It’s December, and for many that means performance evaluations are just around the corner. December is also a busy time at Working Conversations, as I train and coach managers to more effectively share feedback with their employees. Each organization faces different challenges, but I have found that one key element more than doubles the overall benefits of the performance evaluation process. It’s a simple secret: the most thoughtful evaluation often falls on deaf ears if the employees have not been trained to actually receive the feedback.
A helpful illustration of this point comes from a client of mine, who I will call Carol. Her boss was new to the company. Some of his feedback was quite critical, and Carol did not feel she was being evaluated fairly. She recalled, “I couldn’t listen anymore, it was just too difficult. I knew I wasn’t hearing what he was saying. I totally checked out of the conversation.” As we explored the situation further, it became clear that some comments Carol received were indeed inaccurate. But, many of her boss’ observations were actually constructive, and Carol had missed them because she had slipped into defense-mode.
Whether working with managers or individual contributors, I always remind clients to keep an eye out for their own defensiveness. When you get defensive, the pre-frontal cortex (part of the brain that is responsible for critical thinking and listening) shuts down. In this state, it is literally impossible to reason or absorb information accurately. Luckily, a little awareness and some fast-acting tools are all that’s needed to get your brain back online to focus on the valuable content being shared.
The next time you find yourself on the receiving end of a performance evaluation, use the following steps to reverse engineer the best and most constructive outcomes.