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How to prep for evaluating a direct report
How to prep for evaluating a direct report
Updated over a week ago

This article aims helping you prepare for the moment of evaluating your direct reports. After all, being a leader requires a lot of training, isn’t it? ;)

First of all: Understand the managerial position

A manager’s position is quite challenging, because it requires changing your mindset intensely. It means stopping being someone who does things on your own in order to become someone who achieves results through others. 

It asks of you to change the way you communicate, and allocate your time. Therefore, it demands of you learning how to develop, align and recognize people.

A few tips to help you in all steps of a team evaluation process:

Always establish meaning, and communicate it: "Where are we going?"

This can be done through goals, alignment in meetings, and 1: 1s. Set priorities, communicate it, and be clear about the direction the team is heading.

Build a team: Envolve people

Ensure that everyone be heard and feel understood. Encourage collaboration, trust, and healthy divergences.

Structure processes: “How are we going?”
Design the process, establish communication channels, clarify role expectations, set the pace, and give feedback.

These three steps should always be in a leader’s mind. Think:

  • Without communication, how would the team be?

  • Without engagement, how would the work environment be?

  • Without processes, how would the company get anywhere?

Agreed? So let's go!

1. Understand how evaluation is done at your company

It is important that you understand the evaluation model of your firm. For instance: what type of criteria will be taken into account? What questions will be asked about employees? What is the meaning of each grade? Whether it is an evaluation of qualitative questions and/or quantitative ones etc.

Understanding the evaluation structure and its logic will make you comfortable. Don’t be afraid to your HR department any questions. It’s a part of the game :) 

2. Give feedback regularly throughout the year

One way to make the evaluation process painless is eliminating surprises. Employees need positive and constructive feedbacks on a regular basis to make it effective. It needs to be timely delivered, as quickly as possible, after an outcome or behavior. 

Of course, constructive feedback can hurt a little, but it's a lot less painful than getting it all at the same time. Assessment is NOT the time to address serious performance issues for the first time. 

Managers need to learn how to recognize, diagnose, and discuss performance problems all year long.

3. Keep track of performance related documents

One of the most difficult parts of prepping for an evaluation is trying to remember everything that has happened over the years. When managers don’t keep track of their direct reports’ performances and behavioral patterns, they tend to ground their reviews on recent memory.

A simple way of avoiding this issue is documenting performance reports, bad and good behavioral examples, customer’s feedback, attendance records, and anything else related to the company’s expectations and performance goals. Easy peasy :)

4. Be aware of what may cloud your judgment 

There are some biases that may keep us from completing an evaluation impartially, if kept unnoticed:

Halo bias:

It happens when your overall appreciation of someone’s work (be it positive or negative) clouds your judgment to evidence that eventually points against your perception.

Example: Robert, a financial analyst, has had two terrible years, but in the last six months he is doing great. It would be good not letting previous considerations of his work overshadow the excellent improvement he has had.

Recency bias:

When we give more importance to evidence that happened recently than to evidence that happened further ago, we are being affected by recency bias. 

Example: Lucas, a project manager, had excellent projects in the first three quarters of the year, but fell flat in the last one. It would be fairer to avoid erasing his positive average because of his current failure. 

Mean orientation bias:

Sometimes we avoid evaluating people with awful or great grades, even if they really deserve it, preferring ratings around the mean. 

Example: Rating Paul, a CS specialist, as “below average” when indeed he affected negatively the performance of the whole group, thus deserving to be given a "far below average" grade. 

Theses biases do cloud us, don’t they? So let’s bear them in mind to avoid them :)

5. Get feedback from others

Although a manager is the best person to evaluate an employee's performance, it is also useful to ask feedback from clients, co-workers, and other managers.

This can be done on a regular and informal basis, or more formally. This feedback should be used to put together your evaluation, but be careful about skewed opinions, always ask for examples of what is being praised or criticized.

6. Ask your direct reports for feedback 

Discuss development points throughout the year, and ask for feedback. The employee may have information that you are not aware of, and at least you can clarify early opinions of any blind spots you and/or others may have.

7. Prepare yourself with examples

If possible, provide examples in an objective and measurable way. For behavioral comments, try to provide specific examples for each competency.

When a manager follows these preparation tips, filling out the evaluation should only be a summary of everything that she has already been discussed throughout the year. The focus is to set expectations and goals for the coming year.

Keep these points in mind, and be able to evaluate your direct reports and colleagues more accurately. 

Any doubts? Feel free to reach us via email or chatbox. See you :)

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