Feedback_2For much of corporate America, we are entering the dreaded end-of year performance cycle. For many, this is the time when critical assessments are made and tough messages crafted. In addition, it is time to draft a self assessment that will capture maximum rewards without being too obvious in the intent. Or, maybe you’re the self-critical one who is honest about your gaps and misses.

Whether assessing yourself or someone else, it can be powerful to consider  a Mary Mavis tenet:

Not one of your assessments is the Truth (with a capital T)—even the affirming ones.

Your assessments are not the Truth because your assessments are based on your personal and professional standards and possibly the standards of your organization. For another person or in another setting or organization, the exact same performance could be assessed quite differently. Even if you are certain that your expectations mirror 10s if not 100s of leaders, I guarantee I can find another set who would view it differently.

The best you can do is to create a “grounded” assessment. That assessment is based on information.

What are your EXPECTATIONS? What exactly do you expect in results, behavior, process?

What are your OBSERVATIONS and your known FACTS?

What are your OPINIONS (ASSESSMENT) of those facts against your expectations?

Grounded assessments are difficult to develop for two reasons:

  1. We often don’t have the right or enough data. Don’t be surprised if you lay out the data and find three or four items over a fairly long timeframe.
  2. Sometimes we aren’t clear about our own expectations. We’ve judged the behavior or results with our historical “lens” on similar scenarios.

Laying out your current information in a table (see picture above) can take 1-3 minutes. It’s a small investment to make for an important message. With that information, you can identify gaps in your data and produce a more meaningful set of assessments.

Language matters in performance conversations.  Assessments must be made and are  powerful. What is most powerful?

A well-considered set of assessment words, words that truly send your intended message
and will engage and inform the other person.

Most of us resist assessments that use words that “condemn” or “judge” us. So choose your words carefully.

If this post interests you, check out my latest written piece on FEEDBACK.