Employee Performance

Chain of Events for Obtaining Employee Feedback for their Evaluation

18 Apr
by Bridget DiCello

Here is the chain of events:

  1. You give them an evaluation form with a deadline of 48 hours to enter their input.  Encourage them to point out their own specific successes to take credit for them!
  2. You draft your evaluation feedback.
  3. They turn in their evaluation with specific examples of successes, and situations that did not go so well.
  4. They pinpoint two areas where they would like to focus on improving over the next year.
  5. You compare their input and your feedback and add their input to your form (the official one) as needed, becoming aware of where you might disagree significantly with the employee.
  6. You deliver their feedback using your copy, and file their self evaluation feedback in their file.

Top 5 Criteria for Great Performance Evaluations

17 Apr
by Bridget DiCello
  1. Use a form that makes sense.
  2. Require employee input for their professional development.
  3. Document very specific examples.
  4. Use metrics to support your feedback.
  5. Obtain commitment to do something differently.

The best performance evaluations are those that directly evaluate based on the job description tasks instead of rating employees from 1 to 5 on vague things like time management.  Regardless of what form you are required to use, start by looking at their job tasks, identifying specific things they do well and areas in which they need to focus or improve.  Brainstorm for specific examples of situations that demonstrate both their successes and their challenges.   This information can be used in just about any form.

The employee should also evaluate themselves.  I often have them complete the very same evaluation I am going to use.  If there is not a good form for the employee to use for self evaluation, ask them to simply email you five specific examples of times they were successful, and three specific examples of situations to support where they would like to improve their performance.  Give them a deadline early enough to be able to send it back for more detail.

Here is the chain of events:

  1. You give them an evaluation form with a deadline of 48 hours to enter their input.  Encourage them to point out their own specific successes to take credit for them!
  2. You draft your evaluation feedback.
  3. They turn in their evaluation with specific examples of successes, and situations that did not go so well.
  4. They pinpoint two areas where they would like to focus on improving over the next year.
  5. You compare their input and your feedback and add their input to your form (the official one) as needed, becoming aware of where you might disagree significantly with the employee.
  6. You deliver their feedback using your copy, and file their self evaluation feedback in their file.

If their job is based a lot on numbers, that’s great because it gives you the objective measurement of performance.  Beyond the numbers, and to support the numbers, you will offer your specific examples of when they did well, in other words, what they did to create the good numbers they have or how they handled a customer situation well.  Do the same thing for the not so good numbers.

The specific examples are what make the numbers come alive and become more personal.  Numbers on their own don’t say much, but talking through what makes the numbers what they are, how the employees contribute to the numbers and what they have control over will be significant.

Then, choose no more than 3-5 areas where you would like them to focus during the next 6-12 months (until the next evaluation).  These may be areas where they are strong and have great ability to get even better; could be places where they are failing miserably and need to get on track, or areas where you see greater potential than what they are putting forward – maybe they are scared to screw up or scared to push out of their comfort zone.   These are not 3-5 tasks.  They are areas broad enough to be the focus for 6-12 months.  Each month or quarter, you spend time with the employee to identify the specific tasks they are to do to make progress on the broad areas.

You determine these 3-5 areas based on your observations combined with their input.  Then, they come up with specific action items that they will implement in the next 30-90 days to make progress on these 3-5 areas.  These must be things that they will do differentlyTrying harder will not cut it.  They should come up with these, with your coaching assistance, buy in and commit to them.

A Strength or a Skill? Which is which?

07 Mar
by Bridget DiCello

Janice is a whiz at taking notes, summarizing what happened in a meeting of 20 people going in all directions, and pinpointing not only the most important points, but the action items upon which everyone agreed. Strategically, she asks key questions throughout the meeting to clarify points, expand conversation to alleviate confusion and isolate what needs to be acted upon. Because of her brilliant abilities to do this tough task, Janice is often asked to act in that role.

