How to Deliver an Awful Evaluation

Warning:  Sarcasm and Satire Ahead

For all you bosses or aspiring bosses out there, giving annual evaluations is part of our job.  However, I’m sure we each approach this task differently.

So, I’m going to help you out here.  For all of you that like the easy path, believe that “less is more” when it comes to effort, and strive to disappoint and demoralize your direct reports, you’re in luck!  Because you’re about 50 words away from 25 tips on How to Deliver an Awful Evaluation.

Let me start by saying that doing all of the below will certainly get you the “Awful” ranking you desire. However, that’s a lot of effort.   So any combination of the following points should do the trick.

Let’s get started!

  1. Show up late.  What’s 10-15 minutes anyway?  It’s an exercise in patience.
  2. Don’t prepare….at all.  That’s a lot of effort….and your time is valuable.  Spend your prep time on more important things, like micro-managing.
  3. Base the annual eval on the last few weeks’ performance.  Hey!  The past is the past.  What’s important is right now!  You didn’t have time to capture all that other stuff anyway.
  4. Surprise them!  Grade them on things you’ve never told them about or give them scores they don’t expect.   Shhhhhh….your performance is a secret!
  5. Regurgitate their self-evaluation or a previous eval.  For those consistent performers, you shouldn’t have to do more than copy and paste.
  6. Don’t provide them their eval or any info ahead of time.  Why should they get to prepare?  You didn’t.
  7. Talk about yourself and make it all about you.  ….because it is, ALL about YOU!
  8. Talk about everything BUT their eval.  We can always get to it later.
  9. Yawn.  Nothing says “I’m interested in what you’re saying” more than you showing them your tonsils.
  10. Let them starve! – Who needs meat or substance in their eval?  Why should you give them anything actionable or constructive to work on anyway?
  11. Don’t provide specific examples of their behavior (good or bad).  Details, schmeetails.
  12. Gossip!  Talking about OTHER associates/employees performance shows them how much they can trust you.
  13. Be vague and try not to be too specific about expectations.  If they were really “that good” they’d be able to read your mind.
  14. Be insincere.  Callousness, coldness, and crassness show how much you really care about their development.
  15. Multi-task.  Check and respond to all emails and texts.  Maybe play a little Angry Birds too.
  16. Don’t allow them any time to talk or talk over them.  Why should they talk anyway?  This is YOUR time!
  17. Use the time to impress YOUR boss.  Show your boss how good you are by doing all of the things on this list.  They’ll be impressed!
  18. Yell and/or raise your voice.  A little intimidation always makes things go more smoothly.
  19. Roll your eyes.  This is an easy way to let them know what you think about what they’re saying.
  20. Cut them off.  Stopping them mid-sentence keeps the eval from going over the scheduled time.
  21. Read the eval to them…verbatim.   It’s not likely they know how to read anyway.
  22. Misspell things on their eval.   Thar’s no ned 2 spund tim on spalling.  Ur beeeng ufficnt wit ur tim.
  23. Conduct the eval in a public, distracting, noisy environment.  No better place to have a private conversation!
  24. Nod off.  Catching a few Zzzzz’s is okay – we’re only rehashing the past.

And my personal favorite.

25.  Lie.  You know, the opposite of being honest.  What does truth have to do with an eval? It’s all a matter of perspective.

As I’m sure you can tell, this list is not all inclusive.  There are many more things that you can do that will derail and erode your direct report’s confidence and trust in you.

Even better, once you deliver an eval in the manner prescribed above, your reputation will quickly precede you.  This means that any current or future direct reports (and their colleagues, and their colleagues,…) will know what to expect – which (as a disclaimer) – may ultimately help you free up a lot of time on your calendar.

Now, you’re all smart people.  If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be in the position that you’re trusted with.  So, I’m sure that you’ll use the above list wisely.

What else can you think of to deliver an awful eval?

Don’t Spill the Milk

Have you ever had those days or weeks when the momentum of the day has you in a crazy frantic state?  There’s just so much going on that it becomes noisy, confusing, and stressful.  Too much to do.  Too little time in the day.

It’s kind of like taking a cup and filling it up with milk.  At some point, you can’t put any more in to the cup without it overflowing and spilling over on to the floor.  And as my 4-year-old says, “We don’t spill milk on the floor, Daddy” – usually after she’s already spilled it on the floor.

But that proverbial cup is our own capacity to deal with life and the milk is the demands of the day that come at us from all directions.  And when we can’t deal with anymore?  Our cup runs over and spills on to the floor.

