- Posted by Dennis Morris
- On April 15, 2017
- 0 Comments
Not long ago, I was consulting with a manager, Jennifer. She was preparing annual evaluations for her employees. As we walked through her strategy to meet with her nine reports it became crystal clear to both of us that her employees were in for lots of big surprises. Unfortunately, these surprises were not about what the employees had done right. The surprises Jennifer had in mind would keep you up at night, create enemies and hate mail, demoralize her team and result in complaints to HR. It wasn’t about the content of her feedback. It all came down to timing.
In her day-to-day operations, Jennifer was great a doling out praise to her team. But she withered and seemed to lose her voice when it came time to holding reports accountable. She found it difficult to make suggestions to them about how to improve their performance. She could not lead a critical conversation about when they were on the wrong track or have a straightforward talk about adjustments they could make to enhance their game.
Jennifer’s not alone. Most leaders, including me when I was a VP of Clinical Programs, loathe the dreaded season of evaluations. Evaluations are time consuming, not much fun, and stressful. Some managers put them off and fall months behind. Others skip them altogether. Many do their best to avoid giving any controversial feedback and gloss over performance problems. On the other hand there are managers who use annual evaluations to beat-up employees for age old performance issues they didn’t address when they first occurred. No one wants to hear about what they did wrong or failed to do or six month ago. When that happens employees typically ask, “Why didn’t you tell me that six months ago?”“She Is Not Alone – Unfortunately”
Leading is about consistently searching for opportunities to coach employees to improve their skills, knowledge, and expertise. Leaders are teachers. That means taking the risk to engage in nurturing and complicated discussions about performance problems. There’s no way a leader will help people grow without challenging them to do their best. Having one discussion a year about anyone’s performance is unproductive, silly, hurtful, and ultimately demoralizing. Imagine if a pitching coach told his pitchers once a year how to improve.
I suggested she use the evaluation conversations this year to help employees reflect on their strengths and performance improvements by asking Reflective Questions. Reflective Questions open the door to valuable and soul searching discussions. They build partnerships between managers and reports and create a platform for meaningful and transformational discussions.
“Questions Which Must Be Asked Often – The Answers to Which Must be Immediately Addressed”
We agreed she would start with five questions. There are other excellent Reflective Questions but for her first run five were more than enough.
Jennifer’s Reflective Questions
1. What are you most proud of?
2. What would you like to do more of?
3. How can I help you achieve your goals?
4. What would you like to improve?
5. What do you want to contribute to our team’s success?
The Reflective Questions revolutionized an unpleasant task. They promoted powerful and thoughtful dialogues that helped Jennifer and her team members establish performance and professional development goals they could review throughout the year. The goal for Jennifer was to make Reflective Questions a normal part of conversations with her reports to coach her team member and not wait another year to ask her team member questions about their accomplishments and setbacks.
Try using a few Reflective Questions tomorrow in conversations with those you supervise. You may find that asking the right questions throughout the year will obviate any need to ask them during a formal performance evaluation.