The problem is, Janice really does not like to take the notes, is worn out by the process and gets bored in that role especially because it prevents her from actively sharing her opinions in the meeting. She is skilled, but taking notes is not her strength.

What is a strength? A strength is something that energizes you.

Think about the times you are excited to be at work, times you really feel full of energy for what you are doing and despite difficulties, you can keep working at a task that is truly challenging. Those are the times you are working with your strengths.

You may not be exceptionally talented in your areas of strength, but the fact is that you are energized by doing the task, by working to get better at it, and have much resilience to push forward.

On the other hand, a skill is something that you are good at doing. Maybe through innate ability, or lots of practice or hard work, you have built up this skill. And it certainly feels good to be successful at something. But, it is not necessarily exciting for you and you don’t look forward to it.

Each individual needs to identify their strengths and pinpoint their skills. Then, the greatest part about a strength is that you are eager to work very hard to get better at it because you enjoy the process. And you have enormous potential to significantly improve your performance in an area of strength. Seize that opportunity and ensure your employees do the same!

Did you ever wonder why difficult conversations occur?

The Confrontation Conversation

26 Oct
by Bridget DiCello

The Confrontation conversation is dreaded by many because it may appear to start a “fight” that may or may not be necessary.  You may be tempted to “leave well enough alone”.  However, if you are forward looking and have a brighter future in your mind for what is possible, it’s essential.

With that said, start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Do I need to address this issue?  Choose your battles carefully.  A problem ignored can blow up later.  However, nitpicking every detail will wear out a relationship with an employee.
  • Am I the right person to address it?  Is there someone else to whom the employee reports on this issue?  Is there someone who has a better working relationship and is in an appropriate position to address it?
  • Is now the right time to address it?  Are they as open and receptive as they ever will be?  Will waiting let the situation get worse or the impact of the conversation be less?

When you address a situation that you expect to be confrontational, take a moment, which I call the Opportunity Space (the moment between when someone does or says something and you respond) and ask yourself The Three Questions:

  1.  What do I really want to accomplish in the long term?  Keep in mind your long term objectives and don’t be side tracked with emotions in the moment.
  2. Where are they coming from?  Why is it that they are doing the things they are doing?  What is their perspective?
  3. How am I making them feel?  However they are feeling is okay, so avoid telling them not to feel the way they feel.  It’s what they do as a result that can become unacceptable.

If the confrontation goes badly, you might need to take a break and come back and address it when emotions have calmed down.  If the employee gets worked up and emotional, keep in mind it might be a defense mechanism to avoid having the conversation.  In that case, any break taken should be short and have the specific purpose of giving everyone time to calm down and come back to finish the conversation productively.

The Accountability Conversation

26 Oct
by Bridget DiCello

The Accountability conversation is one of the most difficult and this is why it does not occur routinely in many companies.  This conversation is the one that comes before the disciplinary situation where you’d like to fire the person.  It comes during the normal course of doing business and should be an ongoing conversation.  It should not be a surprise if you have set the expectation that it is coming.

With that said, start by asking yourself these questions:

  • What is the specific unacceptable behavior that is causing the problem with performance?  Define the specific behavior and avoid accusatory adjectives like “grumpy, bad attitude, lacks initiative, lazy, etc.”
  • Does the employee know what the expectation is?  When have you told them and did they get it?
  • Has the current performance been acceptable in the past?  Still needs to be addressed, but this must be acknowledged.

Accountability works best when both the manager and the employee know it is coming, there is a set routine for doing it, and both people are involved.  These are the steps that are most important.

  1.  Be sure to clearly explain what is expected.  More detail may be required for some front line employees, where higher level employees may have more freedom in how to do the job and the expectation will be more about results.
  2. “Test” understanding.  Not by asking them to repeat what you said, but by asking a question that requires they speak about what they will do first, what they expect to be most difficult etc.
  3. Set a time and date for follow up.  And make sure they realize what they will have been expected to accomplish by that time.  This may be a specific result, progress they will have been expected to make or a task that should be finished.
  4. Stick with the time and date you establish.  At that time, ask them to report on their progress, without you having to prod with a million questions.
  5. Keep the accountability going by setting the next expectation and the next accountability date.  Have these types of conversations all the time, taking just a moment or setting a sit-down meeting.

