Friday, August 08, 2008

Assessment Tests: The Big Crutch

During the Cardinals recent rain delay, FSN Midwest interviewed Adam Wainright, the Cardinals successful young rightie. The interview focused on Wainright's progress from a mediocre prospect in the Braves organization to his rise to fame with the Cardinals. When asked how he did it, Wainright went through a series of awakenings where he stopped thinking negatively and starting thinking positively. He said it had nothing to do with his actual pitching.
"On some nights, I was defeated before I even threw a pitch," he said. "If my pregame routine was off or the other time was coming into the game really hot, I just expected the worst."
This comment makes me think of these assessment tests that everyone is so excited about. I think they can actually damage an employee's opportunities for success.
Now, let me first say I'm a fan of these tests. In fact, I think they've helped me as I've managed employees and shifted job responsibilities, etc. I believe these tests can help an owner build a better, more cohesive team.
I'm not a big fan of sharing the results with employees (I speak from experience). Why? Just like Wainright, the results can get employees in the wrong mindset. Just because the test says you are a starter and not a finisher doesn't mean you can never finish things in life. The test should say to employees: You are poor at finishing, you need to realize this and improve upon it. It's holding you back. Instead, many employees use these tests as a crutch--"Ok, I'm not a finisher so I won't get out of my comfort zone and do anything that involves finishing a project, assignment, etc." If they do take on a new project, they are often deflated before they give themselves a chance. At the first sign of failure they say, "Oh, I'm not a finisher. The tests proved it. It looks like this project will end the same as the others."
Now, if your company has the resources to hire 10 starters and match them with 10 finishers, you might be in good shape. However, life usually doesn't work like this. We all need to be finishers, even if it doesn't come naturally.
The point is to be careful how you release the assessment test data to employees. The goal is to maximize their efforts, not give them a reason to not grow as an employee and individual.

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