The latter is messy.  And even my 4-year-old gets it.

So, what can we do to keep from spilling our milk?  One strategy is to lessen the amount of milk flowing in the first place.  Another would be to consume the milk in the cup faster, so that you can fill it with more.  A third would be to get a bigger cup  (perhaps something with a handle or a backpack attachment).

In this post, we’re going to tackle the milk flowing in because it’s a great starting point.  But how do you do that?  Slow or reduce the demands of life.

 The simplest answer is to create filters to ensure that the right amount of milk is flowing in to the cup.  We call these filters ‘priorities’.

Setting (and adhering) to personal priorities can often make the difference between dealing with outright pandemonium and at least a controlled chaos.

Case in point – over the last couple weeks, I’ve received several emails and questions asking why there haven’t been any new posts on the Leader’s Locker recently.

My answer is simple.  Priorities.

Just like you, my life gets crazy from time to time with demands coming from all directions.  So, I fall back on my personal priorities to help slow the flow so that the things I am focusing on are done well.

This blog is an awesome project, but it is not the most important thing in my life.  So when push comes to shove, my higher priorities take precedence and I reduce the amount of time I spend blogging.

Personally, I use my priorities as a guide to which activities I engage in and where I spend my time.  Example:  I am a huge stickler around attending my children’s special events.  I rarely ever let work or another project keep me from them. 

Why?  Because my kids are a greater priority than my career or other projects.  Obviously, there is a life balance to that because (in the big picture) I have to make a living somehow so that I can buy milk for the ones I love and hold most dear.

So how do I determine my priorities?

For me, understanding priorities really boils down to three things:

1.  Knowing yourself. 

Everyone has different motivators in life.  No one can set your priorities for you, so you need to set them for yourself.  This is a conscious task and shouldn’t be taken lightly.  After all – your priorities dictate your time and your time is valuable. 

Try rattling off your top 5 priorities right now.

Mine are easy – My faith, my wife, my kids, my career, my immediate family/close friends.  I can recite these in a blink of an eye, because I’ve put thought in to them and use them as regular fence posts during my week.

If you have never written down your priorities, find some quiet time and sit down with a blank sheet of paper and work it out.  Start with the top 5.  What is important to you?  Try to think beyond what is important today or tomorrow.  Think in the context of your life.  Think bigger picture.

Once those are written, then determine what is most important.   Work through scenarios in your mind to help you get to the right priority order for you.  Once you get the top 5, subsequent priorities become easier to define and order.  Once done, file your list away or save it on your hard drive to revisit later.

SIDE NOTE:  This is also a good exercise for couples.  It’s good when you’re on the same page about your life priorities!

2.  Establish Reminders. 

It’s important to find ways to remind yourself of your priorities.  This could be notes on your office wall, a note on the bathroom mirror, or something as simple as a picture on your mobile phone or computer desktop. 

One trick I learned from one of my SVPs about a decade ago was to take a business card sized paper and write your priorities on one side and your goals on the other. Laminate it and put it in your wallet.   If you ever find yourself struggling with what to do, take out the card for reference.

The picture here is my first personal card that I made about 9 years ago.  You can tell by the wear and tear that it has been put to good use.  The other side has my 5 and 10 year goals on it.

3. Revisit your priorities. 

Life is dynamic.  Things change often.  And we as individuals change and evolve over time.  Which means our priorities change too.  A given priority may rise or fall in importance, be new to your list, or may fall off your list altogether.

So, it is important to constantly re-evaluate your priorities to ensure you have the proper filters in place to help guide your path.  As you can see from my card above, some of my priorities have shifted over time.  When they do, make a new card.

I suggest purposefully revisiting your priorities at least once a year or at any major life change. 

If you did #1 above, then this is as simple as pulling that list of priorities back out of the file or up on your computer and evaluating if you are in the same place as you were before or not.

Setting personal priorities is critical to limiting the flow in to your life, which helps you deal with the momentum of the day.  The absolute key to success though was mentioned briefly above – adherence

Once your priorities are set, you have to use them to guide how you spend your time.  This means you will have to say ‘no’ to some things and stick to it. 

If not, you’ll always have more than you can handle and your cup will end up running over …and no one wants spilled milk.  Just ask my daughter.

Do you know your priorities?  How do you set them?

3 Reasons to Become Audacious

Do you have the audacity to be audacious?

Do you desire to be bold, courageous, or even fearless?

If your answer is yes, then what’s stopping you?  If you answer no, then maybe this article isn’t for you.  If you hesitated or didn’t know the answer, then read on.

So, what do I mean by ‘being audacious’?

I mean to be bold.  Be brave and/or daring.   Step outside of your comfort zone.   Be unrestrained by the conventional way.  Purposefully learn something that’s outside of your norm.  Gain a new or broader perspective. Be adventurous and inquisitive.  Step up and do something different!

Why should you become audacious?  Here are three good reasons.

  • You’re sleepwalking.  Most of us have been here for either a brief time or perhaps are still stuck here in lifeisboringsville.  You do the same things every day – day in and day out – over and over.  It’s repetitious…and you’re tired of it!  It’s time to wake up!  It’s time to jump the rut and do something different with your life!
  • You’re living scared.  Most of us have been here too.  We’ve all been scared from time to time – but being scared and being too petrified to move or act are two very different things.   If we allow our fear and worry to imprison us, we may never break free and may never meet our true potential.  But if we can find the courage and strength, we may be able to overcome our self-imposed prison to find new amazing success and achievement.
  • You want something more or different.  Ahhh….one of my favorites.  You know that you have more in you to give.  More in you to share.  More in you to accomplish.  This reason is the one that focuses on the positive of untapped potential – and quite honestly has the greatest opportunity for success – if only we take a leap of faith and step out.

If you find yourself relating to one of the three situations mentioned above, then it’s time for you to take a step into audaciousness.

Don’t know how?  Try one (or all) of these:

  • Set one Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG – as author Jim Collins puts it) with a time limit.  Don’t set some little wimpy arbitrary goal.  Really put something specific out there that is just out of reach, but realistic.  Something that will challenge you to learn, grow, stretch, and evolve.
  • Push past your comfort zone.  If you know yourself well enough to know your boundaries, start poking beyond those.   If you can only run a 12-minute mile – push yourself to hit a 10- minute mile.
  • Create accountability.  Invite others to hold you accountable.  Share your goals and desires.  Tell them what you’re doing and have them help you succeed.
  • Meet one new person a week.  Proactively introduce yourself to others.  Choose people that you wouldn’t normally meet and/or create a list of people you want to meet (and seek them out without becoming a stalker). Be proactive in growing your relationships.  But don’t just develop acquaintances.  Develop a real relationship where you invest time in learning about others.  What drives them?   What experiences have they had?  Why do they do what they do?
  • Ask more questions than you make statements.  This is one of my favorites. Use open ended questions (who, what, when, where, why, and how).  Listen more, learn more.

These are just a few things you can do to jump start your new audacious life!  What others can you think of?

As a personal goal, I want to step out even more this next year.  I want to be more bold in the way that I live life, work, play and relate to others.  I won’t settle for less.

You only get one turn on this earth.  Live your life everyday!  Make it the best!  Make a difference!

I will be audacious!  What about you?

I Conquered My Inbox Anxiety!

For years now, my email inbox has been a source of frustration, stress, and anxiety.

I receive lots of email.  But I’m horrible at managing my inbox!

I’ve tried all kinds of email tips, tricks and filing techniques.  I’ve tried unsubscribing to unimportant subscription emails.  Reduced the number of distribution lists I’m on.  I’ve tried auto-rules.  I’ve tried scheduling “email time” early in my work morning to keep up.  I’ve even tried just dumping things in to one big folder.

But nothing has seemed to work.  Until now.

I have found something that works for me.  And believe it or not… it’s simple.  So, here it is.

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I’ve taken my personal folders and turned them in to “years”.  Then I create sub-folders that are “months”.

I did this both for received emails and for sent emails.

Then when I’m done with my emails – I simply move them over to the proper month.  It’s fast.  It’s efficient.  It’s easy!

I told a few people about this, but they challenged me saying, “How will you ever find an archived email if you don’t file them by name, topic, project, etc.”?

First, I took a good hard look at how often I actually go back and pull up or need an old email.  Survey says?  Very rarely.

Second, I learned that most of the emails I do look for are things that have been sent to me within the last 4-6 weeks.  So, that means only looking in 1-3 sub-folders max.
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Third, searching sub-folders is easy.  I can sort by name, topic, or date.  I can also use key word searches.  And quite honestly, because the sub-folders are relatively small, the search doesn’t take very long to complete and I spot things quickly.
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This method may not be for everyone, but after one month – I am pretty happy with it!
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Now, there are no silver bullets when it comes to email management.  I do still delete unnecessary emails, unsubscribe, limit the distributions I’m on, and use auto-rules.  However, this new filing system has given me back time in my day and lowered my stress level.

If you try it, let me know if it worked for you too.

