An executive friend of mine once told me that their company did what they called a “360 degree evaluation” on an annual basis. The concept was a simple three-step process. First, you fill out a self-evaluation of your work, work environment and productivity. Then the company would take a similar evaluation form to your supervisor. They would have your boss evaluate your work, work environment and productivity. Finally, the company would take an evaluation form to someone that you supervise and ask them the same questions.

He went on to explain to me that there was usually a big difference between our self-evaluation and the evaluation of others. This difference often ran in one of two directions. First, several workers were extremely critical of themselves. They wrote of their lack of knowledge, their strained environment and low productivity compared to what they could (or should) be doing. This thinking often did not line up with what those around them vocalized. There was a huge gap between how they saw themselves and how those around them viewed their work.

The other direction this could go is obvious. Numerous workers evaluated themselves very well. They were working hard, a joy to be around and productivity could not be better. Then when the supervisor and the supervised were asked the same questions they had a totally opposite description. There was this huge gap between how they saw themselves and how those around them viewed their work.

What brought this conversation up with this executive was the simple question of, “How is your week going?” He then launched into a 20 minute breakdown of all that was happening and how stressful it was to everyone. He told me that it was a difficult to find out the real truth about anyone. It was a process that he would rather avoid no matter how helpful.

I have never forgotten that conversation. In fact, I am reminded of it every time I do any counseling. A couple comes in and sits down to talk. She thinks their marriage is a train wreck and he can’t see anything wrong. The other thing that happens is that both people see their marriage as a train wreck but they completely disagree on why it is that way. She says its his fault and he says it is her fault. It can be really difficult to find out the truth about anyone. Within just the last week I have had a couple of people describe desperate situations in which the other person saw no problems.

All of this leads me to the conclusion that self evaluations can be very flawed and yet most of us live out everyday in light of our own thoughts alone. If I really want to know about myself I often need to ask some other people. Of course these need to be solid Christian people I trust for it to be helpful. Do you have the courage to ask your parents if you are a good child? Do you have the courage to ask your spouse if you are truly a good spouse? Do you have the courage to ask your children about your parenting? Do you have that courage to ask your co-workers if you are a good Christian example? What about other Church members? Your pastor? Your neighbor? Anyone?

There is this possibility that I may have some areas I have been avoiding that need real work. There is also this possibility that I am being to hard on myself. Maybe the truth is somewhere in between. One thing I know for certain, don’t trust yourself alone seek the input of others. In the long run, you will be glad you did.

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