Self-Assessment for Families

Year end approaches and the time for all of my volunteer boards to assess themselves. Some do it, some don’t, and some do it better than others. I have been asked to present at a workshop for the Women’s Collective Giving Network (WCGN) Conference next month, representing the Board of Directors of Impact Austin. I have been researching why we self-assess, what are the most constructive ways to assess, and what do we do with the information we collect? I will find out soon if the participants think I did a good job!10653483_10154611293010346_6600070197522054132_n

It got me thinking about the parallels between management and parenting.  

We know self-assessment is an effective tool in business, whether nonprofit or for profit, and that when you pair it with an objective assessment by peers it can have constructive effects on what a job is and how to measure whether it is being done well.

Can we transfer that wisdom to parenting? I think we can, but it will take forethought and it will take courage.

Do we have the courage to learn what we can do better from the people we love the most? Do we have the courage to hear criticism with an open mind when parenting is one of the most incredibly intimate relationships we will ever have? Think these through before starting this process, but if you are open enough, and brave enough, you may open a door to conversations that are transformative.

How can we do a family self assessment?

First, you need a template or collection of questions that you think are relevant. I will give you some examples, but you will think up the best ones on your own. Then your entire family takes the quiz. Depending on the size of your family and the age of your children, you can even put it on Survey Monkey if you want the quiz to have the advantage of anonymity.

It is important to stress to your family that this is not an opportunity to air personal grievances, bash Mommy or Daddy because they are upset with them about a punishment, or a game to play. Instead, it is a way to think about your family and how it works. It is also a way to put some issues out on the table for discussion, but be clear that just because they are discussed, it does not mean that agreement will be reached or that rules will be changed. Here is a short article that deals with the pros and cons of self-assessment, and gives a nice overview of pitfalls to avoid.

Set your expectations with your family and emphasize that this is a communication tool that will take a moment out of their busy day to be reflective.

Some questions to consider (note-these are modified from fairly standard board self-assessment questions):

  • Are the roles and responsibilities of my family members clearly defined and understandable?    Yes  No  Comments:
  • When a problem or conflict arises at home, do I feel that I can talk about it with my family?    Yes   No  Comments:
  • When a problem or conflict arises at work or school, do I feel that I can talk about it with my family?    Yes   No  Comments:
  • Does my family set reasonable rules?    Yes  No  Comments:
  • If I think a rule needs to be changed, do I feel that I can suggest that to my family?  Yes   No   Comments:
  • Does my family have particular rules I would like to discuss changing?    Yes  No  Comments:
  • Is my family mission clear to me?    Yes  No  Comments:
  • Do I feel listened to in my family?    Yes  No  Comments:
  • Is there one thing my family could do differently that would make me happier?   Explain:

These are just modified examples of what Boards ask themselves, each other and the Staff that supports their work in a nonprofit. Some may work for you; some will not, and you will come up with personal questions that will be much more targeted.  But keep your eye on the prize. The goal is here is to open communication, not close it off, and so be careful in your questions not to display bias or make anyone in your family feel like they have been cornered or held up to scrutiny.

Bottom line…if you can’t take your ego out of it and be objective, don’t do it.

And…what will you do with the information when you get it? This is when those family discussions get really interesting and effective. I would love to hear if anyone gives this a try, and what outcomes you have if you do!

Helpful links:

7 Habits of Highly Effective Families

5 Love Languages Web Site

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