"leadership ability"

Sun 24 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.

Leadership Ability

Leadership ability is an important skill for any professional, regardless of whether you hold an official leadership position. Leadership ability is based on one’s ability to set proper expectations for their work and communicate those expectations clearly and effectively. Skilled leaders demonstrate their ability to motivate others towards a purpose that benefits everyone, their willingness to take accountability when things go wrong, and the modesty to give credit when things go right.
If you gave yourself a lower score than your colleagues on your leadership ability, that could indicate a lack of awareness for your own effects on the workplace or a lack of understanding of what is expected of great leaders compared to your own ability.

Lack of awareness

When seemingly great leaders (according to their colleagues) rate themselves lower than expected, they tend to do so because they are unsure which actions convey strong leadership in the eyes of their colleagues. To some, it’s the humble superhero sentiment of “anyone would have done what I did if they were in my shoes.” But the reality is that everyone has their own style when taking on the tasks that embody a leader and your colleagues seem to have noticed your abilities. 

Lack of understanding what is expected

The other major reason why somebody gives themselves a lower score on their leadership abilities compared to their colleagues is that they believe what is expected of them to be a leader is greater than the way they have performed up until this point. Similar to lack of awareness, typically this person doesn’t know what is expected from the leader and they tend to set the bar of what they believe a leader is way too high. They still fulfill the role of leader, but might not realize it. Or they think that they could be doing better and don’t give themselves enough credit. Similar to the dissatisfaction Michael Jordan had during the peak of his NBA career with his own game (and wanting to always make improvements), people in this category set an unattainable bar of leadership that is impossible to achieve.

There are several possible solutions to help close the gap in one’s leadership ability. The first is to contemplate and think about the possible reasons why your team considers you to be a strong leader. You might not give yourself credit for it, but your colleagues do! So, try learning to trust their judgment by considering what exactly your team sees that you don’t. You can also try creating a list of all of the times this past year where you stepped up and helped your team as a leader (even if you think anyone would have done it). You need to give yourself credit for the times you stepped up as a leader and try to create some form of celebration (no celebration is too small) for when you practice effective leadership and step up to the plate.

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.

Sat 30 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. 

Leadership Ability

Leadership ability is an important skill for any professional, regardless of whether you hold an official leadership position. Leadership ability is based on one’s ability to set proper expectations for their work and communicate those expectations clearly and effectively. Skilled leaders demonstrate their ability to motivate others towards a purpose that benefits everyone, their willingness to take accountability when things go wrong, and the modesty to give credit when things go right.

If you gave yourself a score that was consistent with what your colleagues said of you, it can mean that you gave yourself a high score and your colleagues agreed with you or you gave yourself a low score and your colleagues agreed with you.

Self-Awareness but poor performance

If you gave yourself a relatively low score on your leadership ability and your colleagues agreed with you, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are a bad leader and your colleagues have confirmed it. Oftentimes, we give ourselves a low score on our leadership ability out of humility and recognition that leadership is a trait that can always be improved. However, when our colleagues feel like we aren’t strong at leadership either, this can typically be attributed to our ability to communicate.

People tend to perceive others as lacking leadership abilities NOT because of their inability to speak up, but more often because when one does speak up, it is perceived as self-centered and only benefiting the person making the request. Simply, leadership for yourself instead of for the team.

Here is an example of this situation. Many years ago, I was a server and bartender at a restaurant. My manager was a well-intentioned guy who read all the leadership books and constantly talked about how he wanted to improve his leadership abilities. I didn’t give him a 360-degree assessment, but I would imagine that his self-rating on leadership ability would be somewhat low because he recognized that there were areas for growth in his leadership repertoire. The issue was, although he understood the theory and high-level ideas from his books, his implementation of information was off. He never had a pulse for how we, the people who reported to him, felt about his management style and the processes he wanted to implement. To convey the importance of organizational citizenship and helping fellow servers and bartenders, he told all of us a story of a time that he pulled over to help somebody fix a flat tire. His goal was to convey that helping others is the right thing to do and can have a positive impact on the team. However, we noticed that the story was just about him. To us, it felt like he was just patting himself on the back, and because he never gave a resolution (e.g., the person he helped never spoke with him again), it was relatively unclear as to why helping others can have a positive impact on the rest of the team. 

The point is that sometimes we can be educated about the theory of what it means to be a leader, but our efforts to implement those leadership strategies may not fully resonate with those we work with unless we ask for feedback and be open to making adjustments after learning the feedback.

Another reason you may have given yourself a low leadership score (and your colleagues agreed with you) could be because you don’t actually believe you are a strong leader and your role doesn’t necessitate that you be a leader. 

But being a leader doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to have a placard or title labeled leader. Leadership abilities can include helping set expectations for your work with those you work with, taking accountability for mistakes that may happen, and giving acknowledgement to others when they have helped you.

