Leaders evaluate their staff on a regular basis, both to themselves and in conversation with others. Our ability to do this fairly and with grace matters because our evaluations impact their jobs, sometimes their future, and the opportunities that we give to them. In addition, when there are discussions about staff (in appropriate settings), it is important that we exhibit a generosity of spirit and are fair and balanced in our attitudes and comments.
As a younger leader, I was more critical and less understanding and made faster judgments that were not always fair or balanced. From the perspective of many years in managing others, I have several principles that I try to live by when it comes to my judgments of staff.
One: Be circumspect about what you assume and hear from others about staff members. We all have biases, and often, what is shared about someone else may not be fully accurate or based on second-hand rather than first-hand information. When I hear something negative and don't know all the facts, I will "think grey" rather than make a judgment that I don't have enough information to make. Thinking grey means that I suspend judgment until I have all the information. This has kept me from making what would have been a poor decision on many occasions.
This means that we should give people the benefit of the doubt. When something does not go right, or there is a conflict of some sort, it is easy to make judgments about character, motives, or competency. Often, there are explanations for what has transpired that give us a greater perspective if we will wait to see what the facts are. Things are not always what they seem!
Two: I have learned that I should not judge motives because when I do, I am almost always wrong. When we judge motives, we make assumptions about the intent behind some action. Ironically, we never judge our motives as being suspect because we know ourselves, but we often judge the motives of others.
90 plus percent of the time, when I have judged the motives of others, I have been wrong. So I try very hard to think grey and assume the best rather than assuming anything negative. With time and dialogue, clarity can be achieved.
Three: Remember that people can change, and they do. Just because someone has deficits does not mean that they will necessarily stay that way. Most people want to grow and develop. The problem I have observed in ministries is that in the name of "grace," we don't level with people on issues they have, so they have no way of growing and developing. This is particularly true in areas of relational disconnects or EQ issues where some truth-telling and coaching could change the picture. All of us have areas where we need to grow. I assume that people will grow and develop unless experience tells me differently.
Four: Be careful of allowing "in" and "out" groups to develop because of our evaluations. In a healthy organization, everyone should be in the "in" group. If someone cannot do their job or have some sort of fatal flaw, they need to be graciously moved on. But, leaders should not create "in" and "out" groups based on staff evaluation.
Five: We should want everyone to succeed. This means that when there are developmental issues, whether relational, emotional, or necessary skills, we ought to have ways to help staff members grow. As leaders, we are here to help people succeed, which means that we invest our time and energy in doing so. If there are issues, let's figure them out if they can be figured out. Let's develop our staff if they can be developed. We need to value people and treat people with dignity and respect.
Six: We should display generosity of spirit. Leaders who are generous in spirit want the very best for their staff, believe the very best in their staff, and will invest themselves to help their staff succeed. The generosity of spirit includes building cultures where people are most likely to succeed and where we can draw the best out of our people.
If you are a leader, be generous in your attitudes and assessments of staff and their development and success.