How do you keep your inbox clean?

7 Tips for Interacting with Employees on Social Media

Here’s a leadership challenge.

What do you do when an employee sends you a “friend request” on Facebook?  What about on LinkedIn?  Or if they follow you on Twitter?

This is today’s reality and it can be very troubling for a leader.  You don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, but where is the line between public and private life?

In Part 1 and Part 2 of Social Media and You (the Leader) we covered some tips on (1) the general landscape and (2) navigating the minefield.  In Part 3, we are going to look at interaction with employees on social media.

By this point, you should know that HOW you engage on social media is really up to you, but that you should have a plan.  Also up to you is how you interact with your employees on social media, but this is one of those places that you really have to weigh the pros and cons.

Unfortunately, as I researched this topic, I found just about as much evidence ‘for’ as I did ‘against’, which wasn’t very helpful.  I did find one private practice legal website that I liked though.  While they took a fairly neutral stance, they certainly provided a little more ‘meat’ than other articles I read.  For your benefit, I am providing the pros and cons that they listed on their website below.

  • Pro: Friending employees can help you discover common interests with your staff and can build camaraderie between people in your workforce.
  • Con: Access to your employees’ Facebook (or other) pages may reveal their personal problems or issues and can introduce “drama” into your work environment.
  • Pro: Allowing your employees access to your Facebook (or other) pages may show your more personable side, which can make you more “approachable” to employees.
  • Con: Connecting through social media may make managers too “approachable” and can blur the line between supervisor and subordinate.
  • Pro: Friending employees may provide insight on how best to motivate employees, which can lead to new, more effective ways of relating to your employees.
  • Con: Reviewing an employee’s Facebook (or other) page may result in discovering an employee’s religious affiliation or health problems, which can be pointed to if claims of discrimination are ever raised by the employee.
  • Pro: Friending your employees may uncover their hidden talents and hobbies which could be useful to your business.
  • Con: To avoid “playing favorites,” if you accept a friend request from one employee, you probably need to accept friend requests from all your employees.

So what do you do?  Here are 7 tips for interacting with employees on social media:

  • KNOW THE RULES.  Know if your company has a policy against being “friends” with subordinates on social media sites.  If they do, then don’t do it.
  • SET BOUNDARIES.  YOU have to make a decision on whether or not you will be friends with employees on social media sites (also bosses, co-workers, colleagues, etc.).  It’s up to you.  But you need to make a decision and set those fence posts.
  • STICK TO YOUR GUNS.  Once you’ve made that decision, apply it consistently.  Don’t treat employees differently (there is a huge opportunity for misperception there).  Treat them all the same.
  • PLAN FOR THE CONVERSATION.  Social media is incredibly personal to some people and they WILL get their feelings hurt if you choose not to “accept” them.  Be prepared to have the conversation with them (usually following the friend request denial) that you have a personal policy of not interacting with employees on social media sites.  This may sting a little at first, but will be better in the long run because it will remove speculation and diminish curiosity as to why.
  • CORRECT THE MISTAKE.  If you start out accepting employees, but figure out that you don’t want to do that anymore, then make the change.  Just know that this too may sting for a little bit, as people associate “unfriending” with not being personally accepted.  Ripping the band-aid of may be the best in this situation.  Just make sure that you communicate it appropriately.
  • DON’T INVITE.  Do not ‘invite’ or ‘friend’ your employees.  Again – social media is very personal.  A boss initiating the invite may make the employee feel like they have to accept and you may be invading their personal space.  This includes asking your employees to “recommend” you on LinkedIn.  Don’t invite or ask.
  • BE NICE, NOT NAUGHTY.  If you decide to be friends with employees on social media sites, take a ‘neutral to nice’ approach to the content you post.   Don’t be negative (in any sense of that word).  Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your boss or HR to see.  You may think that this doesn’t allow “you to be you”.  But if you want to be “you” without censorship, then don’t invite your employees to the party.

Two more things.

  1.  Watch out for the PROMOTION.  When you promote and the people that you used to call “peer” are now your “subordinates” your relationship changes.  This includes how you engage with each other from a social standpoint, which includes social media sites.  This means one of two things. First, if your policy is not to be “friends” with employees on Facebook, then you may need to ‘unfriend’ your former peers, which is a tough one.  OR, it means that you may need to modify how you use that social site.  Not doing either could be a recipe for disaster (see bullets 4, 5, and 7 above).
  2. You don’t have to have a one size fits all approach to social media sites.  You may NOT want them to be your friends on Facebook, but LinkedIn may be OKAY because it is a professional networking site.  Know how to use the sites, know your purpose, and engage accordingly.

