When is Assessor Training more than Assessor Training?

This week I spent two days with an NHS provider client delivering a two day Assessor Training to 18 senior people within the organisation.  The purpose of the training was to provide them with the skills to assess an internal development centre to benchmark clinical leadership within the Trust.  It was a lively and informative two days and there was lots of great learning about the fundamentals required to objectively observe and record behaviour, as well as how to classify and evaluate those behaviours and how to give feedback on it.

What really stuck me was just how valuable this time was to discuss, explore and really calibrate the organisation’s expectations of clinical leaders, in a way that could provide a structured, measurable framework.

A couple of the delegates were from the potential candidate pool for future development centres, they were able to see first hand the integrity of the system and the real desire to be transparent, ethical and supportive. Their positive attitudes towards the centres from peers will have far more impact in reassuring suspicious or nervous colleagues than any official communication strategy – don’t under estimate how anxious some organisations can get about the organisational agenda behind the centres.

The competencies being used have been around the organisation for a while, but still have not made it as everyday language and are not yet impacting on performance management and expectation setting. But after two days discussing, clarifying, understanding how to talk behaviour and impact, rather than person and personal, the assessors went away with a new set of skills not only for the development centres but to cascade and role model to their directorates and teams throughout the organisation.

Perhaps the most powerful part of the two days was the demonstration of how we tend to generalise our impressions of someone depending on what is important to us, personally. The facilitators modelled two presentations, each designed to have different strengths and weaknesses.

The first was passionate, engaging and highly impactful on an interpersonal level, but lacked evidence, specifics or a vision. The second used some inappropriate language, did not express any connection with the audience or patients, but beneath the delivery provided a strong argument backed by facts and evidence, set out a strategic vision and clear action plan.

Despite knowing that they were to evaluate the presentations on three separate criteria:

–  Interpersonal impact
– Setting a Strategic Direction
– Creating a clear plan of action

the groups initially rated the first presentation higher across all three criteria than the second.  Careful exploration of the evidence they had provided against each of the criteria showed that they had automatically applied the evidence for interpersonal impact across all the criteria and over generalised.  When it was properly debated and challenged it emerged that in fact the better presentation was the second, not the first as they had initially thought. Although both presentations had strengths and development points.

These senior managers were brave enough to reflect on how often they generalise in the workplace and as a result over or under estimate someone’s performance based on one aspect of their behaviour.  Such a deep understanding of how we function automatically and how that stops us seeing what is really there, is going to create some powerful organisational change.

Envision provides Clinical Leadership Assessment and Development within both acute and community trusts.

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One Response to When is Assessor Training more than Assessor Training?

  1. UIpdate one week later: newly trained assessors have taken the initiative to revise the external recruitment process to apply their learning; be more disciplined; make it more objective; and focused on the behaviours that really matter. Exec Team delighted with results.

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