Guest Post by Erik Hobbins
Suddenly, you are expected to evaluate those who, a short time ago, were your peers. Not only that, you are expected to tell them what you think of them – the good, bad and ugly – but in a way that they will accept and even welcome. While this will never be an easy task – and shouldn’t be, given the potential impact on peoples’ careers and lives – you can develop coaching skills to turn a dreaded task into a tool to help build your team into a high performing engine. Here are some performance appraisal tips.
Don’t wait until appraisal time
Conduct formal and informal meetings throughout the year to discuss progress on projects and objectives. Encourage employees to be open and honest about what is not going so well and work together to identify how to get things back on track. Think of yourself as a coach, observing performance throughout the year and providing useful feedback to help performers understand and improve their performance. Don’t forget to compliment them on good performance and as they implement the things you have discussed.
Keep notes on your discussions and observations. By appraisal time, you will have supporting evidence for your evaluation and there should be no surprises.
Establish goals and performance expectations
You and your employees need to have the same clear understanding of what you expect from them and establish this understanding early in the performance cycle. Be as detailed as possible in describing what satisfactory and good performance look like.
If possible, engage your employees in helping to set their own performance goals and show them how their work supports and impacts the results for the group, department, and organization as a whole.
Observe and collect input
Encourage your employees to record progress on their goals and notes from your feedback sessions. As appraisal time nears, ask them to provide written input that you can consider during the evaluation process.
Consider other sources of input to get a well-rounded picture of your employee’s performance. Customers, team members, and matrix leaders may have insights into some aspects of your employees’ performance that you were not able to observe. Weigh all these in conjunction with your own observations to develop a complete picture with supporting evidence.
Use tools to evaluate performance
Job descriptions, written goals, lists of competencies and such will help you compare actual performance to an objective standard and assist you in avoiding bias and focusing on what matters most. Do your best to describe in objective terms what the employee has done well and what can improve.
Engage employees in the discussion
Try to create an open discussion where you both speak and listen. Approach the meeting with the mindset of you as coach providing feedback and working together with your employee to ensure future success.
Praise good performance and let the employee know how it positively impacted department or company objectives. For performance that needs improvement, use specific examples and brainstorm together strategies for the future, including what you can do to remove barriers and facilitate success. Keep your discussions focused on behavior and avoid assumptions about motivations. For example, if the employee is often late to meetings, point this out but stop short of adding, “I just don’t think you care about keeping us waiting.”
Include developmental ideas
Unless your employee’s performance is substandard, try to include a discussion about career goals and the competencies they will need to progress to the next level. Discuss development ideas and potential assignments to build competencies and lead toward the employee’s career goals.
Feedback is a gift, but most of us find it difficult to hear. Modeling openness and inviting feedback yourself is a good way to create a climate that inspires excellence. It will also help you improve your own managerial skills.
Becoming a good leader is a process and coaching for performance an essential element. Continually look for ways to do it better.