Avoiding the ‘Sugar Hit’: How to Maximise the Value of Self-Assessment Tools in Professional Development

In the world of professional development, the quest for self-awareness and improvement is an ever-evolving journey. Heaps of tools and surveys have emerged, promising profound insights into our personalities, strengths, and areas for growth. From the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to the Herrman Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) to the DISC model, these tools promise self-discovery and improvement. However, the real challenge lies not in the availability of these tools but in their effective use within a comprehensive development plan. Without this deliberate approach, these assessments often serve as fleeting sugar hits, failing to deliver enduring value for individuals and teams.

Most readers will have been part of an enjoyable team off-site or engaging debriefs and experienced a surge of enthusiasm upon receiving your assessment results, revelling in newfound self-knowledge. However, this excitement rapidly dissipates when we walk out of the door, back into ‘Real Life’, unless there is a structured plan for integration and application. 

The critical missing link is the translation of these revelations into actionable steps within a development framework, which encompasses a roadmap for skill enhancement, behavioural adjustments, and goal setting. Whilst not precisely self-assessment, getting the follow-up right when using a 360-degree tool is even more critical as some of the feedback from others can be very confronting.

Moreover, integrating these tools into the team’s dynamics is equally pivotal. Team cohesion and effectiveness hinge on a collective understanding of individual strengths and working styles. Utilising these assessments to build a complementary team structure enhances collaboration and productivity. However, this integration necessitates ongoing dialogue and shared commitment, often requiring assistance from outside the organisation to provide the additional horsepower to keep up the momentum of change.

The value of these tools also multiplies when integrated with mentorship and coaching. A mentor or coach can assist in interpreting assessment results, offering guidance on skill development, and holding individuals or teams accountable for progress.

So what does good look like? Here are some steps to take to ensure that you get the most out of the investment in such tools:

  • Ensure those leading any activity know the challenge to be addressed by the chosen tool: better team innovation, better leadership, etc. Understanding the challenge will help decide what tools to use and what approach to take. Don’t just pick a tool you know how to use; it may not be suitable for the job.
  • Ensure other key stakeholders agree with the challenge and the approach. A leader may think the challenge is ‘x’, but the rest of the team thinks it is ‘y’. Getting this wrong will set up the activity for failure.
  • Commit the time and resources required to make a real impact, or don’t do it at all. Real change will never happen in one hit. It will require follow-on coaching, development, team focus sessions, action plans, etc. If you can’t allocate the time or funds to do these other activities, whilst you may get a good result in the short term, in the long term, people may feel frustrated and disillusioned when everything stays the same, and the value of the tools is undermined.

In conclusion, the proliferation of self-assessment tools is a testament to our collective desire for self-discovery and improvement. However, these tools are enablers of change and development, which takes commitment, and assessment is not an end in itself. Before diving into the quick gratification activity, ensure you have the time, funds, and resources to do it properly.