Managing Assessments, A Leadership Superpower


Our leadership program starts with a simple question. What is the difference between the following statements?

Washington, DC is the capital of the USA

Washington, DC is a great city

The answer is obvious, one is a fact, the other is an opinion or as we prefer to call it, an assessment.  This sounds trivial but managing assessments is a foundational leadership superpower.  A skill that is a game-changer for any leader.

When assessing the future, there is neither right Nor wrong

A fact is something we all agree to be true.  In contrast, an assessment belongs to the observer.  This means, the assessment depends on the perspective of the person making it.  And because we are all different, our assessments vary.  We can all observe the same thing and arrive at different assessments.  I see this most often when a group is making a decision.  Rather than recognize we all have different and valid assessments, the conversation shifts to a focus on right and wrong.  In reality, there is neither right nor wrong, just different assessments or views.

When we are faced with different assessments, there may be no right or wrong, but they can be more or less valid.  For example, if I gave you a medical diagnosis and you sought one from a doctor, are they equally valid?  I don’t have any medical training and I have no doubt which diagnosis I would follow.

Are all assessments equally valuable?

As some assessments are more valid than others,  leaders need a way to determine which assessments are most valuable.  We call this process grounding.  To ground an assessment we ask three simple and powerful questions:

  1. What are we assessing?
  2. Why are we making the assessment?
  3. What makes me believe it is a valuable assessment?

It never ceases to surprise me how often people argue about what they are assessing.  If they are not aligned, it is no wonder they never reach agreement.  The second question talks about our motivation.  It helps us understand what is important about the assessment, and why it may be valuable for us.  The last question leads us to explore what evidence exists in what areas.  For example, are there any established measures and benchmarks we can use?

Now you have an understanding of facts and assessments, I have a challenge for you.  The next time you have a secondary role in a group meeting, keep score of the number of facts and assessments.  Please respond to the post with your results.  If your conclusions are the same as mine, you will be very surprised.