Reviewing Performance – Based on Clear and Agreed Upon Criteria

Surely we should agree that the only basis on which we do an evaluation is against a set of criteria – standards, performance indicators, benchmarks – to which we have all agreed.   There are few things more frustrating and discouraging than being evaluating against uncertain or ill-defined criteria or against what has aptly been called “moving goalposts.”   Yes, we all live and work in fluid environment.   This means that there does need to be some flexibility and adaptability built into the way that we do our work.  But even then, these kinds of developments need to be discussed and identified and incorporated into the review process. 

And in this regard, there are two intersecting questions.  First, for what am I responsible? And second, do I have the authority or, bluntly, the “power”, to deliver on that for which I am responsible?   It is simply unfair and needless to say disheartening to be held accountable for something for which you do not have the leverage or the authority to provide. Thus we need to be fully cognizant of the limitations on every role or responsibility:   there are always contingencies; there are always variables that are outside of our control.  But then, with all of that taken into account, what are the critical by which we will be reviewed and have our work assessed? 

Starting well, in this regard, is so very important.   Thus I find the idea of the first 100 days a very helpful frame of reference – long enough to be into and on the job but not so long that patterns get established that then need to be challenged at a later point.   Without trying to solve all the problems in the world, identify the three or four . . .not more than five . . .things that need to happen in the first 100 days.   Have combination of both hard a soft metrics:  by soft I mean that the new appointee has established a fruitful working relationship with . . . [name the other entity].   Then also, have some hard metrics – by which I mean indicators that are easy to measure:  a new pastor agrees that in the first 100 days there will be a meeting with each of the other pastors in the area or section of the city.  A new professor will craft and mount two new courses and be ready for the Fall term.   But the main point is that the criteria for the first 100 days set the stage and, ideally, also signal that “performance review” is part of our working relationship and part of our institutional culture. 

Then also, I follow Peter Drucker’s suggestion that we should each be able to identify the 2-4 key initiatives that we will seek to accomplish over the next 5-6 months.   Not five; that is too many and we will lack focus.  At least 2 . .. unless one is particularly significant and time-consuming.   And we agree with our key working team or our supervisor that these will be the focus of our attention beyond the normal routine matters for which we are responsible.   Over the next five months we will put in place a new budgeting process for the organization . . . or initiate and bring to closure a new memorandum of understanding that will frame a partnership or joint venture with another institution.   But the point is that we are always looking for new opportunities and recognize that we are accountable to be asking how we can foster, in significant and substantive ways, the flourishing of this organization.   We are evaluated not merely on keeping to the basics, but on our commitment to growth and development for this organization.   We are not just going through the motions. 

Finally, the performance review needs to fit our job description or profile.  And, further, as already intimated, performance indictors need to be both hard and soft.   By hard:   clearly outlined accomplishments that we initiated, oversaw or delivered on, in partnership with others.  And soft indicators:  the quality of our working relationships, the tenure of our involvement in group meetings, the attention to institutional culture and the emotional quotient that shapes our working environment.

Author

Gordon T. Smith

Gordon T. Smith is the president of Ambrose University located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Ambrose is an institution owned by the Church of the Nazarene and the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada. It includes a whole range of undergraduate programs, including education, business, music, behavioural sciences an biology, as well as history, English and psychology. Ambrose also includes an undergraduate school of ministry formation. And, last but not least, there is Ambrose Seminary, a fully accredited graduate level institution of theological formation. Gordon has been the president since August of 2012.

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