Leadership ability transcends titles and enters into the realm of just being a good professional to work with. Thinking you aren’t good at these skills and then having your colleagues confirm these beliefs can be tough. But it’s no help if you start thinking there is nothing you can or need to do about it. If you don’t work on these components of your professionalism, you become an energy-taker instead of an energy-giver. People will resent working with you because they will perceive you as being selfish and uninterested in the outcome of the team. And if you are actually selfish and uninterested in the outcome of the team, then perhaps it makes sense to reflect on yourself and on your time to figure out the best use of it. There are plenty of jobs out there. If you are working at a company with a team, or just doing work that is uninteresting to you, then perhaps it is time to consider another line of work because the time you are spending doing your current work doesn’t appear to be serving you or those you work with.

Self-Awareness and high performance

If you have a relatively high leadership ability score and your colleagues agree with you, that is excellent, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have achieved the pinnacle of leadership ability. 

Leadership ability is an interesting concept because the ultimate measure of success as a leader is both: how does my team feel about working with me AND what outcomes are we achieving as a team.

If you rated yourself highly and your team agrees with you, you can check off half of the box. However, how is your performance? Finding the right balance between output and keeping people satisfied, both doing the work and in your leadership ability, is the key to being the best leader you can be.

Therefore, when it comes to the question of output, you must assess comfort versus optimization. In terms of comfort, the question is: are you and your team achieving a performance level in which 1) the business can operate effectively, and 2) people are satisfied with their compensation? If the answer to either part is no, then you have a big problem. This means you are a supportive leader and your leadership style is appreciated, but it also means that you haven’t set the bar high enough. Something needs to change so the business can run at a level where everyone is comfortable.

There is a tv show on Hulu called Ramy. It is an interesting show about a man in his late 20’s trying to figure out his life. At the beginning of season 1, Ramy is working at a startup. He and his colleagues recognize that they aren’t paid the best, but they believe in the mission and they like the people they work with. Unfortunately, the company performance leaves much to be desired. Eventually, the company isn’t able to drive the revenue or fundraising it needs to survive and everyone gets fired.

This is a small story within the tv show, but it shows that Ramy appreciated the founders of the startup at one point in time (e.g. would have given a high leadership score to the founders), but once the company started to fail and everyone was fired, they all left with a salty taste in their mouth about the entire experience. 

There are many factors for why a business eventually fails, but sometimes for fear of being perceived as a bad or overly aggressive leader to our team, we set lower bars for those we work with, even if it means the business can’t run comfortably. 

However, if your work exists comfortably (either from a leadership perspective or as an individual contributor), and your leadership ratings are mutually high, then you have to ask yourself if your work is running optimally.

If you are an individual contributor, the incentive may not be as clear as to why you would question this or pursue improvement to the optimum level. You are not necessarily getting compensated any more to make these improvements. As a leader, the motivation for this is pretty obvious – e.g. the better your team performs, the more valuable you are to the company.

But as an individual contributor, a big reason for wanting to improve your output to an optimum level, while maintaining a high level of respect from your colleagues as they perceive your leadership abilities, is control and autonomy. If you show a desire to push the status quo and improve the company’s output, you become substantially more valuable to the company. Being able to identify more efficient and innovative methods while keeping it easy for your colleagues to work with you because you set proper expectations and help them see opportunities that they may not have already seen, you become substantially more valuable to the company.  If your company can’t live without you, you will have the control and autonomy to try new things that the company would not trust others to try. 

If you ever had a shared family car growing up, this would be like always making sure you return the car to your parents with a full tank of gas (and occasionally a car wash) after you borrow it. Later, when it comes to borrowing the car for a concert 4 hours away, you have a track record of responsibility and respect for your parent’s car. 

The key to getting performance to an optimum level is not sacrificing the way your team feels about your leadership ability. The real key to being the best leader you can be is finding the balance between optimum performance and having the respect and support of your colleagues.

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.

Fri 19 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.

Leadership Ability

Leadership ability is an important skill for any professional, regardless of whether you hold an official leadership position. Leadership ability is based on one’s ability to set proper expectations for their work and communicate those expectations clearly and effectively. Skilled leaders demonstrate their ability to motivate others towards a purpose that benefits everyone, their willingness to take accountability when things go wrong, and the modesty to give credit when things go right.

If you overestimated your leadership abilities, it means that you gave yourself a moderate score while your colleagues rated you low or you gave yourself a high score and your colleagues rated you moderate to low.

You rated yourself moderately

You may think that if you aren’t in a leadership role that you don’t need to focus on your leadership ability. However, leadership ability goes beyond your title.

