"people management"

Fri 22 January 2021
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. There are ten other articles addressing the two other possible outcomes of a 360-Degree Assessment available here:

Self-Aware - People Management, Innovation, Leadership Ability, Communication Skills, and Financial Management

Overestimating -  People Management, Innovation, Leadership Ability, Communication Skills, and Financial Management

Understanding Underestimating your Abilities for 360-Degree Assessments

When somebody has underestimated their abilities, they are essentially giving themselves a lower score for whatever category is being measured compared to their colleagues’ score of them. At first glance, this may seem like a positive thing: “If my colleagues believe that I’m better than my self-assessed performance, then I must be doing pretty well!” This is partially true, but this article will shed light and provide examples of how underestimating your abilities can be an opportunity for improvement.

When my team and I at Ambition In Motion facilitate mentorship programs, we also include our 360-Degree Assessment (and its report) to each participant. We’ve found that our members use these insights to reveal the areas most in need of improvement. This has helped members identify the best course for professional growth and helps provide a major launching pad for helping them open up and be vulnerable in their mentor relationships.

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

This article is one in a series of articles focused on why underestimating one's score on a 360-degree assessment report based on the 5 core areas listed in the paragraph above is not necessarily advantageous for one’s career.

People Management

People Management abilities are extremely valuable, regardless of whether or not you are in a leadership position or have the title of manager. People management stretches across one’s ability to maintain positive relationships with those they work with, participate in organizational citizenship activities (e.g., supporting a colleague with their work), be open to constructive feedback, and show that you are always open to learning more.

If you gave yourself a lower score than your colleagues on your people management abilities, this can indicate a lack of confidence/clarity about what you do that helps your colleagues, a higher level of excellence at work, or a lack of trust.

Lack of confidence/clarity about what you do that helps your colleagues

If you gave yourself a lower score than your colleagues on your people management abilities, that would indicate that your colleagues feel like you are stronger at people management than you believe you are. They may think you are great at building and maintaining work relationships, being helpful to others’ work, and being open to constructive criticism than your own assessment would suggest. This indicates a lack of confidence/clarity because if you felt confident and clear about how you help others and provide a safe place for others to give you constructive input, you likely would have scored yourself higher.

A Higher Level of Excellence at work

Just because your colleagues report your people management skills favorably, that doesn’t mean that you believe it. This may indicate that you set a higher level of excellence at work because, similar to lack of confidence, if you felt like you were engaged on all of these tasks, then you likely would have scored yourself higher. An example of this occurs in the popular Netflix show, The Queen’s Gambit. Essentially, the show is about a woman who is an incredible chess player and is unrelenting with her standard of excellence. For example, after winning her first state-wide chess competition she immediately set her eye on the next prize: being the best chess player in the country. Rather than settling for being the best in her state, she chooses to rededicate herself towards a higher goal. The point is that she wasn’t satisfied at the level she began at, but she made strides to improve her performance over time and her excellence followed suit.

Lack of trust

This reason primarily revolves around the topic of openness to receiving constructive feedback. If you don’t feel like people are open and honest when offering constructive feedback, then when they do offer feedback (positive or otherwise), you might dismiss its validity because “they must be holding back their honest assessment”. If you believe people are holding back their full feedback then the implication is that you don’t trust everything they are saying. This could be accurate as some people “fluff” their feedback for fear of being confrontational, but if your colleagues report via an anonymous assessment that you are open to receiving constructive feedback, that should hopefully be a signal that you can trust that they aren’t holding back when offering you feedback.

Here are a few solutions to closing the gap in one’s people management abilities. One is simply to ask your colleagues how your actions support their work so you can get a better understanding of your impact. You can also try thinking about how your work is helpful to your colleagues via introspection and spending more time asking clarifying questions when receiving constructive feedback.

Counter-argument

The eternal counter-argument to this is “I just set the bar really high and I feel like I am not where I would like to be in this area.” If that is the case, then you are not effectively communicating your standards to those you work with. If your colleagues don’t know your standards, then they can’t properly assess your abilities in relation to those standards.  

Overall, the goal of a 360-degree assessment and report is to identify the gaps and blindspots one may have so then they can improve their performance. The goal is to be self-aware, thus enabling you to work towards excellence in each area. Underestimating your performance might feel good at first because it shows others think highly of you, but continually failing to meet your own expectations means that you risk burning out or losing engagement. So, try being honest with yourself and setting honest goals. Professional growth is a slow process that takes dedication, consistency, and honesty, but by following the path, we are all capable of becoming our best selves.

