Getting into an evaluation mindset isn’t just a job for researchers or specialists. In fact, the ability to consider multiple perspectives, challenge assumptions, and draw important lessons is a quality of good leadership in general, explains CCL’s Jennifer Martineau.
The field of leadership development evaluation has much to say, but according to Martineau, one of the most important things for managers to learn is this: People can improve their effectiveness by adopting an evaluative perspective as a natural part of their work.
Leaders who have a process for learning from the successes and trials of their work, she argues, are typically more successful than those who don’t.
The notion of continuous learning has taken hold among many evaluation professionals, including with Rosalie T. Torres, author of “Continuous Learning” in The Handbook of Leadership Development Evaluation. She writes that the central tenet of a continuous learning approach to evaluation is that it takes place on an ongoing basis.
By taking a continuous learning perspective, evaluation can be carried out in a way that best supports the development, delivery, and outcomes of leadership development programs. The focus on growth and improvement can be equally relevant for individual leaders.
Leaders who seek to develop an evaluation mindset should use 4 processes for continuous learning that are adapted from Torres’ work with evaluators. Let’s look more closely at each process in turn:
- Ask questions. Torres writes that the act of questioning as an ongoing and natural part of work can stimulate continuous learning and a sense of connectedness among those involved. The key is honing the ability to ask the “right” question.
- Facilitate dialogue. Good questions lead to discussion. Torres explains that leaders who facilitate dialogue — as opposed to telling, selling, or persuading — have the opportunity to produce new knowledge and understanding.
- Reflect. Torres describes reflection as a process through which individuals and groups review their ideas, their understanding, and their experience. This allows people to look more carefully and to think more deeply and holistically about an issue, leading to greater insights and understanding.
- Examine underlying values, beliefs, and assumptions. An evaluation mindset is one that seeks out and considers a variety of views and possibilities. Uncovering values, beliefs, and assumptions helps individuals understand that their perspective is one among many, Torres writes. To draw out the perspectives of different individuals, she suggests posing the following questions for individual reflection, followed by group discussion:
- What experiences have I had with respect to this issue or program?
- Have I had an experience in which my expectations weren’t met? If so, why weren’t they met?
- How do I think this program/situation could be improved?
- Based on my answers to these questions, what underlying assumptions and values does my perspective on this program/situation/issue reflect?
- In what ways might my values influence my thinking about the evaluation endeavor?
So get into an evaluation mindset and become an even better leader than you already are!