By William Seidman Assessment is based on the idea that an organization has a list of competencies required for success. Assessments detect and measure these competencies so that you can know if the desired behaviors or abilities are lacking. If the assessment determines that someone doesn’t have these capabilities, it provides a learning experience to remediate that lack. The exercise  focuses on what someone is not doing — rather than using their known strengths. People’s faults might be pinpointed. I would join those who argue that focusing on the negatives, the deficits – as a way to promote change for the better — is not useful. Dan Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, Chip and Dan Heath’s Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard,”  Kim Cameron’s Positive Leadership and many others present conclusive research that shows that a conventional  assessment-based approach is exactly what you don’t want to take to improve performance. These observations are reinforced by neuroscience. We have learned that focusing on what we’re doing wrong – even as an incentive to do better – is counterproductive. Have you noticed how many things lead to golf? For those of you who don’t know golf, a “slice” is a shot that goes off to the side and gets you in a lot of trouble. So, many times, when I go to hit the ball, I repeat to myself, “Don’t slice.” What do you think I always do? Of course I slice! What was I teaching myself?  By focusing on what I’d done wrong, I habitually reinforced the wrong attitude and behaviors.  I was actually wiring together the wrong neurons. Assessments do the same thing. They get people to focus on, and wire together, the undesirable behaviors, which actually makes learning the new desirable behaviors more difficult. Instead, as with the positive deviants, ask what is needed to become great at something.  When you have your answer, focus on it. This wires the neurons into a positive frame and makes learning much easier. Try it and let me know what happens.]]>

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