Tag Archives: evaluation

The dreaded review!

h-WOMAN-TALKING-OFFICE-628x314A leader at one of our schools remarked that when done right, performance reviews can be energizing and uplifting but when done wrong they are demoralizing. It appears that the latter is what is happening in most organizations. David Ulrich, the Rensis Likert Professor of Business at the University of Michigan and the “Godfather of HR” just published an article in the  latest issue of Talent Quarterly titled “Resolving the Performance Management Paradox.” He cites that 90% of HR professionals are unhappy with their review system, only 14% of CEOs believe that the review system is working and only 8% of HR executives believe that performance management makes a contribution to the success of the organization. Yet, he also cites a long history of studies that clearly indicate that accountability makes a difference. In fact one study identified that just the presence of a performance review system is the greatest predictor of success for hospitals. What can a leader do?

Ulrich recommends that regardless of the process or forms used, leaders embrace conversations:  conversations focused on what he calls “positive accountability,” conversations emphasizing learning and improvement opportunities rather than evaluating what went wrong, and conversations primarily focused on the future rather than the past. He suggests that leaders look for opportunities to engage in “real time” conversations that are ongoing and revolve around work events (projects, semester start or finish, work cycle periods, annual milestones, etc.) Leaders should focus on asking questions to discover how employees can sustain success and prepare for the future and help their people look forward to apply what they have learned and address new opportunities or challenges that arise.

A simple conversational model for leaders to use with their performance review process includes the following three steps:

  • Know Yourself – ask about and discuss each person’s strengths, weaknesses, passions and interests.
  • Action for Growth – ideas and concrete action to leverage individual strengths and interests to support success and on-going development.
  • My Value – dialogue focused on the value that each employee provides to the work unit, institution, students, stakeholders or overall organization.

By focusing less on the process and more on the conversation we can make performance reviews a more uplifting experience.

Todd Thorsgaard



Just do it!

Ignore-me“It won’t happen again,” “I’m sure he has it under control now,” “She does everything else so well,” and “I hate having to talk about this.”

How often have you had this talk with yourself? I know I have and many leaders I work with have shared that they also dread having tough performance conversations. We avoid the issue, we over-analyze, we search for glimmers of improvement, we obsess and over-prepare. And what happens? The performance problem continues or gets worse!

To drive high performance we just need to dive in and have the conversation. While that is easier said then done, the “Two Minute Challenge” (from The Practical Coach distributed by Media Partners) is a straight-forward guide to start the conversation and initiate improvement.

The Two Minute Challenge asks you to follow these five steps, in order, without skipping one:

  1. State what you have observed – only the actual behavior or issue. Be specific but concise with no extra details, potential motives or personal assumptions.
  2. Wait for a response – make yourself stop. Do not charge forward with your ideas. This clarifies that they are responsible for taking action, not you.
  3. State or clarify the expected performance or goal – focus on the outcome desired not explanations or unrelated issues.
  4. Ask for a specific solution that will meet the expectation – what specifically will they do differently?
  5. Agree together on the solution – clarify what they will be doing and establish a shared understanding of next steps.

Following these five steps doesn’t make the conversation easy but it provides a structure that can help you take action sooner. Recently a dean at one of our schools shared that he had been planning and planning a performance conversation with a faculty member and not actually having it. After I shared the two minute challenge with him he scheduled the meeting, followed the steps and agreed with the faculty member on a plan of action. It wasn’t the favorite part of his day but it was productive and started the ball rolling!

Most of us will never enjoy having tough performance conversations but the Two Minute Challenge can kick-start the action needed for a productive outcome. Give it a try when you hear yourself hoping the issue will go away.

Todd Thorsgaard

2 + 2 = ??

puzzled lookIt isn’t a trick question. But the answer can solve two of your biggest challenges: not having enough time in your day and driving high performance. How, you may ask?

Try 2 + 2 Coaching, a concept described by Marc Effron of the Talent Strategy Group in his article, The Hard Truth About Effective Performance Management.”  Effron, somewhat harshly, encourages leaders to radically simplify how they lead their people and to narrow their focus to what really works. Clear, direct feedback on progress against important goals“while taking the least amount of managerial time!”

