[Land O’Spin] I’ve got it, I’ve got it, what is it?

In the earlier two posts [Land O’Spin] two things were covered regarding assessment basics: 1) Watch and note behaviors (what did people or organizations do), and 2) when assessing something, what sort of behaviors, actions or characteristics are you looking to see demonstrated or evidenced?

In my coaching work, whether with individuals or teams, the first thing I start do is observe: what’s going, what do I see, what other actions or behaviors are triggered, etc.? While not a movie buff, my hunch is it’s like participating in a good detective or drama: avoid the extraneous stuff that distracts and focus on the stuff that is really important.

Using your “third eye” (see the first post on this subject – Vagabond Inn “Executive”) you can both participate and watch – and come away with a richness of actionable data.

Why is getting good at this assessment business important? Because with those two abilities nailed – getting good at noting behaviors and knowing what to look for – you can begin to do some serious, highly suggestive (heading toward predictive) assessing on a number of things: employee hiring, employer preferences, choosing a spouse/partner, even selecting a school for your kids to attend.

Let me give you a couple of examples.

When I worked at Barclays Global Investors I knew someone we’ll call “Rosie” who was a mistress of managing up. She also reported out how busy she was, detailed in staff meetings the important task and project teams on which she participated, and how she seldom had time to think given all the stuff she had going on. Reality, however, was different and usually consisted of late in, early out, and long lunch hours for shopping.

Her boss we’ll call “Jenner”, was not the master of managing down, and was consequently susceptible to being beguiled: what was assessed was the proverbial bouncing ball, not the letters or lines of the text. And because Jenner did a spotty job of supervising people like Rosie who were mostly hype, he lost credibility, lost allegiance, and lost following from the direct reports he had.

Had the two-step been done – what are the behaviors noted, and what sort of characteristics would you expect to see of someone who is so busy, some easy observations would have been made and the spin of self-promotion removed. For example, simply noticing that Rosie’s Outlook calendar had enough “available time” holes to drive a truck through might have suggested she was not as busy as she claimed. Asking to look at work product – instead of oral report outs – would have told him that not much work product was being produced.

I met with a parent yesterday who provides the second example. In the craziness of San Francisco (and California) where many people who can  choose to put their kids in private schools to avoid the tug-of-war by the dysfunctional budgeting process, spots at private schools are few and demand is mostly high. Assessing a school – where there is not a certainty your child will be admitted – is tricky.

The parent I spoke with was considering some of the same K-8 schools that we considered last year when we were in the kindergarten hunt. As we talked shop and sipped coffee, and given that a solid academic base would be had at any of the school, two characteristics began to surface as important. One factor was how well run was the school – was the school managed well?  The second was the degree of ethnic diversity and comfort: was it too “white bread?”

The first factor was easy to vet by answering a few questions; what was the experience he had during the admissions process? Were things along the way (tours, correspondence, assessments, etc.) thoughtful and smooth, or were things chaotic and jumbled? Not a guarantee of a well-run school, but one solid indicator.

In terms of ethnic diversity, stats are a great starting place. What was the ethnic breakdown of this past year’s kindergarten class? What’s the 3-5 five year trend? What does the board of trustees look like: diverse, or heavily Caucasian? What does the teaching staff look like? Who is the head of school, and what’s their record on school diversity? And last, what do parents say, particularly parents of kids of color? While stats give you one picture, parents will be able to fill in the portrait of what it’s like to be at the school.

Answering both sets of questions against the behaviors or characteristics that are desired gives you a great framework for making decisions that are easier, simpler and more predictable.

More to come.