that take place outside the office. For example, some work directly correlates time with output – essentially the company can get a certain number of tasks done by an employee for every hour they are at work; this is called linear productivity. On the other hand, there is work that, with intentional deep thinking, has an exponential impact on output in shorter bursts, but with increasingly marginal returns over a long period of time; this is called exponential productivity. Not every job has the same types of tasks and productivity needs; but without your open communication with your team, you can end up looking like a slacker. 

The point is that until the truth is communicated to those you work with, they will form assumptions to fill in the gaps as to why things are happening the way that they are. Unfortunately, many of these assumptions are negative.

The best thing you can do to improve your financial management abilities, both for you and for how your team perceives you, is to communicate and learn. New innovations are constantly happening to make our work more efficient and effective. If we are open to learning about these tools and resources, we can ensure we are up to date on what needs to be done to be most effective at work – both for managing a budget and managing our time at work. Communicating effectively to those we work with allows them to know how we are spending our budget and our time. The more we can loop our team in on budget decisions and decisions about how to best spend our time, the more aware they will be as to what we are doing and how that is impacting the business. The best-run companies did not end up that way by accident; they intentionally fostered a company culture of honesty, hard work, and accountability from the top down and that pays dividends when everyone is brought into the fold.

In essence, overestimating your abilities in these categories does not mean that you will forever be this way, but it does mean that there are opportunities for growth that you must tap into if you would like to improve.