Getting People Engaged

23 Sep
by Bridget DiCello

Engaged people are those who are interested enough to do something.  Engagement means movement.  Action.

What makes people act?  A desire to act usually comes from a desire to reach something greater than where they are either because of discomfort with the current situation or a vision of what’s possible beyond the current reality.

What does that mean for you in trying to get team members, peers, associates, and employees engaged?  Create an Invitation and find Common Ground.

Create an Invitation:  I’ve heard it often said that people will act because someone asked them to.  Will you help someone who asks?  Will you get involved because someone you trust invites you to?  Will you respond when someone explains what they need you to do?

Too often, people may not get engaged in a process, in planning, in executing and in implementing because it is easier not to.  Easier not to put themselves out on a limb, extend beyond their level of confidence, assume their help or involvement is not needed or assume what they are currently doing is enough.  If you see possibility beyond where your team is currently operating, invite others to see what you see, and ask them for their specific participation.

“You’ve put a lot of time and effort into this.  I appreciate all you’ve done.   I can’t help thinking that we could make it even better if we…  Will you help me by …?”

Find Common Ground:  People act because there is something in it for them.  I don’t mean people are self-centered and selfish.  I mean that each of us operates from our own point of view and when something is exciting, important and valuable to us, we tend to get involved.

Have you ever learned something new or gained more in depth knowledge about a cause, a problem or a challenge, and then decided to get (more) involved?

Finding Common Ground requires that we have a conversation with whomever we are trying to get more engaged.  It means we share some of our passion, and let them respond and determine for themselves what it is they are excited about.  There are often many facets of a project, problem or situation and the specific reason we get excited may not be the same as another person, and yet we both can become avid workers towards the end goal.

“I was thinking about the reason we started working on this project and how exciting it will be when we achieve the goal of…  What is it that you are most excited about?”

Who on your team needs to be more engaged?  Who do you wish would be of more help to you in what you are trying to accomplish?  Have you issued the Invitation and do they see the Common Ground?

The Coaching Conversation

14 Sep
by Bridget DiCello

Coaching is having a series of conversations with an individual in order to help them access their hidden potential to achieve greater levels of success.

-          Bridget M. DiCello

It is essential that you have both “Conversations on the Go” as well as “Undivided Attention Meetings.”  When you see acceptable or unacceptable behaviors, sometimes you need to address them immediately for greatest impact.  Other times you need to get both the employee and yourself focused on their improvement in a planned meeting where you have each other’s undivided attention.  In which meeting you bring up an issue depends on the urgency of the needed change in behavior.  If you wait as an unacceptable behavior continues, your frustration increases as does the employee’s resistance to change – which makes the conversation more difficult when it does occur.

Conversations on the Go:

1.  You bring up the unacceptable behavior and get them talking.
“I’m concerned about… because…  What Happened?”

2.  Then you talk.  Explain current unacceptable behaviors describing them specifically.  “Your bad attitude” and “your lack of initiative” are not specific behaviors.

3.  Get commitment to precise, doable action from the employee.

4.  Determine a follow up date – it may be your monthly meeting with them.

Undivided Attention Meetings – Monthly meeting where each of your direct reports prepares for and attends a meeting with you.

This is not about how you can help them or what they think you or the company could do differently.  This is about them reporting on their progress and challenges.

According to set agenda both you and they have prior to the meeting:

1.   They report their successes first – according to goals you have set

2.  They report on set metrics, projects, goals, status

3.  They identify the areas where they have fallen short and what they will do differently.

4.  You compliment them on successes you’ve seen

5.  You comment on their performance that can be improved. (using specific examples of unacceptable and acceptable behaviors.)

