Have you read my Performance Evaluations Are Overrated post? Take a look at it. The short version is, in 30 years of leadership I’ve never seen a performance appraisal that actually improves performance. They are pretty much annual exercises that companies go through to deliver pay increases, etc. They pretty much amount to a “check in the box,” with everyone rushing around to get them done. Consequently, very little real effort is put into them.
As an Executive Pastor in the church, I took a very different approach. It was a simple form that everyone on staff completed on every other person on staff. Then, they’d schedule time together to discuss their feedback. The time together was the most important part. In fact, the team only used the form as an outline to follow and as a record that the process had been completed.
What was the objective? Sure everyone got and gave lots of input, but the most important part of the process was minimizing conflict. When staff is required to give each other feedback, they are able to look each other in the eye and share anything about the other person that bugs them or otherwise affects them positively or negatively. Doing this over time (along with weekly staff meetings and other staff relationship development activities) results in a staff that works very well together. The level of collaboration is kept very high, resulting in a high level of overall performance.
As an executive coach, I’m meeting with a number of other executive pastors (and other church leaders) throughout the week. One of the biggest topics of conversation is related to this subject. Most of the church leaders are dealing with moderate to severe “staff issues.” Basically, a bunch of little issues between staff members that collectively amount to lots of pain for the leader. They can see them, but they have a hard time dealing with them.
I’m telling you … like many other issues faced by the leader, solutions come from an intentional effort to implement methods that work. In this case, the method used for annual performance evaluations should be designed such that a culture of collaboration and minimal conflict is created. Individual performance improves and, at least as important, overall staff performance improves.