Employee evaluations can be somewhat daunting for managers and leaders. However, they can be one of the most effective tools in leading others. I believe there are some critical points to remember when completing these important tasks.
1. Evaluations should be the follow-through to what is already being taught and expected of an employee. Many times evaluations are seen as a way to get a point across to a subordinate that has never been addressed in person. I believe this is simply cowardice. If you cannot look an employee in the eye and have an honest conversation about what areas of their performance need improving, then one of two things need to happen. You should either:
A. Practice being more interactive and communicating more often with those under your supervision. If it doesn’t come naturally, that’s OK. But if you don’t practice it, you will never get better at it. Do you want to be a better leader? Practice being a better leader! You can do it!
B. Resign from your supervisory role. Many managers earn their managing role simply because they know a lot about a particular topic. That does not make them a leader or motivator of people. Most people have the ability to get better with practice. But surely there are some who just simply don’t think it’s worth the effort.
Viewing evaluations as follow-through simply means that your critique of the employee should be a review of what you are already leading your employees to do every day. It’s a “check-up,” if you will. Your employee should not be “blind-sided” by information in the evaluation. If they have not been performing well they should have known way before now. If they are doing a great job, they should have been praised for it way before now. Be generous with your praise! Again, for some, this takes practice. As in any relationship, it’s a whole lot easier for an employee to accept constructive criticism when there has been some positive reinforcement along the way.
2. Be Honest. The worst thing you can do for your employees is to not be forthright. Personally, I believe integrity and honesty are paramount for effective leadership. Some of the most difficult conversations are the ones where you have to tell an employee that they are not meeting expectations. Sometimes, this even leads to dismissal, which should be difficult. I would question the true leadership of anyone who enjoys terminating employees. It should be difficult. Leaders should want for employees to be successful. You win, I win, WE win. But sometimes, tough love is required. And if it’s required, you must do it effectively. One of my mentors once told me: “Speak the truth in love. Without love, the truth is spoken in a harsh way, without truth, the message is hollow.” I don’t know what I could possibly add to that piece of wisdom.
3. View the performance evaluation as an opportunity to follow-through with:
• Encouraging development
• Identifying strengths/weaknesses
• Pinpointing areas where additional training is needed
• Promoting improved performance
• Developing better communication between you and the employee
4. Be clear. One of the worst feelings for an employee is to not know where to go from here. As an effective leader, you need to be clear about what the expectations are. If you have to point out poor performance, be clear about how to improve it. If you are giving praise, be specific about what you appreciate about that employee.
5. Follow-up. Again, this is part of the follow-through process. If you have laid out a clear plan of success for the employee, let them know along the way how they’re doing. Most employees want to do well and improve. Following up with them regularly will certainly go a long way to ensuring continued improvement.
So, don’t fear the eval. Embrace the opportunity to teach as well as to learn. In doing so, you will improve your organization!