Evaluating Your Staff: Use a Mirror


Years ago, I worked with an executive creative director who is credited with coming up the “Silver Bullet” idea for Coors Light. He was named Creative Director of the Year by Advertising Age one year. Yeah, he was a big deal.

I asked him about the strategy behind a Coors brand campaign, the one with their CEO, Joseph Coors, walking through deep mountain snow near one of those beautiful streams where they get that famous Rocky Mountain Spring Water. In true creative director fashion, he had a very creative answer: “I used a mirror.”

They wanted the ads to reflect the company — who they are, where they are, the pristine source of their products. Mirrors do that. They show you things you sometimes forget to notice. When you look into a mirror, you see things as others do. Figuratively speaking, mirrors are a great tool for organizations, and there’s a good lesson for organizational dynamics, performance and staff evaluation.

Staff evaluation should reflect how the staff member is doing in relation to the organization’s goals.

Individual goals should directly reflect the organization’s goals. We must connect how we want the organization to perform with how we need individuals to perform. Large corporations often relate things back to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to make sure everyone is contributing to common goals. For instance, say an organization’s KPI is to generate a dozen new sponsors. The maintenance folks should see “… by ensuring the facility is always functioning at the optimal level so prospective sponsors see a facility they can be proud of.”  Veterinary staff might see that reflected like “… by identifying major corporate sponsor targets within the veterinary supply industries.” You get the idea. The mirror here is the organization’s objectives rapidly and seamlessly becoming individual objectives, in terms they can quickly identify as aligning with their own scope of work.

Staff should get the first crack at their own evaluation — have them reflect on their performance before you do.

This may seem like you’re asking your staff to do your job, but you’re not. Staff members appreciate the opportunity to provide their perspective on how things are going. Aside from the positive feeling you’ll create, you’ll also find:

  • People are often tougher on themselves than you would be
  • They identify things you may not have known
  • They make valuable recommendations
  • They provide insight you won’t get by simply handing them your impressions
  • They give you an incredible head start on the ultimate evaluations

You and your staff should look in the mirror more than once a year.

Organizations often use the term “performance review” when referring to evaluations. I’ll put a stake in the ground and tell you to banish the term and replace it with “performance management.” That’s because there is an important distinction to be made between performance “management” and performance “review.” The word “review” suggests a one-time event, while “management” suggests something is continually happening. As managers, we should be continually evaluating performance rather than checking in and looking back at the last twelve months. Imagine if you used a mirror once a year. By checking “the mirror” often, we can make minor adjustments and fix things before they get out of control. Taking a good, honest look at how you’re doing against the important things (KPIs) helps ensure you actually hit those goals. Consider starting staff meetings with a “How are we doing?” section, figuratively looking into a mirror as an organization and acknowledging what looks good and what needs work.

The mirror strategy is a good one when it comes to evaluating your staff and how everyone’s performance affects the performance of the entire organization. Mirrors don’t lie — they’ll give you the viewpoint everyone else is getting. Raw. Honest. Humble.

And now I need a beer.

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