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How to Give a Killer Evaluation

How to Give a Killer Evaluation
Meeting Room

Ever gone into a performance review, had to deliver a speech or make a sales pitch and become more concerned about what the reviewer was going to say or write than what was in the presentation? It can be like going to the dentist for a root canal. This is a tough area, but it can be even more difficult for whoever is doing the evaluation.

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A badly done evaluation can cause the following undesirable outcomes:

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  • the person quits, leaves, walks out or throws coffee in your face.
  • the review becomes an demotivator for future presentations.
  • a friend becomes an enemy. An evaluation reflects on the evaluator as much as it does the person who is receiving it.

A good or great evaluation should do the following:

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  • inspire the person receiving it to new heights.
  • give the recipient specific information that can be used constructively.
  • encourage the person to seek additional input and evaluation.
  • maintain the person’s respect and build your relationship based on trust.

The “sandwich technique” is a simple strategy widely used in Toastmasters International, the world’s leading organization dedicated to helping people improve their communication and leadership skills. It can be used to give a killer evaluation that will leave the recipient in a positive state. The technique simply involves starting the evaluation by mentioning some positive aspects, followed by a couple of specific suggestions for improvement and ending with some positive comments. Better yet, end it with an positive overall impression. For example, “Betty, you had a great smile and engaged the audience well. People connected with you. I noticed though that you were taking too much time going into the discussion about product features, rather then the benefits they would be getting. But they got a lot from the customer examples you gave and the presentation didn’t get bogged down and run too long. Your passion came through great. Good luck on the closing session tomorrow.”

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As an evaluator, here are some tips that work well with evaluations:

  • Know the objectives of the performance, whether it is a speech, sales presentation or job review.
  • Don’t be a critic. This isn’t a movie. This is part of a process of building up team members. Nor is it about passing or failing – leave that in school. Act like a coach, not like a judge.
  • It is not about you, it is about the person receiving the feedback. Sometimes, especially when evaluations are not done one on one, the evaluator can lose sight of the presenter and take tangents. Going off on an inspirational, preachy rant is not going to be as helpful as giving the presenter or team member specific constructive feedback.
  • Keep it simple. Figure out which areas to emphasize and which to leave out. The guts of the most evaluations can be broken into three areas: a) content, b) organization, c) delivery. For an after dinner speech, during drinks, content usually doesn’t matter since people just want to be entertained. Not true for a technical presentation. Organization becomes critical where time constraints are tight.
  • Prioritize and comment only on a couple main points. Like the farmer who has a truckload of feed for when the cows come home at night. If only one shows up, don’t give her the whole load!
  • Create a simple evaluation form. A blank sheet of paper works well in a pinch. A single sheet of notes broken into parts with the top third being some positive specific comments, the middle third being one or two specific suggestions for improvement and the bottom third for overall positive impression and maybe a closing comment. This can help focus the discussion and also can be something the person can take away from the review for later consideration. It does not need to be like those multi-point checkbox things they use for government inspections.
  • Do not give a “whitewash” evaluation. Avoiding candor hurts more than it helps. Being honest and direct adds value. If the presentation is a bomb or if you are going to fire the person, it does not help either party to give a falsely positive evaluation. There can still be positive aspects but if the overall outcome was below par, don’t hide that fact.
  • Practice, practice, practice. If you need a forum, an easy one is one of the local Toastmasters clubs. There are also courses available. An killer evaluation should not take a long time. Three to five minutes is enough for an evaluation of a stage performance and should be given as soon as possible after the performance ends. It should not come after things have been forgotten. For a sales presentation, it often becomes a little more involved depending on the particular circumstances. It can be done in a quick 5 to 10 minute session, or over a long lunch if the sale did not close after months of work on it. Job performance reviews should be done in a pre-determined amount of time that you stick with whether it be 15 minutes, an hour or whatever. The evaluation component should be a certain pre-determined percentage of if it. The remainder used for setting performance targets, etc.

If you are not sure how well you are doing in your evaluations, get an evaluator to evaluate your evaluation. Then ask yourself, would you want to go through that again? If you are consistently receiving bad evaluations from someone, print out this article, highlight the relevant portions and send it to the offender with a polite indication you are giving feedback because you care about the process. We would love to receive an evaluation on our evaluation article! Please post comments and share your experiences giving and receiving evaluations (the good, the bad and the ugly).

Peter Paul Roosen and Tatsuya Nakagawa are co-founders of Atomica Creative Group, a specialized strategic product marketing firm. Through leading edge insight and research, sound strategic planning and effective project management, Atomica helps companies achieve greater success in bringing new products to market and in improving their existing businesses. They have co-authored Overcoming Inventoritis: Happy About® Not flushing Away Your Innovation Dollars now available.

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Last Updated on April 8, 2019

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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  1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
  2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
  3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
  4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
  5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
  6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
  7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
  8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
  9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
  10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
  11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
  12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
  13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
  14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
  15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
  16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
  17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
  18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
  19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
  20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
  21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
  22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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