‘You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge’. A truer statement has never been made. A properly conducted self audit is a most important element in self improvement.
A self audit should include your own perceptions first, and then source the truthful and objective opinions from three other people who know you well, personally and/or professionally, ensuring that both areas are covered. The reason for summarizing your own perceptions prior to getting others’ opinions is to also check your natural level of self awareness. If your self perceptions are quite different from what you are told then you probably need to become more self aware as a starting point to continuous improvement.
To ensure the opinions sourced from three people who know you well are as honest as possible, it’s necessary to (somehow) assure them that you will not react negatively in any way to the feedback they give you. If any of them believe you may be sensitive to the feedback, it may be withheld.
The process is a simple one. Answer the questions below, honestly, on yourself. Then have the three people whose opinions you are sourcing do the same (without you being present). Then sit down with each of the three people to go through their written responses and establish clarity where necessary. Once you have completed this basic approach you should note and resolve to improve the aspects that have been identified as warranting attention, and then conduct the same self audit again in six months time, interchanging at least one of the three people who input to your audit.
Here is a suggested audit:
- Rate how personally sensitive you are, overall. It is extremely important to begin the self audit with an honest assessment of your personal sensitivity as it can be a major inhibitor to performance improvement. See notes below
- Give a recent example of where you demonstrated leadership. Notice how often the word ‘recent’ is used from here on, because if you can only nominate examples from more than, say, three months ago, then they may not be a good sign.
- Give a recent example of an idea you came up with and implemented.
- Give a recent example of where you demonstrated initiative.
- Give a recent example of something important you learnt.
- Give a recent example of something you changed for the better.
- What did you do about the last (significant) mistake you made?
- Give a recent example of where you demonstrated self discipline.
- Give a recent example of where you organised something that went well.
- Give a recent example of where you overcame a problem.
- Give a recent example of where you overcame objections for mutual benefit.
- Describe something you learnt recently from someone outside your business or industry that you can put into effect.
- Give a recent example of where you helped to solve conflict.
- Give a recent example of how you challenged your business.
- Give a recent example of how you effectively used your influencing skills.
- Nominate your personal points of difference (as distinct from strengths).
- Nominate your extraordinary strengths or X factor.
- List your top three weaknesses. What are you doing about them?
- List your top three bad habits. What are you doing about them?
- What negative comfort zones are you currently in? That is, comfort zones that are inhibiting your performance.
- List your top three personal qualities.
- List fears that are inhibiting your performance. What you are doing about them?
- List your skill deficiencies that are inhibiting career achievement. What are you doing about them?
- List your knowledge deficiencies that are inhibiting career achievement. What are you doing about these?
- Rate yourself on change orientation.
- Rate yourself on self organisation.
- Rate yourself on accountability.
Once all questions have been answered, you should have an accurate picture of where you are, personally and professionally. Positive and less positive responses will be fairly obvious. Struggling to find examples or to answer any of the questions is probably not a good sign. If most of the responses are concentrated in the personal or the professional side of your life, it may be worth considering why that is happening. Now armed with your completed self audit it’s time to set about the improvements and changes you believe are necessary.
Notes on point 1: Being sensitive to criticism, negative feedback, others’ opinions, or comments from other people is a genuine inhibitor of high performance. The reason this is the starting point of the self audit should therefore be obvious. Someone who is personally sensitive is first, unlikely to receive genuine feedback from others and second, less likely to act upon it even when they get it. The fastest improvers are those who are thick skinned, hard to offend and adopt a ‘bring it on’ approach. The slowest improvers are those who react poorly to some types of comments, criticisms or negative feedback and therefore cause people around them to be careful with what they say. Contrary to what seems to be popular belief it is possible for anyone to act less sensitively by just making a decision to suck it up and get on with it. Sooking up doesn’t work and is too often overlooked in personal audits. That’s why it should be evaluated and brought into focus at the start.