How accurate is our ability to self-evaluate? Are you as good as you think you are? The chances are you may not be quite as expert as you imagine and your ability to self-evaluate may be tinted through rose-coloured spectacles, says Ally Yates author of ‘Utter Confidence: How what you say and do influences your effectiveness in business’
Research published in 1999 resulted in the eponymous phenomenon known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. The research revealed the existence of a cognitive bias of illusory superiority, where people judge themselves as better than others in all manner of areas, e.g. leadership, skills, performance. Sequel studies tested and validated the hypothesis “that people, at all performance levels, are equally poor at estimating their relative performance”.
The satirical book: ‘The Peter Principle’, by Laurence J. Peter. Masquerading states that people in organisations rise to their level of incompetence.
The work on the ‘Confidence Gap’ – demonstrating that men are more self-assured than women – would suggest that lads are more vulnerable to the Peter Principle than lasses, with the men over-estimating both their abilities and performance.
In Tom Schuller’s amusingly titled: “The Paula Principle”, he shows how women today work below their competence levels.
Schuller explains that there are five main reasons for this, and only one of them is lack of self-confidence. The other four are: Discrimination; Structural (absence of childcare/eldercare); Lack of senior network connections; and Positive choice, meaning that Paula knows she can do the next job but is content where she is.
Regardless of gender, Yates says the opportunity is there for each of us to bridge the gap between our unreliable self-assessment and any external measure of our performance. Here’s how:
- Ask for feedback regularly: Regular input on your performance helps you to more accurately calibrate how you’re doing. Far from being a sign of weakness, research from the Neuroleadership Institute reveals that those who actively seek feedback are typically high performers.
- Deliberately ask for feedback from people where you have more challenging relationships. It’s too easy and too comfortable to defer to longstanding colleagues and work chums when seeking input on your performance. Instead, select one or two people where the relationship hasn’t been all plain sailing.
- Listen to the feedback. If you ask for feedback, create the space to listen, hear, and absorb the information. Resist the temptation to discount or refute the gift you’ve been given.
- Be open about your gaps and ask for help to keep you honest. Revealing your shortcomings can be very productive in working relationships. Saying: “This is an area I’m working on and I’d value your help” is a straightforward way to access the expertise of others and to demonstrate how committed you are to your development.
- Measure and recognise improvement. Having set yourself some development goals, use the feedback you receive to help you track your progress. Celebrate your successes. And when you achieve your goals, ask: ‘What next?” After all, none of us is the finished product.
- Keep learning. Reflect on what you’ve done and ask yourself: “How could I have done this even better?”. Search out courses online, in the classroom, seminars, conferences – share your learning with your colleagues and discuss where and how it can benefit your business. Finally, read. We have so much information available to us via web pages and the printed word.
Take the opportunity now to be an even better you, closing the gap between what you think of your performance and the reality.