You may have thought that if you perform as expected that you could justify giving yourself a moderate leadership ability score. However, if your colleagues rated you low, they clearly disagree, and this is an important opportunity for growth.

Leadership ability is all about transparency, accountability, and the ability to give credit to others.

The reason why possessing a leadership title is not necessary to possess strong leadership abilities is because great leadership is about being a great colleague to work with. 

Have you ever worked with somebody whose work you relied on, but you were unclear on what they would deliver, when they would deliver it, or how they would deliver it? What about somebody that’s full to the brim with excuses? Anytime anything goes wrong, they immediately blame others or come up with excuses for why it didn’t work out. Or have you ever worked with somebody that consistently takes all of the credit and doesn’t mention you or anyone else on your team who worked hard? You don’t want to be that person! Just because others do it, doesn’t mean you should too.

Think about how most people act in their first 2 weeks at a new job. They are probably excited to throw themselves at the work in front of them, and they are open to taking accountability when things go wrong because they have the fair excuse of being new. They will likely set (potentially over-optimistic) expectations about their work with everyone and because they don’t want to let anyone down, make a strong effort to meet those expectations. They also will be focused on giving credit to those they work with when things go well because they want to make positive first impressions. What they lack in experience at the workplace is made up for in earnest commitment to doing good work with their coworkers. 

Being a strong leader is being like that…just all the time and not just in the first two weeks at a new job. People like that are much more enjoyable to work with, give others less anxiety, and have confidence because they have earned the credibility and respect of those they work with.

You rated yourself highly

If you rated yourself highly in your leadership abilities and your colleagues rated you moderately or low, you are probably not as strong of a leader as you think you are. 

People in this situation typically have read leadership books, have gone to seminars, and have seen motivational speakers. They, theoretically, know all of the keys to be a strong leader, but when it comes to the application of those theories, their efforts simply aren’t ringing true with those they work with. And when it comes down to it, that’s the only part that matters. 

Because they have the knowledge of what it means to be a strong leader, they tend to rate themselves highly. But, when there is a gap and their colleagues disagree with their self-assessment, it is natural to feel defensive about this disparity.

The question one needs to ask themselves if they are faced with this situation is “why is there this gap?”. Or put another way “what am I doing that I feel is exuding strong leadership traits?” and then “How could my colleagues not perceive those actions in the way I am perceiving them?”.

In some cases, people feel like they are showing strong leadership abilities, but their colleagues perceive those efforts as the standard tasks that anyone would do. If this is the case then a discussion around expectations needs to be had between the professional and their colleagues. If you feel like you are going out of your way to being a strong leader, but others perceive those efforts as standard operating procedures, you probably need to update your expectations. Instead of treating those actions as “above and beyond” (because maybe they were “above and beyond” at a previous employer), try to trust your colleagues and trust their assessment. That means finding new ways to demonstrate your leadership abilities that make a difference in the work being done by your colleagues.  

In other cases, people feel like they are showcasing leadership abilities with their actions, but nobody is noticing. This is a difficult argument to make because leadership is an inherently public task. Essentially, when something goes wrong and you take accountability, you should be taking accountability publicly and fairly with others to view and observe. If you are taking accountability “quietly”, you aren’t really taking accountability because the nature of accountability is ownership over the responsibility so others know who they are counting on, for better or for worse. If you are giving credit “behind the scenes”, you are giving credit, but not in a way that fully exemplifies your leadership ability. Your willingness to praise publicly and fairly means that you are willing to put your reputation on the line in front of an audience to give credit to someone else. If you are setting your expectations on a case-by-case basis for the exact same work from different people, you are opening yourself to favoritism (intentional or not) and building a reputation for inconsistency. Your willingness to set consistent, public, and fair expectations both for your own work and from others’ work demonstrates that you hold yourself and others to the same standards.

Therefore, leadership ability should be a very noticeable activity, and if people aren’t noticing, then you aren’t leading. If that’s the case, you need to work to make sure that people notice without you incidentally seeming pompous or outlandish in your actions. This will take some work, and you may have some missteps, but the key is to keep trying to improve each day.

To improve your leadership ability, focus on immediately taking accountability when things go wrong (even if it isn’t directly your fault). If you had anything to do with something not going right, you can take accountability for it publicly. 

Focus on setting clear expectations for others for what you expect from their work and what they should expect from yours. You can set clear timelines for when others should expect your work to be finished and provide useful details so they can know what to expect. This will help build trust and ensure that your colleagues know what to expect from you, which then can mean that you know what to expect from their work as well. 

Set aside time to think about who has been working hard and accomplishing difficult tasks (even if they aren’t publicly recognized) and give credit, publicly, to those people for working so hard. For example, oftentimes in sales, we give a lot of credit to those making the sale, but those people in supply chain, operations, or account management don’t get the credit they deserve for implementing the delivery of the product. 

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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