All small business owners and execs form opinions of their people, just as teachers assess their students. And those opinions tend to stick.
But problems erupt when you mark certain employees as “bad” or “unreliable” or “scatterbrained.” Even if they give you some concrete reasons for drawing such conclusions, harboring negative impressions can prevent you from acknowledging — and taking advantage of—their strengths.
Follow these guidelines to ensure that you judge your people fairly:
-Commit facts to paper. Write down specific actions or behaviors when evaluating an employee’s performance. Like a good reporter, describe what the employee did without tossing in your impressions of why. You should have three separate written entries to make a sound judgment about the person’s work.
-Show a willingness to change your opinion. Once you’re convinced that an employee is failing in a particular area, don’t assume it’s permanent. Let the employee know what you’re thinking. Tell him exactly what he needs to do to change your view.
-Create objective measures. You can ensure that merit matters more than mere perception by devising clear, measurable performance standards. Your judgment of talent should match those of other trusted people within your company, because everyone should be drawing upon the same hard data.
-Ask for input. Don’t analyze someone’s performance in a vacuum. To ensure that your observations jibe with what others have observed, ask an employee’s supervisor or co-workers for their input. If the employee in question deals with customers or vendors, call them and ask for their feedback, too.