To do 2 + 2 Coaching you:

  • Have one 15 minute conversation each quarter with each of your direct reports
  • Make two comments on the employee’s progress against their goals
  • Make two suggestions for what the employee should do more of or less of in the future

No more, no less! You can watch Effron describe 2 + 2 Coaching here.

Solving the equation 2 + 2 =  ?? with coaching will help you drive high performance and accountability.

Todd Thorsgaard

Did it work?

“Did it work?” looks like a simple question to answer but when dealing with people and change there are no easy answers. In fact, there is usually more than one answer, and it takes a lot of work to unearth them!  digging-a-hole

Evaluating the overall results of your change effort starts with digging deep to identify and document what each stakeholder group finds important and learn their definition of success. For those of us in higher education success can be defined as increased enrollment, student learning, decreased student debt, program sustainability, fiscal viability, community engagement, graduation rate, student completion, faculty engagement, student engagement, and on and on.

Recently I discovered the work of an international group of experts in the field of evaluation. They can help you focus your evaluation and determine what is most important to all of your stakeholders. Managing the evaluation process provides a set of resources and tools you can use to involve and engage your stakeholders during your evaluation planning, implementation and communication. Stakeholder engagement helps you:

  • provide credible and useful evaluation information
  • collect high quality data
  • understand and interpret evaluation data
  • build knowledge about the value of evaluation
  • facilitate the use and dissemination of your results

You can find more information on their website, Better Evaluation.

Engaging your stakeholders in your evaluation process clarifies what will count as success and helps you answer each stakeholder when they ask you, “did it work?”

Todd Thorsgaard


Do we really mean it?

I got zapped a few weeks ago! I was facilitating a day long program and I had assurances that my participants could park in the adjoining lot and we would not be tagged. Look what we found on our cars at the end of the day. tickets2Oops, I guess the change in ticketing policy wasn’t backed up by a change in procedure for the parking attendant that was on duty that day. We all did what we thought we were supposed to do but we paid a price, literally!

A powerful way for leaders to evaluate whether a change effort has actually led to successful change is to examine your organizational policies and procedures. Have they been changed to aligned with the new normal? Do they reflect your new values and expected behaviors and reinforce desired performance?  Or do they make it hard for your people to “do the right thing?”

The nuts and bolts of daily activity are guided by the formal infrastructure you create. Your policies, procedures, handbooks, training programs, recognition programs and other guidelines are concrete examples of your culture. While culture can be hard to measure, policies are “black and white” and provide a clear picture of success or failure.

Don’t ticket your people for doing the right thing! Tickets1

Todd Thorsgaard



Pause and reflect…

reflection“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.” – Margaret J. Wheatley

Building in time to pause and reflect is an essential part of evaluating results of any change effort. While a large change effort may require creating multiple feedback loops to assess its impact and establishing key metrics to assess return on investment, simpler efforts or projects can benefit from just some time set aside for reflection. Evaluating results can sometimes be as easy as asking yourself and your team:

  1. What went well?
  2. What didn’t go so well?
  3. What can be improved?

I’ve found that these three questions keep me focused on how well we are accomplishing our goals and any improvements that should be made to sustain a change effort.  It also ensures that we don’t just continue blindly on our way, but that we achieve something useful.

What have you done recently to pause and reflect?

Anita Rios


Evaluate results!

“One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results”   –  Milton Friedman

resultsThe same is true of any change effort. It’s easy to be committed to (and even fall in love with) the intent of a change effort, but it’s incumbent upon leaders to hold themselves and others accountable by evaluating actual results. What has changed or improved?

This year we have been blogging about the phases of leading change. During November, Todd, Dee Anne, and I will focus on the last phase of change: evaluate results. We’ll cover methods to evaluate results, such as measuring return on investment and assessing stakeholder satisfaction. We’ll also discuss why it is important to evaluate results and who should be involved in the process. And we’ll explore ways to communicate those results in ways that continue to reinforce the change and make it part of your organization’s DNA.

We hope you will join in the conversation this month to share some of your evaluation strategies, along with your successes and challenges.

Anita Rios