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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 October 15, 2019

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

Why we procrastinate after all

We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

So, is procrastination bad?

Yes it is.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

How bad procrastination can be

Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article:

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8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

Procrastination, a technical failure

Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

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