Thu 28 January 2021
A 360-degree assessment is a unique survey that uses input from self-assessment and from colleagues’ assessments to understand a professional’s strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots. By gathering feedback from your colleagues alongside your own perspective on those same questions, we can get a deeper look at how your self-perception compares to the way your colleagues see you. 

With this data, we can break down the results of a 360-Degree Assessment into three outcomes: 

1) Somebody has underestimated their abilities (self-rating lower than colleagues’ ratings), 

2) Somebody has overestimated their abilities (self-rating higher than colleagues’), 
 or
 3) Somebody is self-aware about their abilities (self-rating matches colleagues’).

This article is going to address some possible problems and solutions that might arise for people who are self-aware of 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:

Overestimating - People Management, Innovation, Leadership Ability, Communication Skills, and Financial Management 

Understanding Self-Awareness for 360-Degree Assessments

When somebody is self-aware about their abilities, this means that they gave themselves a similar score as the score their colleagues provided on the same skill. 

Initially, self-awareness may seem to be a cut-and-dry positive outcome but looking a bit deeper reveals some potential issues. After all, the goal of a 360-degree assessment is to identify blind spots and close the gaps between one’s self-perception and the perception of their colleagues. However, we find that there are opportunities for growth within a self-aware 360-degree assessment report and this article will review those opportunities.

At Ambition In Motion, our 360-Degree Assessment has 5 core components: 

a.                People Management, 
b.                Innovation
c.                Leadership Ability
d.                Communication Skills, and 
e.                Financial Management.

While self-awareness is likely the best outcome relative to the other two possibilities, I’m next going to explain how you can leverage self-awareness to grow as a professional and identify blind spots in your professional perspective. I’m going to show why self-awareness on your 360-Degree Assessment is more than just a pat on the back, even if you and your colleagues share similar views on your performance. 

People Management

People Management abilities are extremely valuable, regardless of whether or not you are in a leadership position or have the title of manager. People management stretches across one’s ability to maintain positive relationships with those they work with, participate in organizational citizenship activities (e.g., supporting a colleague with their work), be open to constructive feedback, and show that you are always open to learn more.

If you gave yourself a people management score that aligns with your colleagues, we can consider two types of outcomes depending on how well you rated your performance. 

Self-Awareness but poor performance

If you gave yourself a relatively low score and your colleagues agree with you, the reason why this isn’t a good thing should be immediately apparent. You perhaps gave yourself a low score because you don’t believe that people management is one of your strengths. Of course, acknowledging your shortcomings is the first step to improvement, however, the fact that your colleagues agree with you is concerning because that means they feel it as well.

One option is to just shrug it off and think to yourself “I am not in a role that requires me to manage people so my performance in this area doesn’t really matter.”

If you feel this way, I want to challenge that thinking. Whether you are relatively low on your company’s org chart, are a solopreneur and don’t have any direct reports, or are in pretty much any scenario where you don’t think you are managing people, I can make an argument that there is some form of people management going on.

If you are relatively low on your company’s org chart, that does not mean that you can’t manage up. Managing up is the notion that we, as employees, control our work environment and outcomes just as much as our managers do, and we have the capabilities to communicate our goals, roles, and what we are comfortable with in a way that allows for us to be productive while protecting our boundaries.

If you are not able to manage up, you may end up entirely at the mercy of your manager or other stakeholders. For example, if you are a full-stack developer but prefer to work on front-end design work and your boss keeps assigning you to back-end data tasks, without managing up, you are going to be frustrated/bored with the work you do. Either your leadership will keep asking you to do things because they are assuming that you will tell them when enough is enough or you will get the same tasks over and over again and feel the strain of monotony. Either way, the inability to people manage will create stress on your life.

If you are a solopreneur without any direct reports, you still report to your clients. People management is the ultimate in setting expectations and delivering results. Your clients could end up “firing” you if you can’t properly set and communicate expectations, or you could burn yourself out by working yourself ragged meeting trying to meet and achieve an impossible goal that a client demands. By practicing people management, you could change those outcomes by creating a shared perspective on the tasks ahead or even helping your client avoid an impossible expectation without causing them offense. 

If you are in any other scenario where you don’t feel like you should improve your people management abilities, challenge yourself with the following questions:

·        Am I enjoying my work?
·        If I continue doing my work like this with the same people for the next 5 years, will I still continue to enjoy my work and get compensated in a way that satisfies me?
·        Will I feel like I am growing in my career in 5 years if things stay the same?

