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Have you ever participated in an internal hearing or an assessment of your skills and further potential? How do you rate the benefit of this experience?

If you hold a positive memory of this activity, I am certain, this has to do with having received adequate and relevant feedback after the analysis. No matter what the purpose for doing an assessment is, be it filling an open position, succession planning or structured management development, it is not so much the result that counts. The insight and learning of the participant derived from this analysis will impact on their performance in the new role. Even if the profile of the participant is not a perfect match with the defined requirements, open and constructive feedback can bridge the gap. The personal debriefing after an assessment can be a perfect starting point for a coaching program helping overcome some of the shortcomings identified during the assessment.

When I hear about personal experiences in internal hearings, in many cases the outcome had been clear before the process even started. The feedback afterwards gives a number rating or ranking with little qualitative information attached. In the end, there is a concerted decision who gets the position or who will be part of a certain group, but the chance for individual and organizational learning has been wasted. The participant will most likely feel reassured in their self-perception that there is no way to overcome certain obstacles and the organization will lose the motivation and drive for personal development of an employee who raised their hand and demonstrated interest to progress.

Feedback is not the psychological term for criticism but the most effective tool for engaging oneself and others in a learning and personal growth process. Feedback contains personal observations and impressions during the interaction with someone else. It is not an objective fact. It expresses the impact of one person on the other. By giving feedback to someone else, the feedback giver usually discloses information about themself. When I give feedback after a leadership assessment, I know that I have made a positive contribution when the participant understands how their impression made has come about and we find mutual agreement on suitable activities for personal development. 

The most important prerequisite for achieving acceptance for the feedback given is a respectful and trusting relationship between feedback-giver and receiver. Assessment settings, where the assessors hide behind a facade of stern superiority or non-committal aloofness will not create the “safe” environment it takes for building trust. 

When thinking about using assessment tools as a means for transforming the leadership culture in the company, I recommend involving external experts in the analysis and especially in the debriefing and feedback to the participants. The return will be significantly higher. 

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