I’m sure this has spawned lots of questions for you.  But this was a great starting place.  Ultimately, the decision is yours.  Just make sure you are making an educated and informed decision.  If you are still unsure, you can always seek advice from your company’s legal counsel.  They should be able to provide you with additional insight and perspective.

Now, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Should a boss be friends with their employees on social media sites?  Why or why not?

5 Suggestions for Avoiding Social Media Blunders

Social Media.  Personally, I’m a big fan and huge user!  Wrong or right, it is shaping how we communicate as a society.  More importantly for us, it’s shaping how we communicate as leaders.  Being leaders means that people watch our actions closely and social media now gives those watchers a magnifying glass.

As Part 2 in our series Social Media and You (the Leader), I wanted to get a little more personal and talk about how to avoid some of the missteps.

For myself, I’m engaged on lots of different platforms (e.g., Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Linkedin, etc.).  You may be different, but chances are, you’ve ventured out and tried at least one platform (most likely Facebook or MySpace).  I’m generally pretty open in my use of social media, but am extremely cognizant of whom I’m engaging with and how.  I also know how to use the features and tools on the sites that I participate on.  AND, I am very mindful of the content I post.

Leaders be ready!  How you engage is really up to you, but navigating the social media minefield requires a little bit of thought and discipline.

Here are 5 practical tips to help you out:

  • LEARN TO DRIVE.  Think of social media platforms like a car.  Every car is different (so are social media platforms).  Every car has different features (so do social media platforms).  You have to learn the ‘rules of the road’ to drive successfully (the same is true for social media platforms).  You can crash in a car and can cause injury or damage (as you can on social media platforms).  A car can provide great freedom, efficiency, and opportunity in one’s life (as can social media platforms).   The key is to learn how to use your “car” effectively.  Doing so will improve the chance that you don’t make inadvertent mistakes (like posting things to the wrong audience).  Learn how to set the privacy and security features.  Learn what other’s see when you post.  Learn how to use filters and groups.  Learn how to retract posts.  Learn how to use the features of the platforms correctly.  When you learned to drive, you probably had someone instruct you.  Social media platforms all have tutorials – use them wisely.
  • DEFINE YOUR PURPOSE for using social media.  Know why you are there.  Are you using it for professional purposes (e.g., job hunting, networking, relationship management, etc.)?  Are you using it for sharing your latest personal thoughts and ideas?  Are you using it to promote your business?  Keep in touch with friends and family?  Whatever your desire, be disciplined in your use and be cautious in mixing purposes.  Sharing the wrong content with the wrong people can have disastrous consequences.  For example, posting a rant about how bad [insert your rival college football team here] did this last year on Linkedin, probably won’t help you get that new job (especially if the recruiter went to school there). Define how you want to engage and why and then stick with it!
  • KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.  Hopefully, from the previous point, you’ve defined the people that you want to engage with.  Once you’ve defined how you want to use a social media site, only invite and accept invites, friend requests, or whatever else from those that fit that definition.  If you want Facebook to be a place for you to share info with family and real friends, then do that.  If you want LinkedIn to just be business contacts, then do that.  But be prepared to “ignore” or “reject” some friend requests from people that don’t fit “the profile”.  We’ll tackle this in the next post.
  • KEEP IT CLEAN.  Treat anything that you want to put in to Facebook or any other social media site like it is PUBLIC information!  Don’t ever think otherwise.  Even with the strictest of privacy settings in place, don’t ever think that you’re only sharing information with your “best buddies”.  Others that have access to your info can share, retweet, repost, link to, copy, or “screen shot” your information and may unintentionally (or intentionally) share information that you don’t want shared with others.  This is one of the most frequent landmines that I see on a regular basis.  Rule of thumb:  Don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want your parents, pastor, or boss to read.
  • QUARREL NOT!   For all the reasons listed in the last point, Facebook or other sites are not the place to “air your dirty laundry” or someone else’s.  Just like in any other form of communication, there are right and wrong ways to do things.  Personally, I’m a believer that if you and I have an “issue” then I am going to come and talk to you about it.  Not email it, voice mail it, text it, or heaven forbid – post it on Twitter.  Plus, it makes you look like a jerk.  If someone goads you, then let it go or take care of it “offline”.  Don’t fall in to the trap of public self-destruction.

In the next post, we’ll talk a little about how employees and co-workers play in to your social media use.

What tips do you have for avoiding social media blunders?

Enjoy!

~J

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