If you answered yes to all 3 questions, then there is nothing you need to change. But, we find that the vast majority of people say no to at least one of these questions and that necessitates interacting with others and managing those relationships.

Self-Awareness and high performance

If you gave yourself a relatively high score for your people management ability and your colleagues agree with you, that is a great thing.

But, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for growth!

Here is a story that I believe exemplifies this. I have a cousin named Xavier. Xavier loves to play basketball. When Xavier plays basketball with his friends that live in his neighborhood, he crushes them and they think he is a great player. But, when Xavier plays against kids at his high school, he gets beat. Unsurprisingly, Xavier loves the comfort of playing against kids in his neighborhood and doesn’t love getting beat (so Xavier doesn’t bring it up to them). Since the kids in his neighborhood never get to see him getting beat, they still believe Xavier is the best player they have ever played against.

The point: oftentimes at work we lose objectivity.

We don’t have a work version of “high school basketball” where we can compare our skills. All we have is our insulated work environment. So, all our colleagues know is our current work environment and their past work environments to compare it to. Without additional experience, they might not realize your potential for growth, even with a high rating. 

The question you have to ask yourself is: “Am I really the Michael Jordan of people management? Or am I more like Xavier?” 

More likely than not, you are more like Xavier. 

This isn’t a bad thing. It is awesome that you have the respect and admiration of those you work with. But it doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for improvement. And honestly, even Michael Jordan would realize that his personal best is only his best so far if he keeps improving. 

What you can do to improve

Ask - If you would like to know how you can be more helpful to your colleagues - Spend more time intentionally asking your colleagues how you can help support their work. 

Introspect - If you would like to start being more helpful to your colleagues on your own - Take more time to consider what you could do to be more helpful for your colleagues. Be sure to check with them if that would be helpful to them.

Manage - If you would like to be more approachable for constructive feedback - Spend more time asking your colleagues for areas in which you can improve and communicating you want this feedback so you can improve yourself as a professional.

Overall, having a self-aware response on your 360-degree assessment report isn’t a free pass to give in to stagnation. It simply shows that you and your colleagues are on the same page. But, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for improvement. The implications from having a self-aware score are not wholly positive or wholly negative. Instead, it is a snapshot of your current performance which can help you make informed decisions about where you need improvement. As long as you possess an open-mindedness about making improvements and are willing to measure whether the new changes worked, you can ensure that you are on a positive track towards continual growth and improvement.

Sun 21 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.

People Management

People management abilities are extremely valuable, regardless of whether or not you are in a leadership position or have the title of manager. People management stretches across one’s ability to maintain positive relationships with those they work with, participate in organizational citizenship activities (e.g., supporting a colleague with their work), be open to constructive feedback, and show that you are always open to learning more.

If you gave yourself a greater score than colleagues on your people management abilities, there is clearly a gap. This could mean that either you are not as skilled as you believe, or that the people you work with don’t realize the effort you put into being a good people manager. The first step to reducing that gap is purposefully reflecting and trying to understand what is causing the gap. 

Not as good as you believe you are

This can be a tough pill to swallow. You may not be as good of a people manager as you thought you were. If you gave yourself a moderate score and your colleagues gave you a lower score, this typically is a product of stagnation: sitting still means falling behind in the long run. You might not think highly of your people management ability, but in your perception, you do enough to get the work done but you aren’t that bad. 

You gave yourself a moderate score

This is a fork in the road. One option is to accept being a bad/mediocre people manager, which means operating under the assumption that this skill is not crucial for your own career trajectory or happiness. This is a risky move! Humans are naturally social, whether we realize it or not, and poor people management abilities will have unforeseen costs. But if that’s how you decide, perhaps you can skip the rest of this segment. 

On the other hand, if you want to grow your People Management abilities, then keep reading. 

Being a strong people manager is all about being willing to help others and contribute positively to the workplace culture; we call this “Organizational Citizenship”. I like to refer to being a strong people manager as the Tim Duncan award. Tim Duncan is a retired professional basketball player who played for the San Antonio Spurs and won 5 NBA championships with them. Tim was consistently the best player on the floor, but he had a secret weapon. Tim’s playstyle was special because he deferred to his team and played to their strengths to amplify his team’s ability to win. Tim consistently ceded the spotlight to his teammates, even though he was the best player on his team for most of those championships. By helping build up those around him, even if it didn’t get him the stats, recognition, or pay that other superstars demand, he helped push his team towards victory. 

