Habits and Practices of Consistently High-Performing and Effective Management Professionals
Individual Self-Assessment Tool (ISAT)
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Background
Developing competencies that enhance your effectiveness in whatever role you play in fish and wildlife management is mission critical given the many challenges faced by conservation agencies and non-governmental organizations. Recognizing that there are many facets to “effectiveness,” a recent study focused on habits and practices leading to good reasoning and judgment found among consistently high-performing agency staff. The study was supported by a Multi-State Conservation Grant from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies; the Center for Conservation Social Sciences, Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University; the Wildlife Management Institute (Washington, DC); Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; Fish and Wildlife Division, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; Wildlife Division, Michigan Department of Natural Resources; and Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University.

The study identified numerous categories of habits and practices that contribute to reasoning and judgment of consistently high-performing fish and wildlife professionals. The habits/practices can be organized into five (5) broad groups based on similarity and/or complementarity: Critically Inquisitive and Continuously Learning; Multi-level, Integrative Systems Thinking; Self-disciplined; Balanced Approach; and Interactions with Others. These groups can be thought of as clusters of competencies characteristic of consistently high-performing fish and wildlife professionals.
Purpose of the Tool
This self-assessment tool was created as an aid for guiding fish and wildlife professionals in development. The tool will assist you in identifying how well your habits and practices align with those that have been identified as associated with high performance. The habits and practices considered in this tool emerged from literature review, interviews with fish and wildlife employees and two-rounds of input from a panel of over 70 employees from across the U.S. who are recognized by their peers as being especially effective. Review of the habits and practices identified coupled with personal reflection on how consistently you apply each can aid self-improvement efforts aimed at developing greater competency in whatever role you play in conservation.
Using the Tool
The tool is easy to use. It consists of a series of statements for you to reflect on regarding the consistency of your application of the described habits and practices. The habits and practices are organized into the five groups listed above. After thinking about each statement, rate your consistency of application of each habit or practice indicated in the statement, using a three-point self-rating scale from “I typically need prompting to remember to do this” to “This is my common practice.” Just mark the bubble that most closely reflects where you think you are with respect to applying the particular habit or practice. If the statement is not applicable to you, skip that line.
Critically Inquisitive and Continuously Learning
I typically need prompting to remember to do this
I sometimes put this into practice
This is my common practice
I ask questions of others to clarify assumptions, data, analyses, or conclusions. [Skeptical/critical]
I am reflective about my own actions, typically being self-critical and engaging in evaluation of my performance for the purpose of improving. [Reflective]
I take a fresh look at a situation and search for factors that may have been missed in the past in an attempt to improve understanding of the broader context. [Open-minded]
I reserve the right to change my mind and expect others to be able to do so, too, if new understanding of a situation indicates that is prudent. [Flexible/adaptive]
I approach projects/assignments from the perspective of learning while doing, thinking of management as an experience from which I can learn. [Adaptive]
I learn as much as possible about a conservation issue and context in which it is embedded so I can identify consequences of actions. [Inquisitive]
I ask lots of questions about the “how” and “why” of an issue and seek new evidence to evaluate existing perceptions. [Curious]
Clear selection
Any comments about your selections for the Critically Inquisitive and Continuously Learning habits and practices?
Multi-level, Integrative Systems Thinking
I typically need prompting to remember to do this
I sometimes put this into practice
This is my common practice
I am mindful that any specific conservation situation is embedded in a larger context that either affects or is affected by actions at any level. [Comprehensive thinking]
I can see many of the elements of difficult problems, how the parts fit together and identify what’s missing. [Holistic]
I seek information about and include any stakeholders in a decision or action and attempt to secure their input and involvement. [Inclusive]
I look for opportunities to adapt or create new solutions to a problem at hand without undue concern about diverging from conventional practice when situations seem to call for it. [Creative/divergent/imaginative]
Clear selection
Any comments about your selections for the Multi-level, Integrative Systems Thinking habits and practices?
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