Evaluations that Bring Out the Best in People: 5 Experts Weigh In

Evaluation2What would it take for employee evaluations to bring out the best in people?

Deep down, we all realize that the process of evaluation is full of possibilities, yet it often falls short of what it could be.

In preparing for a discussion on this topic at Creating the Future’s November board meeting, we asked several experts to consider that question. Here’s what they shared with us.

  • Ideally, the individual will have ownership over defining what will be evaluated. In this spirit, Gayle Gifford shared  the story of a group that is involving the staff in developing the performance evaluation system they will use. Staff are being asked what they hope to learn as part of their annual evaluation and are co-designing the questions with those who will be conducting the evaluation.
  • Patrick Jinks noted, “I have found staff evaluation to be the best when it is part of the continual, year-round coaching process. If a manager is a good coach, there will be no surprises at the formal, annual appraisal. Furthermore, they will more often be positive ones, because the important things are being developed as the year goes on.”
  • Isaac Shalev shared that in his experience as a manager, “Thinking in sports terms, a great coach needs to win even without all-stars at every position. You’ve got to be able to bring out good performances from average personnel, and you’ve got to know when to let people go, and when to hold on to them – and often performance is only half the story. The work environment and how people fit into it plays a big role in those decisions too.”
  • At times when a coaching approach may not be effective, Patrick Jinks advised the ERGO approach: clarify the Expectations, acknowledge the current Reality, identify the Gaps, and assess Options (which could include termination).
  • Angie Coleman Whitley suggested that evaluation be tied to specific competencies and objectives that are derived from the job description.

From there, Creating the Future’s board began a discussion they will be continuing at their December board meeting (subscribe to our Walking the Talk blog to watch that meeting and tweet your own thoughts!):

  • Rather than being short-term and focused on problems or shortcomings (policing), a performance evaluation that empowers people would be focused on what they do well and how others on the team can support them to do more of that (nurturing). The purpose would then be to create clarity around what each individual is striving to achieve and then mutually agree upon what can be done – together with others in the organization – to position them to do their best work.
  • The process would allow people to reflect on where they have been and where they are and then empower them to decide what they would like to achieve. 
  • The evaluation process creates the opportunity to align the individual’s goals and values with those of the organization, and to create the conditions under which each person can step into his/her potential.

In her reflections at the end of Creating the Future’s board meeting, Maria Turnbull (a participating guest at the meeting), shared that she is excited to consider how her organization can create an environment where everyone looks forward to performance evaluations, feeling empowered and excited about having such an opportunity to reflect.  “That would shift the conversation in a really positive way!”

We hope that you are similarly motivated and energized to ask these questions at your own workplace. And please share your own experiences with us here!

  • What is the best evaluation you’ve ever had?
  • What made it the best?
  • What did that evaluation do to bring out the best in you?

3 thoughts on “Evaluations that Bring Out the Best in People: 5 Experts Weigh In”

  1. I love Gayle’s approach. A few years ago I was hired by an organization to work with a team chosen by the entire staff to redefine their performance management system. The result was a great product that everyone bought into because their input was heard and they were confident that the co-workers they chose to represent them incorporated their needs/desires into the process. The ED got a system that was usable and approachable and the staff got a system that helped them to think about their goals and how they intersected with the mission of the agency. Win win all around.


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