Evaluating. How Did They Do? How Did I Do?

April 1, 2019

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” OK, OK — I am going to completely rip this out of context from John 8:32, but it is exactly what evaluating is.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” OK, OK — I am going to completely rip this out of context from John 8:32, but it is exactly what evaluating is. Effective evaluating is the freeing of both parties from the doubt of the unknown, in regard to the effectiveness of one’s job.

Recently, I conducted some interviews for a client. A new location was opening, and they wanted a second set of ears listening to potential managers interviews. A current manager was contacted by his supervisor and then by me to interview for the position. The manager was caught off guard to find out that he was not immediately selected for the job. It was then that the manager began to question if he was actually doing a good job for the company. This reaction can happen due to a lack of coachability (as noted in a previous article) or due to a lack of effective evaluating. The lack of effectively evaluating someone on their performance has a profound negative impact on their ability to meet your performance goals.

What Are We Aiming For?

In a side story from “The New One Minute Manager,” Ken Blanchard describes a situation where an employee is at the beginning of a bowling lane and a manager is at the end of the bowling lane with a clipboard. In between the employee and the pins lies a curtain. The employee is unaware of the pin configuration behind the curtain, and only the manager knows this information. As the employee hurls the ball down the lane, he receives direction from the manager like, “a little to the left.” Then, the employee rolls another ball down the lane hoping to please the manager.

This is an improbable scenario for success, yet many managers perform this technique in their businesses every day. “You don’t need to know (insert big picture goal); you just need to do your job”. Once you remove the curtain from the bowling lane, you can give your employee a clear vision of their job and hold them directly accountable to achieve their goals.

Measuring What Matters

Before we get into the actual evaluation, we need to understand what to evaluate. The standard forms of procedures, customer service, sales, claims and tardiness are all fine and give off that classic “corporate” feel. However, I will challenge you to adjust your evaluation to align with your goals within the company. In the book “Measure What Matters” by John Doerr, the theme is to ensure you are paying attention to the details of your growth plan and only measure what truly matters.

Let’s be clear, I will never say that being on time doesn’t matter or calling out “Plug and filter tight” is just lip service to the listening ears. These are all significant things that must get done daily. But our theme for this entire series has been growing your wallet by growing your people. And just like the bowling alley, the owner down to the manager are set on a goal(s) — let’s say, increasing customer retention by 10 percent from Q1 to Q3. You have thrown up a curtain to your employees when you say, “Make sure you call out, clear to add bay 2.”

We will get more into this in another chapter, but for a little taste consider how that callout is improving your goal. How does evaluating your employee on that callout get 10 percent more people to come back for their oil change than normal? It isn’t by saying, “Oil draining bay 2” (but again, it is important). Perhaps your employees can increase retention by performing an above-and-beyond act. If that is the case and an employee can help you reach one of your Q3 goals, that is what should be measured. This may also be referred to management by objectives (MBO).

Giving an Evaluation

Evaluations are uncomfortable for so many people. All the legwork of reviewing performance notes, scheduling a time to talk in private and the polarizing event of talking over a clipboard. For you, it should be easy. You give feedback multiple times a day in a timely manner, and your employees are used to having engaging conversations that help develop them for their future.

When giving an evaluation, there are some simple rules that most HR representatives will tell you: make sure the setting is private, lead off with encouraging conversation and use a standard form or grading system. These are great controls to help steer the evaluation.

The most important rule is, don’t waste your time or their time. Ensure that the conversation is honest and explains how the employee has already improved (or diminished) and how they can improve more. If you spend your time trying to tiptoe around the truth, you may leave the conversation without a true understanding of their success in meeting the goals set previously by the last review.

Receiving an Evaluation

Communication is the exchange of thoughts and ideas between two or more people. When performing an evaluation and telling someone how they did, you should encourage communications about how you are doing, as well. If it’s just you talking, you’re lecturing. Don’t worry about your ego too much, only the strong will say anything! And that conflict will allow you to see how you are doing from a view outside your own. Isn’t conflict wonderful?

As I write this, I can see the chests poking out, the chins sucking in and the octaves in the voice plummeting as people mutter, “I don’t need them to tell me how to do my job, I am the boss.” If this is your feeling, you are not the boss; in fact, you are a puppet master. And a great poet James Hetfield once wrote the words, “Master of puppets, I’m pulling your strings. Twisting your mind and smashing your dreams. Blinded by me, you can’t see a thing. Just call my name ‘cause I’ll hear you scream, Master, master!”

Your job is not to control your employees by directing them. Your job is to control your business by developing a legion of followers who will help you accomplish your goals and grow your wallet.

Goal Setting Based on the Evaluation

Once you have established the past, you can build for the future. If goal setting was not part of your last evaluation session, you can always start now. Look at their personal performance and clearly communicate what their goals are. Clearly state what the company’s goals are and how their next few months will play a part in that success. Help them understand your vision and how they fit into it.

Be extremely specific in goal setting. Writing the words “get better at pits” is a waste of ink, paper and time. It’s like asking someone where they are and they respond, “just down the road.” Set goals that not only can be impactful to the company’s goals, but ones that can also be measured and not disputed. Perhaps something like this, “have zero customer returns on unsatisfied pit work i.e. loose plug or bad post-oil-change engine cleaning.”


Take a hard look at your evaluation process and decide if it’s helping your company, or are you just checking the HR box? “Measure What Matters” is a great book that shows how a lot of businesses broke free from the cycle and started using a new method to move their company forward. Decide that you can really make a difference in your team, and then read my next few articles. Or think your people skills are top-notch and watch your people go to the competitors and succeed. It’s your wallet, after all. Until then, be great!