The better you are at what you do, the less you are asked to prove your worth or face formal evaluation. In many ways, that’s only logical; The greater your competence, the less need there is for a company to spend valuable time and resources overseeing you. If you are the founder or leader of an organization, you may never face any pressure to do an in depth analysis of your own performance — at least not external pressure. But while in some ways not having to answer to another person is a benefit and a right that we earn through success and high quality work, it is also it’s own challenge and danger.
Think about when you first began your work, whether you were entering on the ground floor of an existing company or learning how to build an organization yourself. Chances are, you made a lot of mistakes and had to learn a lot in order to get where you are now. And how did you go from failure to success? Simple: thoughtful self evaluation, goal-driven adjustment. I can guarantee that taking a critical look at your own strengths and weaknesses and being willing to develop a plan for constant improvement was crucial to your success.
Now that you’ve “made it,” you’re not off the hook. It’s time to double down and be even more exacting of yourself than a superior would be. Whether or not it’s in your official job description, true, honest self evaluation will be absolutely critical to your continued success. You’re only ever as strong as your ability to know and address your own weaknesses.
Self evaluation is often hardest, however, when there are few external metrics and requirements.
Think about where you have improved most over the course of your career. What’s the next logical step in that journey? Sometimes the answer is obvious, and sometimes it requires a little digging. If you could snap your fingers and magically give yourself one new or perfected skill, what would it be? Great — now go out and do the hard work to actually achieve that.
Paradoxically, however, it can be dangerous to rely too heavily on your gut reactions and most available thoughts when it comes to an in depth self analysis to identify your pain points. That’s because, if you’ve been successful thus far, you’ve likely already identified and attacked your greatest and most immediately obvious weaknesses. Now, the things you think about the least are likely to be the areas where you most need to direct your own attention.
It’s always a good idea to solicit honest feedback from those around you, including colleagues, superiors, and subordinates, people who do work similar to your own and those who are outsiders to your process. If, however, you aren’t able to get an honest outside perspective that you trust, you’ll need to be a little crafty to identify these neglected areas yourself.
Try thinking about which common tasks you most enjoy, and which you dread. More than likely these are also the ones you think the least critically about, because you are mentally avoiding the things you do not enjoy. Don’t let yourself get away with that. Sit down and really delve into why you don’t like that particular task. It might help to start by breaking down what it is that you dislike into the simplest possible pieces. More than likely, these are also the areas you’ve neglected in your quest for improvement. The good news is, once you do the hard work of facing your weaknesses, you may well find you no longer dread the task.
Here’s another strategy. From memory, write down a detailed list of the tasks you consider part of your position, as if you were writing a job description to solicit a new hire. Then, either compare your list to the official list or, if there isn’t a comprehensive description on file, ask a colleague to describe your job in as much detail as possible. Asking a subordinate can be particularly helpful, because they likely work in a similar field but hold a very different perspective on the work.
Compare the lists. Which bullet points did you miss? These are likely the ones you think the least about, and therefore areas of your job that you might have left to the wayside without critical attention to improvement. You may think it’s unimportant, or it may be so menial or even so deeply ingrained that you barely give it a second thought. The goal, however, should be to strive for excellence and improvement in everything you do, so every aspect deserves a second thought, no matter how small.
Once you’ve identified your next self improvement challenges, keep yourself honest and motivated by making your goals public. You may do this formally, or you may simply make a point to be open and transparent when it comes up naturally. When discussing project plans with a colleague or employee, for instance, you may simply slip in that it’s something you’ve identified as a personal challenge to work on when you volunteer for or assign a task.
Not only will you be holding yourself accountable and keeping your goals at the forefront of your mind, you’ll also be encouraging a culture of self evaluation and personal improvement in the workspace around you. Leading by example shows others that it’s not only okay to be aware of your weaknesses but important to strive for improvement. Being very straightforward about your pursuit of improvement, the acknowledgement of your own weaknesses, and asking for help reaching your goals when you need it can inspire others to do the same so that you are ultimately improving not only your own performance but that of the entire company and everyone around you.