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I was reviewing some notes from a book that I found to be inspirational. Alan Weiss wrote a book called Thrive! Stop Wishing Your Life Away. I think one of his tips is particularly valuable and makes an excellent tip for evaluating employees.
According to Alan “We all grow by exploiting STRENGTHS not by correcting weaknesses.” I found that statement to be very powerful. In a performance review we often focus on what needs to be corrected as opposed to focusing on how we can help someone use their strengths to their best advantage. So the next time you are talking to someone about performance spend more time on what they did well and less time on what they did poorly.
One of the reasons you don’t need to spend a whole lot of time on what was done poorly is that if you have been doing correct performance management you will have corrected what the employee is doing wrong long before you are ever doing an official performance evaluation. It is unfair to the employee to wait until the end of the year to correct behavior and it is stupid management. Do you really want to suffer the effects of poor performance and poor behavior just because you have not taken the time to make corrections on the fly? By the time you get to “THE” performance evaluation there should be NO surprises.
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In the same vein you should be constantly focus on what is being done correctly. Reinforcement theory teaches us that to perpetuate behaviors you need to reward behaviors. Reward in this sense doesn’t mean you need to throw money at the employee, although that is occasionally a good tactic. It means that you pay attention to the desired behavior and performance and praise and note it. Sincere praise has been found to be a very strong reward for many employees. I have seen it in action a number of times and it works very well.
By the way, that same tip applies to your own personal assessment of yourself. Rather than beat yourself up on what you are doing wrong focus your self-assessment on what you are doing right. You will be happy with the impact that change has on your personal performance. I occasionally get down on my own performance and I have a tendency to criticize myself. I find that kicking myself in the butt for bad performance does not work nearly as well as feeling like I have done a good job.
So try it sometime with both your employees and yourself, you may be pleased with the results.