Learn the proper techniques to deliver evaluations to employees
Giving effective feedback and mindfulness go hand-in-hand. Everyone has had the negative experience of “getting yelled at” by a boss during evaluation time. Maybe your sales numbers were poor, or the quality of your service wasn’t up to snuff. One thing is for sure: a barrage of name-calling and screaming is not going to motivate you to do anything other than quit. Instilling fear is for poor leaders who cannot inspire.
From a leader’s perspective, it’s never fun to have difficult conversations with people about their performance. Effective leaders are also good teachers, so it’s crucial to be able to give cogent, useful feedback when it’s warranted. You also have to be mindful of others’ needs as part of the process. Keep reading to learn how.
- Be more sweet than bitter
No one wants to hear how bad they are all the time. It’s not only emotionally draining, but it is also degrading. It’s not fair to expect perfection as a minimum acceptable standard. However, no one says you can’t dispense bad news when it’s warranted.
All you have to do to be a better boss and leader is to give more positive feedback than negative feedback. Do your due diligence as a leader. Find the person’s good points and encourage those, rather than focusing solely on the bad. However, employees aren’t stupid. They know when they are being patronized. This brings us directly to the next step.
- Don’t lie…ever
No one wants the smarmy, false smiles and fake “You’re great, but…” comments. For someone to respect you, that person has to be able to rely on both the information you provide and your judgment. For that reason, it is essential that you remain authentic in every way. If you’re earnest, that will breed respect. If you are manipulative or untruthful, that will develop the exact opposite feelings. Remember, if you remain truthful, you never have to keep the lies straight.
- Excellence is better than good enough
Should you ignore mistakes? No, you shouldn’t. The focus of any feedback you give, however, should be leading the person you’re evaluating to think critically about how to improve on their own work. Teach the process of detecting mistakes and leave it to the person to correct them. This also creates a sense of empowerment and inspires the person to lead by example rather than simply being good enough.
- Speaking of excellence, be excellent yourself
What’s worse than getting a bad evaluation? That’s easy: getting a bad evaluation from a boss who doesn’t know the facts, is incompetent or both. It is the height of hypocrisy to hold your employees to an exacting standard while remaining slipshod yourself. It is as disrespectful as it is disingenuous. To be able to evaluate someone objectively, you have to know and understand the criteria by which you are evaluating that person. If you know your stuff, your employees will respect you as someone to trust and learn from, rather than someone who deserves only derision.
- Engender respect by making the employee part of the process
There will come a time when you have to deliver criticism. When that time arrives, involve the person in his or her own improvement. For example, instead of finger pointing and giving ultimatums on improvement, ask the person what you, as the teacher, can do to help him or her to improve.
Have a meeting and bring in colleagues to help brainstorm improvement strategies as a unit. By involving not only the person to whom you had to give negative feedback but also other members of the organization, you build trust and make a positive impact. If the people over whom you have authority trust you, they will also respect you. If you build both trust and respect in your employees, they will be more motivated to please you than if you browbeat them.
- Speak normally
Yelling or whispering is never effective. Both build only frustration. Don’t speak in a monotone either. You’re not a drill sergeant. You are definitely not “The Employee Whisperer.” Speak with authority. Project confidence without volume. You not only want people to trust you, but you also want them to trust what you say and teach.
- Breathe normally
What does breathing have to do with anything? If, for example, you are huffing and puffing like the Little Engine That Could, you aren’t projecting a relaxed posture. The person on the other side of the desk might surmise that you are angry, frustrated or even ill. Conversely, if all you do is sigh for no particular reason, you’re doing the equivalent of rolling your eyes. Do some deep breathing before the meeting. This will not only make you seem awake and alert, by oxygenating your blood, but it will also help you feel centered and calm when having a difficult conversation.
- Body language is important
Keep yourself open. Don’t slouch with your arms crossed. You don’t want people to think you’re cut off from them. Similarly, don’t sit there with your hands grasping the side of the table and leaning forward toward the other person. You don’t want to be domineering. You are already in a position of power because you’re the one giving the feedback. Acknowledge the other person when they speak. With your body language, project professionalism and respect to put the other person at ease.
Your face and eyes are part of your body too. Look your employee directly in the eye. If the news is going to be bad, do not be overly jovial in an effort to soften the blow. For example, don’t say something like, “Hey, how goes it today? You look great! You’re fired if you don’t get your numbers up, but let’s get a drink later,” followed by a big grin. Set a professional tone with your demeanor for whatever news you have to deliver.
- Pay attention
In an effective conversation of any kind, both parties have to know and remember the topic at hand and what the other person said. Listen actively. Take notes if it seems appropriate. Ask for clarity if an answer seems confusing. Be on the lookout for answers that the other person only thinks you want to hear. Don’t be afraid to call the person out if they are trying the so-called “baffling” strategy. Do acknowledge good points the other person makes, however, so you are having a back-and-forth discussion instead of giving a lecture.
- Follow the Golden Rule
Put yourself on the other side of the table. Think about how you would want to be treated. Then, treat the other person that way. That person’s livelihood may depend on what you say. Never be mean or vicious; neither is professional.
- Be there for your employees, should they need it
Even if all you have to do is complete a routine feedback session, the other person might need to open up to you about something. It might pertain to work, or it might have to do with the person’s personal life. If you have built trust, then you might be able to help your employee.
It is a great idea to treat feedback sessions as a time to connect with the people over whom you have authority. If you know them and they know you, it creates a better environment within the organization. Respect professional boundaries, but never be afraid to treat colleagues as friends in need of help.
One day, despite all this good advice, you might need help. If you find yourself in need of a hand, check out some of my other career and business blog posts for guidance.