Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Evaluations Have to Be Consistent with Leadership’s Overall Direction

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As organizations shift and adapt to forces of change, leaders must also evolve their personal methods—including how they evaluate their employees’ performance. Evaluations have to be consistent with leadership’s overall direction as well as the motivational methods employed by other individual leaders. They should enhance, not undermine, the progress of the organization.

There is a sizeable gulf between leaders who build empowered organizations and those who employ more traditional and antiquated evaluative methods. This has resulted in a source of conflict causing internal dissention and personal rifts that run counter to the goals of the leader and the organization.

As organizations evolve, new methods of performance evaluation must be designed and incorporated so that employees feel they “are” the organization. When this is achieved, employees will both better understand what it will take to accomplish goals and be more inspired to work toward them.

Thus performance evaluation methods need to adapt with the organization to involve rather than alienate the individual employee. Rather than focus on past mistakes and failures, the evaluation moves the organization forward through the development and increased competence of its individual members. In this manner growth is enhanced and ongoing.

Traditional performance evaluation methods typically measure individual employees’ performance based on a rigid set of standards and parameters. These are used to evaluate their work against a job description rather than gauging the employee’s involvement, contribution and personal growth as factors in the larger picture of achieving the organization’s goals and objectives. With this in mind, leaders must look at the method by which they evaluate employee performance, and ensure it is designed to:

Bridge Performance

In an empowered organization, employees cannot be simply evaluated upon whether or not they are working within the parameters of a specific job description. As the organization becomes increasingly empowered and evolves in the use of workgroups and teams, job descriptions become increasingly irrelevant evaluative tools. Performance increasingly shifts away from the individual and to the group or team as employees work toward mutual goals as defined by the shared vision.

In this light, leaders must evaluate the performance of the organization he or she directs and determine how well the individual employee fits into the overall picture. All performance is interconnected; an individual is either a strong or weak link in the entire process. They are evaluated according to how well they work within this environment. Leaders must use the evaluative process to make the individual employee’s work more meaningful by expanding their understanding of how they fit into the organization and how their job can lead to personal self-improvement.

Evaluate Employee Contributions

Rather than evaluate individual employee’s performance against a specific job assignment, leaders must view it in the context of their contribution to the entire organization. In this regard, leaders demonstrate to employees in a very real way that their ideas, insights and personal contributions are both valued and needed if the organization is to succeed.

As empowerment deepens in the organizational environment, a synergy develops within each unit that leads to organizational cohesiveness. Once developed, leaders can easily evaluate how well the individual works and operates within this environment and whether they adapt to or fight the transition.

Provide Guidance for Growth

Rather than focus on past performance, leaders should use the counseling process to give their employees guidance in developing their individual capabilities. This is designed to provide individuals with a road toward increased competence, personal growth and satisfaction. The focus should be on future development and direction that contributes to increased overall levels of productivity required by the organization. In this context, employees understand what is expected of them as they contribute to the future success of the organization.

Increase Personal Involvement

In empowered organizations, the performance evaluation is not an “us against them” proposition, but a process where employees are involved in the improvement of their own performance. The ratings and conflict associated with traditional performance evaluations should be reduced if not eliminated as employees feel an increase in freedom and self-determination through meaningful involvement in their evaluation.

When the focus of the evaluation shifts to the performance of the organization and the employee’s contribution toward the accomplishment of mutual goals and objectives, it becomes clear to most what is needed to improve. This is different than focusing on the faults and problems associated with individual performance.

Individuals want to be part of something bigger, and will work harder toward the attainment of a mutual goal. This is clearly demonstrated when sports teams comprised of average players are able to win championships over more talented teams. The mutual goal of the organization brings out the best in each individual when he or she works with the team. Strong synergy and cohesiveness spurring individual performance on to greater heights is not just a sports phenomenon: it can take effect in any organization.

Related:

When Evaluating Performance Consider the Intangibles

Focusing Your Employees on Future Performance

Should Accountability Be a Primary Priority?

Excerpt: Strengthening Leadership Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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4 Responses

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  1. This is a great post and an eye-opener to me as a business owner. When I begin to take on contractors or employees, I want to keep in mind this company culture and focus on creating a sense of empowerment early on. I definitely want to surround myself with independent thinkers and people can solve problems without my micro-managing. This post gives me a good starting point.

    Stephanie Shirley

    February 1, 2013 at 7:33 am

  2. […] As organizations shift and adapt to forces of change, leaders must also evolve their personal methods—including how they evaluate their employees’ performance. Evaluations have to be consistent wit…  […]

  3. I agree with Stephanie Shirley! This is a great post and can be an eye-opener for those who have to jump into a new world of performance evaluation especially where there is a high level of personal empowerment in the organization. Bravo! for calling this out so clearly Dr. Bednarz. I coach everyone of my clients to “own” their performance evaluation on-going instead of waiting for what some consider to be the “dreaded and mostly useless” yearly review. By using three Personal Accountability tools they can keep a relevant, experience-based scenario of their growth and development that does not threaten the process or evaluation method the organization chooses to use. The three tools are Clear Agreement, the Looking Back Worksheet, and The Problem-Solving Worksheet. Two of these are found in The Accountability Experience published by Pfeiffer and the third is a worksheet I’d be happy to provide (email me).

    There were many, many points to agree with in this article but this one in particular was, in my opinion, at the heart of it – with a little edit : ) …
    “The focus should [MUST BE] be on future development and direction that contributes to increased overall levels of productivity required by the organization. In this context, employees understand what is expected of them as they contribute to the future success of the organization.”

    Linda Galindo

    February 3, 2013 at 12:57 pm

  4. Timothy, I very much like this idea of shifting how leaders evaluate. In the complexity of modern work there are few employees who can be evaluated against a specific assignment. You are quite right that people must contribute to overall company success. The only thing I’d add – when evaluating overall contribution, it’s crucial to be specific with feedback. Saying you did a great job helps nobody. Rather, “I liked what you did on project A and project B but can you watch the quality of task force C” is specific and sets the next challenge for future growth.

    Ara Ohanian

    February 4, 2013 at 6:59 am


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