Self-Assessment: What is it and Why it Matters?

Assessment has an accepted meaning in the context of a library. In the project management world, assessment is understood as the evaluation of project to determine if its timeline and budget are on track. There is a another facet to assessment that touches on both these areas but is frequently overlooked: self-assessment. Self-assessment is the application of assessment techniques by an individual to determine information about key aspects of identity and personality. This information is valuable for both libraries and project managers. It can be the key to creating better teams, make for more effective and engaged employees, and lead to an overall effective workplace.

If you made it through library school at some point you probably took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). This is possibly the most well-known self-assessment program there is. During my library school experience our class took the assessment and then discussed the results. It was an interesting experience but I didn’t leave with an understanding of why this information was important or what should be done with it. Instead, I left the discussion thinking these tools weren’t important and a waste of time. The MBTI is such a high level overview of personality type it didn’t translate easily into something actionable. What I didn’t realize at the time was that there are a host of different self-assessment tools, products, metrics, and tests out there that cover all manner of personality traits and subjects. These focused tools often yield much more specific results that are easier to turn into actions and individual or organizational change. Some of these other examples include the Clifton StrengthsFinder which focuses on individual strengths or the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument which focuses on how individuals handle conflict.

The Clifton StrengthsFinder makes it easy to assess a team’s strengths. This information can also be used to see if there is an area where a new team member might add needed strengths. One of my workplace’s best takeaways from having staff take the StrengthsFinder was a common talking point for people. Comparing strengths and how they fit into our personality allowed staff to get to know one another in a different way and became a frequent topic of conversation.

An analysis of how team members handle conflict would be highly valuable to almost every team I’ve ever encountered. There is always room for improvement in how a team or committee works together or communicates and self-assessment is a great way to improve these. So much of library and project management work is about collaboration and probably the best thing one can do as a collaborator is to understand themselves and what they bring to the table. It’s great to think that everyone out there is leading the ideal examined life as envisioned by Socrates, but the reality is most people have far too much going on to devote serious time to uncovering these things on their own. Using self-assessment tools allows for these actions to take place in a concise and meaningful way. This knowledge will allow for better group effectiveness and teamwork and help people better understand each other.

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