Now, I don’t know Tim Duncan personally. But, I would imagine that his professional basketball career was very satisfying: 5 NBA Championship Rings speaks for itself. He also avoided drama with his contract or playtime or coach, and his teammates took notice. When the best player on the team cares so deeply about building up his teammates and avoiding the BS, the rest of the team follows his lead because they are invested in reaching their team’s potential. 

If you are reading this, you are probably not a professional basketball player – most work environments don’t have a pinnacle moment that they work up to every year similar to a national championship. But, you do have a long “regular season”, even if your “championship” is only your annual review at the end of the year. And dominating your personal regular season can sometimes mean pulling your team together to avoid the drama and put in the hard work, game after game. 

Everyone wants to work in an environment in which they feel happy, respected, and clear about what and why they do their work. You probably also want a work environment with other people that also feel happy, respected, and clear about what and why they do their work. Regardless of whether you have people management in your job description, working on improving your people management abilities will help keep you and your team thrive and become happier at work. 

You gave yourself a high score

The other side of this people management coin is that you gave yourself a high score and your colleagues gave you a moderate or a low score.

This is typically a sign of a person who is well informed on what it means to be a strong people manager – e.g. you have read the books, maybe you have motivational quotes on your wall or posted on social media, maybe you’ve even written out what it means to be a good people manager.

You, theoretically, understand what it means to be a strong people manager, but in real life have not been able to effectively apply what you have learned.

Just to be abundantly clear, this is on YOU. Sure, you can find some mitigating factors or excuses, but in the end, good People Management will mean adapting to your environment. It’s not your team’s fault that your methods for being a strong people manager haven’t been impactful to them. It is up to you to listen to feedback, reflect on it, and then try something different to be better. And if you have tried multiple times to be a better people manager and it still isn’t working, it means you haven’t tried enough things. It took Thomas Edison 1,000 attempts to invent the light bulb. If you have studied people management tactics AND you have tried 1,000 different ways to be a better people manager but still are having trouble, you are probably just extremely unlucky. But just like in so many other parts of life, take some comfort in knowing that all you need to do is keep learning and trying new things.  

Keep in mind that people management is an ever-evolving process. In the 1980s, Jack Welch of General Electric slashed the bottom 10% of earners every year at the company, and at the time people lauded him for it. Now, GE’s stock is all over the place and a cutthroat culture ensued because nobody felt safe.  The point is that what is considered a strong people management strategy now may not be considered a strong people management strategy in the future. Keep an open mind for the innovation in People Management. 

Strategies to improve your people management

To begin, always ask for feedback. Performance reviews shouldn’t be some annual tradition; gathering feedback is the crucial final step when somebody has tried something new at work and they need to know if it was effective. And reviews shouldn’t just be between the manager and direct report. Anyone who is affected by your work should have their feedback incorporated when you seek to make improvements.

Being a strong people manager is about your ability to help others do their best work. Put another way, how can you be the best Robin to their Batman? If you can think of yourself as the sidekick to help those you work with be the hero in their own story, you will make incredible strides at being a better people manager.

Therefore, the first step is understanding where those you are working with would like to go. Have you ever helped someone and then felt that they weren’t grateful for your help? Oftentimes it is because what you thought would be helpful to them wasn’t what they needed. You assumed that going out of your way to perform some task would be what they were looking for, but you skipped past communicating and stepped on their toes. This might be because they wanted to experience doing the task themselves and your help seemed more like you didn’t trust them. Or, it could be because your assumption about what they want is incorrect, so by jumping in and taking over, you were really just forcing your personal style onto their own decisions.  

So, the best thing for being a better people manager is asking those you are working with what their biggest challenges are and finding the clarifying details that will help you truly understand the issue. Without that information, you can’t start the next step: working collaboratively to find new ideas to support them and ensuring achieving these new outcomes will work for the people involved. 

Notice how I didn’t write “performing these new tasks” but instead wrote “achieving these new outcomes”. This is critical to distinguish because you completing random tasks is not enough to be considered a strong people manager. You have to help the people achieve the outcomes that you all have agreed are important. If I lose my dog and you say that you will help me find my dog, I will be grateful if you help search but my pain is not alleviated until my dog is found. 

Thus, commit to clear, achievable outcomes that directly support your colleagues and ensure that achieving those specific outcomes will be, in fact, helpful.

Once you achieve that outcome, ask for feedback on how that outcome helped them with their work and how it made them more efficient or effective at work.

This may seem like a lot, but this is the type of work that is necessary to be a truly impactful and strong people manager.

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. 

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