More than ever, you need to take these factors into account when evaluating employees.
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6 min read
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"It starts with an I and ends with an E," my manager once said to me. "Initiative. You have to show more initiative."
One of my first jobs outside of college was an assistant. Although I was a hard worker, a doer, and someone who (I thought) had already taken initiative, once I got that feedback, I made an effort to correct the course. I did everything I could to take even more initiative.
I got in early and stayed a long time. I was there before my manager arrived and stayed after he left. I always checked in what he needed. I figured out when he would need hard copy for meetings, got him coffee when I expected he would need it, and saved the time on his calendar. I was always looking for ways to make his life and that of the team easier.
No matter what I did, my manager was convinced that I was not showing any initiative. It was a story he had already told himself about my performance. He ignored the times when I showed initiative. He looked for times when I showed no initiative to support his story about my performance. And he was determined – I wasn't someone who showed the level of initiative he expected. There was nothing I could do to change his mind about myself or my performance.
As leaders, we must constantly monitor and review our unconscious biases as we work to evaluate our team members, including. Here are seven ways to test your biases when evaluating your teams to ensure they are getting the most balanced view of their performance that you can:
1. Find quiet space and time to evaluate team members' performance
Our prejudices arise when we are multitasking or in stressful situations. Take the time and space to evaluate team members. Block your calendar, finish your email, and turn off your phone. As managers, we often forget everything our team members have achieved. Take the time to go through the goals, emails, and notes you set. Be fact based when reviewing their experiences, projects, and initiatives taken in reviewing their performance.
2. Check for any distortion and check again
You believe that your team member is a superstar and should be promoted immediately. Or they never come up with solutions to problems and expect you to fix everything. You never meet the deadlines in time. Or they always exceed expectations and consistently go beyond that. Question and challenge the story you tell yourself about your performance. Can someone be amazing all the time? Can someone be terrible all the time? Be balanced and fair. Catch yourself using vague words to describe your job. Look at all of the facts over the time you have worked together.
3. Ask your team for a self-assessment
It is important that you ask your team members to provide a self-assessment of their past performance. This is an important part of evaluating talent. You may find that you have the same view of performance or that you have very different views. Make sure you also ask your team members to provide evidence-based examples that are tied to the results they have achieved. It is important to have this input as you will also be attending executive team meetings to assess overall talent.
4. Ask colleagues how their team members are doing
It's important to ask other colleagues how your team is doing. If your organization offers your team the opportunity to get 360-degree feedback, this may be a good time to take advantage of it. Otherwise, you can ask standard questions that you can ask everyone via either email or video. Make sure you document the facts regarding their performance. Remember to level off incredibly negative feedback about your team member and focus on evidence-based examples.
5. With confidence and respect, create bias when discussing talent with other leaders
"That's a really biased statement and I'm not sure why you just said that," is not a helpful response. Continuing to have honest and courageous conversations as a leadership team when assessing talent affects any psychological security. When you hear language like, "He's socially awkward" and "She doesn't seem so involved since becoming a mother," you should express those prejudices with confidence and respect. Use language like "Help me understand" or "Tell me more about what you mean". Train with open-ended questions, ask for specific examples and help other executives unpack and see what prejudices they might have when evaluating team members.
6. Be open and receptive when other leaders express your prejudices
Even after we've done the job, we may still have prejudices that we don't realize when we step into this discussion. For many of us, it is human to be defensive when someone points out a mistake or a mistake we have made. If you say that someone on your team is consistently late and others question or counter your examples, take a deep breath and take a break. Listen to the evidence other leaders give you. Here is one way to reply: "Thank you for challenging me and bringing these examples to my attention. I hadn't considered these points before and I appreciate your broadening my perspective."
7. Give team members timely feedback based on fact and performance
After a talent calibration session, take the time to process the discussions that have arisen and the decisions made. Is this team member ready for a promotion? Do they need to take an analysis course to improve their quantitative skills? Is there an opportunity that has been identified i.e. H. Another rotation on sale?
Failure to receive timely, quality, actionable feedback can wreak havoc on your career over time. Be the best trainer you can be to help your team members continue to focus on their strengths and address their areas of opportunity.