The Shift from Performance Evaluation to Performance Leadership

This is Performance Assessment season in libraries. I see colleagues posting anguished messages on Facebook about this fraught annual ritual. There is really no need for the process to be so stressful! Earlier this week, I introduced managers and supervisors in one library to two concepts that can reduce the anxiety spike of annual performance evaluation–SMART goals, and coaching for performance.

Regardless of what forms are required for institutional compliance, there are two relatively simple changes managers and supervisors can make to reduce annual performance evaluation stress. The first change is to focus on goals that contribute to organizational strategy when planning work for the year ahead. The second is to meet regularly to measure progress towards goals.

The SMART framework encourages creation of goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. This can be a shift from annual goals that look more like a lists of tasks from employees’ position descriptions. Although the performance cycle may be annual, goals can be set for shorter time periods that are nested within the year. Remember to put the focus on those goals that contribute to the organization’s strategic mission. People are motivated if they can see how what they do connects to overarching organizational goals.

By meeting regularly, employees and managers can check on progress towards goals. During the year, if resources or priorities shift, goals can be adjusted. Consistent communication about priorities and performance will insure there are no surprises when the time for documenting performance rolls around. And by documenting the performance related conversations at regular meetings, by reformatting the information when it is time to fill out the forms, what was once a tedious job will be far less daunting.

This time of year marks the beginning of a new performance cycle for many, so it’s a good time to institute a new way of thinking about performance management. A shift to SMART goals with a plan for ongoing coaching and regular performance related conversations creates a culture of performance leadership. Not only will this change make the annual performance cycle less stressful, it will also contribute to more effective performance on the part of individuals and the organization as a whole.

In collaboration with a colleague, I have created a training module that covers SMART goals and coaching for performance. The module is designed for use in academic libraries, but could be modified for use in other types of libraries, or other academic settings such as IT organizations. Let me know if you would like to learn more!



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