One of the highlights of being involved in the Toastmasters program, is the opportunity to learn the skills of evaluation. While most people have the impression that evaluations are mere feedbacks, it is not a holistic perspective to adopt.
Evaluations, when done effectively and competently, can provide more than just a feedback. It can assist the person being evaluated to critically assess his/her performance for future references.
Wikipedia cites evaluation with the following points,
Evaluation is a systematic determination of a subject’s merit, worth and significance, using criteria governed by a set of standards. The primary purpose of evaluation, in addition to gaining insight into prior or existing initiatives, is to enable reflection and assist in the identification of future change.
The part which is important to note from this definition is the aspect of reflection and identification. The effectiveness of your evaluation rests heavily on your ability to articulate both well.
How can you start giving a more effective evaluation?
Here are some personal pointers that I have used over the years to craft more effective evaluations.
An effective evaluation usually does not stray from a set of objectives/benchmarks/guidelines that had been stipulated prior to the task. In the Toastmasters’ educational program for example, each speech project has a set of objectives/purposes that is meant to guide a speaker preparing for it. The assigned evaluator will then use these objectives/purposes as his guiding reference when the speaker delivers his/her speech.
To evaluate a performance/task effectively, you must know what the objectives/parameters by which areas of competencies can be judged. This sets the framework in place for you to highlight with clarity what were the areas that need attention or which were the ones that were done well.
What happens if that performance/task has no clear objectives?
Then it is your job to define one or some.
The aspect of being objective also helps in the sense that the person you evaluate will understand your intention in sharing the evaluations.
do not white wash
There are evaluators who are scared of offending the people they are evaluating. Because of that, they usually deliver “white washed” evaluations.
What are “white washed” evaluations?
When you give an evaluation that highlights too much of a good thing, even to the extent of exaggeration, without objectively citing areas of weaknesses or improvements. As a result, the evaluation will sound biased, untrue and not sincere.
For example, your superior who clearly lacks effective presentation skills and delivers, asked you to evaluate his presentation. In an effort of not wanting to critic or highlight his weaknesses, you mentioned about how fantastic and flawless he was. This does injustice to his need for self development.
The need to “white wash” happens only when you feel the need to not offend or wanting to impress. As an evaluator who wants to give effective evaluations, it is your responsibility to provide clear, objective and sincere insights. Do not white wash.
Provide insightful and practical recommendations
One of the key awareness an evaluator should always realize is that, you are evaluating another individual with his/her own level of abilities. Sometimes evaluators have the blurred perspective that the performer/speaker ought to deliver/perform the way they (the evaluators) would have.
Effective evaluations require the evaluators to be keenly observing and noting on the person’s level of abilities, and then highlight and suggest recommendations from that points.
To ask a fish why he/she is unable to climb a tree is the perfect example of a poor evaluation.
Or asking a singer as to why he/she is not juggling some balls while singing.
An effective evaluator is a keen observer who knows what to point out to aid the performer/speaker for his/her future performances. To give a clearer and more practical suggestions to the person you are evaluating is far more effective.
Start off by highlighting what are the small actions that he can develop slowly to further improve what he/she is already great at. That way, you are being insightful and practical
The 3 points above is just a beginning framework for those of you who wants to start giving a far more effective evaluation in the first place. In my future posts, I will share with you how you can give evaluations that not only empowers people, you might even be the catalyst towards them being the best at who they are.