In my first article, I discussed how we implemented job descriptions and processes to give our employees an accurate understanding of how we want things done consistently. We did this to be able to hold people accountable and set a baseline to be able to assess our employee’s growth. Our approach to assess our employees involves counseling and performance evaluations.
Throughout my military career, the Army stressed the importance of conducting counseling and performance evaluations on your subordinates. It was the responsibility of all leaders to mentor and coach their people to help them improve and grow in their field. At Zeck Ford, I have tried to instill the same philosophy with our employees. I want me and my managers to attempt to speak with everyone daily, give our employees encouragement to continue to improve, and empower them to make on-the-spot corrections to processes if needed. I have also requested that during their interactions with our employees, they need to let employees know daily plans and, as a team, discuss any issues as they arise throughout the day.
This concept works great to help keep our employees involved. However, I have noticed that most of our formal or documented counseling is negative counseling. Someone did something wrong and we need to document it for our records. I know that most of the time, all of our employees do a good job, but no one writes anything positive down. Because of this, I have requested my managers perform written performance evaluations on all of their employees. This began with me evaluating the managers.
The problem I have with evaluating my managers fairly is my perception is my reality. I am unable to be in every department every hour of every day so my observations are only snapshots of what is going on and most of the time, our people will act differently when they know I am around. These snap shots combined with production reports and customer concerns become my reality for how each department is operating and how each manager is leading their people. Before I evaluate my managers, I need to check to see how close my reality is to those that they spend most of their time with, their employees. So, I hand out a 20-question evaluation for our employees to rate their managers.
These evaluations are anonymous and ask the employee to rate their manager on several different topics, from how their manager treats our employees and customers to job knowledge and conflict resolution. Employees can add their name if they want, in case there is a need to follow up on any of their answers. This usually works out well by averaging the scores for each question I can see the patterns of what our employees see as my manager’s strengths and weaknesses. I take the information I get from the employees very seriously and have made management changes due to some of the employee’s concerns. Unfortunately, I need to be careful and make sure that an employee is not just upset with the manager or a recent situation and just slams their manager with the hope of getting them in trouble. Now that I have a better understanding of our employee’s perception of their managers, I pull out all of the past evaluations and compare them to this year, looking for changes and hoping that every manager has improved in the eyes of our employees.
Now I can start writing my managers’ evaluations. I rate my managers in eight categories: leadership, process management, customer care, employee care, planning and handling growth, cost control, and quality control. Still I have no choice but to rate them on my perception of their performance. But when it comes to actually sitting each manager down and discussing their performance, I try to do it in a manner that allows me to see both sides. Most of the time, my perception, combined with production reports, the financial statement, and the employee evaluations give me an accurate assessment of their performance. I try to be open minded enough to allow my managers to explain to me their perception of their performance and this usually leads into me coaching them to help improve their performance or understanding of an issue. Counseling and evaluations have ultimately helped improve the performance of my fixed operations departments.