I know some of the brightest entrepreneurs in the business. Some excel at strategy, others at marketing, or innovation. Their boundless enthusiasm gets everyone around them excited. Their determination and drive draws others in like moths to a flame. But there’s a secret they harbor. Many of them despise managing other people. They’ve raised millions, they’ve sold millions. Yet they would rather stride into Pixar’s executive offices to make a pitch than give an employee feedback about their performance. It makes sense, I mean who WANTS to have a difficult conversation? Here’s the secret: it doesn’t have to be difficult. If you invest the time and use these tools you can say goodbye to employee performance evaluations as a dreaded workplace ritual.
A note of disclaimer here because let’s face it, there are some toxic broken people in the workplace so hell bent on destruction that they can make everyone’s jobs a living nightmare. Like these managers whose feud made headlines. Those people need to be shown the door. These tools are for the rest of us. Employee problems are likely to be a direct result of our mismanagement. Ouch. Did that feel like a slap in the face? It isn’t – it’s a growth opportunity. How can you get better? Improve your management skills. Leading teams is a muscle you are always flexing. Just when you master one challenge, another presents itself.
Here are 3 secrets to have meaningful, rewarding and successful performance evaluations.
1) Do weekly one on one’s with your direct reports. Meetings can be as short as 30 minutes. This time is critical for two reasons; first is is your employees opportunity to check in with you, update you and ask for help if they need it. Secondly, it’s your time to share feedback with them, redirect them if they are of course or praise them if they are on track. If you are doing one on one’s consistently and sharing appropriate feedback then NOTHING in your annual employee evaluation will come as a surprise. Nothing in the annual review should ever be a surprise (unless it’s a big fat raise).
2) Have employees create SMART goals, written goals approved by you, their supervisor that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Framed. Example: “Work with sales team to launch monthly open house point of entry events starting in June attended by a minimum of 15 prospects monthly”. SMART goals should be organized based on their job description and/or current strategic plan. Employees should create SMART goals and submit them to their supervisor for changes and approval. This process is time consuming but worth every penny; it gives your employees have a road map to success and 100% ownership in their work.
3) Evaluate employees performance using objective behavioral specifics. Separate behavior from attitude and judgment from feedback. In other words: be specific. Have someone who shirks responsibility? Tell them how by rating them against the behavior you want. i.e. “Accepts responsibility for tasks or projects. Does not blame others when she makes mistakes or goals are not met. Acknowledges her contribution to mistakes when they happen and makes a plan for correcting or preventing them in the future.” You must clearly actively describe each manifestation of the behavior you want.
Here’s an area of great complexity: communication. An employee can be a great writer and a horrible presenter. They may do well in small groups but horrible in front of large groups. Get specific in your evaluation criteria. For example:
Communication: (Internal) Presents information so that it is understood by the listener. Gives information that is useful. Is able to get to the point in a timely fashion. Summarizes key points in a situation and shares those in a short amount of time. Makes regular, sustained eye contact. Listens actively. Uses both broad and narrow questions to check for understanding and find solutions to problems. Gives staff the information they need about projects in order to meet deadlines and deliver quality programs and results. (External) Can speak to both large and small groups and keep the audience engaged. People respond to her speaking with interest and enthusiasm. Is well prepared for public speaking opportunities. Creates compelling visual materials and handouts. Tailors her speaking to the needs of her audience; is able to fluctuate the length and depth of a conversation based on the context and the listener’s needs.
Each of these steps will put you on the right path to success. Do they take time? Yes, but these are the steps to achieve great success, build successful teams, and groom new leaders.
Go forth and lead!