Blogger Managing Children's Services Committee

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Time for many to experience the yearly tradition of: END OF THE YEAR PERFORMANCE EVALUATIONS!  Staff evaluations are a time honored tradition that cause the masses to collectively share a sense of dread and anxiety. (Just kidding…I think?)

During my first stint as a library manager, I actually looked forward to the full process of evaluations with my staff. We were a tight team; working well together and openly discussing any problems or roadblocks as they arose. Even though it was my first experience managing other employees, I felt both comfortable and confident going to employees with any issues and working on solutions together. I advised my team that the information shared during the evaluations was not an attack, but rather a tool that we would refer to together to grow as individuals and a team to provide the best possible service that we could to our patrons.

During this process, my co-manager approached me and asked what I thought about having our employees evaluate those in management roles for the first time in our organization’s recent history. I was honestly excited about the opportunity to be evaluated by my team and excited to see the feedback that I could use to better my performance in the eyes of my staff. What could go wrong?

My ideal feedback when considering letting the staff evaluate me.

Since I felt that my staff and I had a very open line of communication, I wasn’t expecting to receive much new information from the evaluation. Oh my, was I WRONG! While I had assumed that the feelings of open dialog regarding bettering our services was two-way, my staff had been holding back on quite a few ideas that they had for me to better my own service to them. And while I always reassured staff that our evaluations were a tool to better ourselves, not an attack on performance, if I’m being transparent, I’ll admit that it sure felt like every critique or tip for improvement that I received from my staff during that first evaluation somehow felt like a personal attack. While the majority of the feedback was positive, the areas that showed room for improvement were eye opening to me, and changed how I approach intentional conversations with coworkers to this day. I learned that I need to approach ongoing feedback as a double edged mission: provide ongoing feedback and encouragement to my staff AND proactively seek their feedback on my leadership, not merely trusting in their comfort in approaching me.

Using my own experiences, I’ve created these quick tips for best practice in retrieving useful feedback from allowing your staff to evaluate you. All organizations are different, so please consider your own organizational and departmental needs when crafting your plan for conducting staff evaluations of management performance.

 

  • Offer the staff the opportunity to complete your evaluation anonymously. While some staff may feel confident being honest with you at all times, let’s face it: there is some feedback that would be much easier to give if we weren’t looking into the face of someone who controlled our work schedules, assignments, etc. My co-manager and I made arrangements for an outside party (our bookkeeper) to tabulate the results, so handwriting wouldn’t give away anybody’s answers. We then made this fact known prior to handing out our evaluation forms. While this may seem like overkill, it allowed our staff to confidently give honest feedback without fear of (unintentional) negative consequences. After all, our goal was to get an overall feel for how we were doing, not to figure out who was a fan and who was not.
  • Consider offering the same (or similar) evaluation rubrics and questions to your staff as you use in their evaluations. This shows your staff that you are not subjecting them to anything that you are not willing to go through yourself!
  • Put the information that you gather to use! Let your staff know that you are collecting their feedback so that you can make plans to be a better leader in your library. I’d even advise sharing your plan of action with your staff, and giving regular updates on your progress. This is a great way to model best use of evaluation data!
  • Consider getting straight to the point and asking “What do you dislike about my current method of managing the department?”. If you are like me, this is a scary question to ask, because I wanted everyone in my department to “like” me, but this is as much about learning your employee’s preferences as it is about gathering information about your skills in management.
  • Refer to the experts. I am by no means a management or evaluation expert, I’m simply sharing tidbits I’ve learned in my own experience. If you are considering letting your crew evaluate you for the first time, or considering reworking your evaluation methods to gain better feedback, I’d highly recommend looking at outside resources. I’ve included links below to a couple of articles that I’ve found useful in my work.

Consider these sources for more information:

4 Questions You Should Be Asking Your Employees

Letting Your Employees Review You Can Lead to Personal and Professional Growth

What Your Employees Won’t Tell You (But Wish You Knew)

I would love to hear your experience and advice on allowing your staff to evaluation you in the comments section.

Today’s guest blogger is Amanda Yother, a life-long library lover. She has worked as a children’s services coordinator in a public library, as a school library media specialist in an elementary school, and is currently working as a regional librarian in Cookeville, Tennessee.

Amanda is writing on behalf of ALSC’s Managing Children’s Services Committee. Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

 

 

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