6.  Get commitment to precise, do-able and measurable action.  Help them come up with action items and strategies.  This is not easy and may take time.  Dig in and really find a do-able action.  Use Clarifying Questions like, “Can you give me an example?” and “Can you be more specific?” and “What have you tried in the past?”  Watch for Smokescreens and Tangents. 

7.  Determine a follow-up date and follow-up.

The only way you can help your team to really access their potential and therefore move your team to a higher level of performance is if you coach them.  Even the best employees need your coaching.  Michael Jordan had a coach who pushed him to excel!


“I Know You Can Do It!”

18 Aug
by Bridget DiCello

“I know you can do it!”  Why are these such powerful words?  When voiced by a someone about a colleague or team member, they express confidence in that person.  Despite the independent, confident, maybe egotistical approach of people who are difficult to work with, I believe there is a great lack of self-confidence under the surface, being hidden by confident speech.  When someone who they respect, whether because of a great relationship or by only an official relationship, says they believe they can do something, it energizes that person.

You are telling them that you believe in them and that they should believe in themselves.  Too mushy for you?  Well, it’s powerful and used well, can bring about significant changes in performance and levels of cooperation.

Do you tell team members this who you find difficult to interact with?  Can you get yourself to believe it for those who have less than stellar performance?

Why would you say this if you don’t believe it 100%?  There is power in what we say about ourselves and what others say about us.  By saying, “I know you can do it,” you are instilling a determination in that person.

You will find the most success when you follow up by holding them accountable to what they have agreed to.

What if they fail?  Doesn’t that mean you were wrong?  No!  It just depends on what timeframe you are talking about.  If you say they can accomplish something and they get frustrated because they didn’t get it done in a week.  Push harder.  Insist you know they can do it and ask them what the next step they are going to do is.  Everything is accomplished with a series of small steps.

Sometimes team members may at first look to prove you wrong in order to stay in their comfortable current level of performance.  Insist you believe they can do what needs to be done, that they have the ability to learn and to accomplish more than they have.

Try it.  Say, “I know you can do it!” with conviction to each person important to your success once a week and see what happens!

Laziness is often a Misnomer

22 Jul
by Bridget DiCello

Managers use laziness as a reason why employees don’t do a good job or complete tasks they are assigned.  Maybe you have uttered the accusation, “(S)he’s just lazy!”  Some believe that people in general are lazy

I couldn’t disagree more! People are passionate, driven and intelligent beings!  We even see those with great physical and mental limitations accomplish great things. (Like the world-renown pianist who has only four fingers total!)


That drive to contribute, accomplish and succeed is in every person – it may just be buried deeply behind a lifetime of bad experiences, of hearing words that beat up the self-confidence and a barrage of media messages that promulgate mediocrity.

Any employee who works for you has worked other places before, has interacted with friends and family, and has received messages about what they can accomplish and what is acceptable and expected – for years.

Laziness is defined as averse or disinclined to work, activity, or exertion and slow-moving and sluggish.  Why would someone act this way?

1. Failing to do the work in a previous job did not bring any negative results and they continued to get a paycheck.  They watched others work hard and get paid the same thing or be given more work to do.

2.  They’ve worked hard in the past to reach a particular goal and failed, received harsh criticism for doing so, and were not given any coaching or a second chance.

3.  They have grown up in a generation who believes they are entitled to a great life and it’s easy to get there – just watch TV and pay attention to the messages, and it’s no surprise.

4.  They have never found their passion, gotten really excited about the mission or goals of a company and have never had a leader that connected with them enough to ignite this excitement.

5.  No one has ever “forced” them to be successful, by pushing them out of their comfort zone and providing a safety net to assist in their success.

6.  They have never worked with a boss who took the time to get to know them, what is important to them and where they are coming from – in order to help them feel part of the team and work to their strengths.

