How to Make a Habit of Evaluating

Word Nerd Alert! As I like to say, “The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.” According to Webster’s Online Dictionary, “Evaluate” means    1. To determine or fix the value of
2. To determine the significance, worth, or condition of, usually by careful appraisal or study.

I want to drill in a little bit more. One of the definitions of “Value” as a verb is “to rate or scale in usefulness, importance, or general worth.”

Putting these definitions together gives a pretty clear understanding of what most organizations mean by an annual evaluation. The boss, it is understood, has done an appraisal of the significance, importance, and general worth of the employee’s work and has rated it. S/he then shares that information with the employee. There are usually goals involved and often annual raises are tied to the evaluation.

If that’s all you do with your team you’ve missed a huge opportunity to engage them. That approach to evaluating turns the annual evaluation into something you have to sit through to find out if you’re getting a raise. There’s no engagement there.

Putting it to Work

Check out the Engager Dynamic called Evaluate where I talk about some specifics on how to conduct an evaluation. For this post I want to summarize a few key points.

  1. More Frequent than Annual – Remember when you were in High School and you received a Progress Report before the final Report Card came out? That Progress Report let you know how you were doing and gave you a chance to either continue your present habits or course correct before the grades that counted came out. Do the same for your employees. Give them at least quarterly progress reports.
  2. Connect to Purpose – the value of anyone’s work is measured in how it helps the team and/or organization achieve its purpose. Be sure you always connect the employee’s work to the value it brings to the organization.
  3. Focus on Improvement – In the Leadership Matrix, Evaluate is a Challenge Dynamic. This is a chance to tap the employee’s Drive to Mastery by giving them some coaching tips on how to improve their performance.

Making it a Habit

Try thinking of yourself as a coach. Coaches give players instructions and tips on how to improve their performance. Here are a couple ideas to help make Coaching (Evaluation) a habit.

  1. Daily – Put it in your calendar to walk around and observe people at work for the express purpose of catching them doing something right. When you do, let them know it. Stop them and privately tell them specifically what they did, how it helps the team/organization purpose and then thank them. After you’ve established the daily habit you can start to use this time to help people improve as well. If you notice something that doesn’t align with the purpose, privately remind them of the purpose and give them a tip on how to do that task in a way that is better aligned with it.
  2. Weekly – Let your team know that you will be observing them from time to time. Once a week put it on your calendar to observe a team member perform an entire process of their work. Afterward, ask them what went well. Then ask them what they would do differently next time. Affirm what you observed and add your own pointers. Remember, always tie coaching to purpose.
  3. Monthly – Once per month, invite a team member in for a brief coaching chat. Remind them of the purpose and expectations of the organization. Use this time to reinforce your best people in their behavior or to help realign those who are struggling.

Tip – If you take notes on all these conversations you will have created a great tool for doing your quarterly progress reports and the annual evaluation. Not only that, but you will have engaged your team by keeping them focused on the purpose and on continuously getting better at what they do.

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