Early on in my career, I dreaded the idea of a performance evaluation. Everything about it made me nervous. And despite the fact that I often share my experiences through articles like this one, I am not fond of writing out my accomplishments or reliving my shortcomings, especially for my supervisor to analyze and critique. Something about it is very unnerving. It could be that past “reviews” came with surprises about undefined and, therefore, unmet expectations or just the awkwardness of self-evaluation.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. Employees should never hear something, especially if it’s an area that requires improvement, during their performance evaluation for the first time. Leading people necessitates continual dialog about their performance and movement toward agreed-upon goals. Leadership is not a once-a-year, set-it-and-forget-it position. To help break the negative stigma of performance evaluations are four tips for creating a structure for great performance evaluations of the church staff.
Define Roles and Goals
Federal and state laws may not require official role descriptions, but role descriptions provide the employee and the employer with a baseline for expectations. Having a role description for each position within the church defines the performance standards for the job. During the hiring process, present the role description to the employee, define the goals, and clearly communicate the expectations.
An old quote says, “The fastest way to starve a horse is to assign two people to feed it.” It’s not about the horse. The point is that one person needs to own the task. In this case, someone needs to drive the performance evaluation process. Typically it is someone at an executive level and most likely oversees human resources. If the church specifies annual evaluations, this person establishes the time of the year they occur. When selecting a date, avoid busy seasons like November – December.
Keep it Simple
Churches or other organizations using multi-page evaluations with rating systems on everything from punctuality to working well with others, hoping to discover some kind of overall score to rank the employee, are missing the point. A good performance evaluation creates an opportunity to celebrate accomplishments, review areas for improvement, and establish agreed-upon goals for the upcoming year. Since it’s part of the overall development process for the employee and the supervisor, an effective dialog can happen with every question. Here are a few examples of questions to ask the employee:
- List your top three strengths and how you applied them since the last review.
- List areas you would like to improve.
- What impact would you like to make in the upcoming year?
The last question on the example list allows the employee and the supervisor to begin establishing the goals for the upcoming year. Consider the SMART goal model developed by George Doran in the early 80s to make the goals clear and measurable.
- Specific – answer the what, who, why, and when. Provide a clear understanding and hold the employee accountable.
- Measurable – define how to measure success. Is it the number of people in attendance, the number of baptisms, the number of posts published, or some other way to measure a win?
- Achievable – with the available resources and support, can the employee grow (rise to the occasion) and meet the challenge?
- Realistic – can the employee actually achieve the goal? If not, what needs to change to make it realistic?
- Timely – what’s the deadline to achieve the goal?
Even though the church sets up an annual performance evaluation to collaboratively celebrate the successes of the prior year, learn from areas that need improvement, and set yearly goals, it’s not enough. Make it a point for all supervisors to have frequent and regular check-ins with their direct reports. Monthly or bi-monthly check-ins allow the supervisor and employee to review the progress and setbacks on goals while keeping an ongoing, open dialog. Regular check-ins ensure that when the time comes for the review, the only surprise is how easy and stress-free the performance evaluation went.short url: