I worked in a union environment where compensation was automatic and not tied to performance. A number of my direct reports shared with me that prior managers of my department rarely performed annual evaluations. Most assumed it was because they were not tied to compensation. I realized that this meant a number of people on my staff had not been regularly informed how their supervisor thought they were performing, nor were they having annual measurable goals set for them. I set out to change this by reinstating the performance review and letting people know where their strengths and weaknesses stood with me. I also invited them to help me set measurable goals for them to achieve over the course of the next year.
The evaluations I provided were frank and honest and provided specific examples of their triumphs and trials. It is important to include both praise and observation in what people do well as well as where they struggle. It shows them that you are aware of their work in good times and bad. All too often people feel as if their bosses don’t know what they do. I made a point to make electronic notes on my personal calendar under the name of each direct reports sort of a “Sainted &Tainted” bulletin board of their yearly performance. So not only did I give examples of successes, I could even provide the dates. For poor performance, this also allowed me to know whether they had a pattern for a certain behavior all year or if it was just a fluke. When it comes to the good, include it all is my view. When it comes to the bad, I only include the troubling patterns and let the flukes go. This was my Mary Poppins approach; I found “a spoonful of sugar” really did help the medicine go down. To my surprise not only was this effective, it actually helped me turn lower producers into top performers. First, they knew I was watching. Secondly, they intrinsically wanted that sainted list to be long and the tainted list to shrink. Last and most importantly, at the end of the review, I would ask them to help me write their goals for the next year. I knew that even if they didn’t mind letting me down, they might think a little harder about letting themselves down.