I’m sure there are many reasons why someone would appear “Lazy,” and these are just a few.  Below are suggestions of how you, as the manager, might address an employee who acts lazy for these reasons.


1.  No negative results in the past. Ensure you are clearly setting expectations, explaining consequences and holding them accountable.  Take the time to provide the routine accountability, insist they report on their successes and failures and require they give you an idea of what they can do differently to continue to improve.

2.  Past failures. Celebrate success and hard work.  Even little bits of success and small steps in the right direction should be acknowledged by you – as should little failures and small steps in the wrong direction – receive coaching and redirection.

3.  Entitlement. Realize that your employees may have a different mindset, and may not have grown up in a strong environment to teach them otherwise.  Do you as the manager have to act like a parent?  In the role of imparting values, yes, sometimes you do.

4.  Lack of Passion. Share the mission and goals, get them talking about them (notice I did not say that you should talk about them), require they come up with good ideas and show them through leading by example what passion looks like (this means all your managers need to do so, not just you if you are the top dog).

5.  Force Success. No matter how small, require they do tasks and activities outside their comfort zone, check in with them before they have a chance to fail to redirect them if necessary, and help them to taste success!  Your involvement will become less as time goes on.

6.  Bad boss. The best bosses expect great things, demand excellence, impart passion and excitement and most importantly, connect with their people.  They realize that the best processes and systems in the world will have limitations if they cannot engage their people.  Engaging them means taking the time to build a relationship, but a relationship is a two way street – they also insist the employee does their part!

Have you had an experience where you thought an employee was lazy, but were able to uncover a great employee using techniques like those listed above?


Top 3 Myths of Motivating Others – Do you talk too much?

12 Jul
by Bridget DiCello

People motivate themselves.  However, there are things that leaders can do to facilitate the process.  But first, let’s examine a few common myths.

People get motivated by an energetic, enthusiast leader. Some people do, and some just find that level of energy annoying or downright exhausting.  (If you do, you’re probably an introvert who would find great information in reading The Introvert Advantage, a great book recommended by a friend years ago.)  This energetic leader may get others excited about what they are doing, but rarely will this excitement alone result in the person displaying lasting motivation.  And, it can be very difficult for a leader to maintain that enthusiasm level, when they are expected to be the fuel for everyone’s fire all the time.

People get motivated by fear of repercussions. I read once that people would much rather experience all kinds of terrible repercussions than go through the painful process of changing their behaviors.  And over and over I see that is true.  If it’s easy to change their behaviors just enough to not get fired, people may do that, but never will they be motivated by their fear to do any more than the minimum.

People get motivated by hearing how important it is to get things done. It’s true that people are motivated when they are excited about the expected results, ambitious goals and the vision and mission of the organization.  However, the motivation does not necessarily appear because they heard about the expected results or vision/mission.  Very few people will become motivated for longer than a brief time when they hear something.

Most people will agree that those who are motivated do things.  Dictionary.com defines motivating others as “to stimulate toward action.”  There is a long distance between hearing something and doing it.

Therefore, in order to get others motivated, you need to find a way to get them TO TALK and TO DO.  And ensure they experience success, however small, as a result.

To Talk and To Do:

1.  Stop Talking. If you want to get a message across, speak some and then stop.  Ask questions and have a conversation which includes getting the other person talking.  Talking about the importance of the project/task, the possible methods for getting it done, the obstacles they see, the fears they have and the first steps they will take.

2.  Make First Steps Happen. In order to get started, some people need to be “forced” to take the first step, possibly because of fear of the unknown or perfectionist tendencies which lead to procrastination.  Laziness is often a misnomer.  As their manager, you might have to determine the first step with them, decide on a deadline and hold them to it.  When they experience success, their motivation level will increase.

What successes have you experienced in motivating others?  What challenges do you face?  Do you talk too much in your efforts to motivate others?  Are you effective at holding others accountable?

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