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Taking Stock of Each Action
by Sandra Trice Gray

See the complete list of articles by Sandra Gray.

Help employees evaluate their performance, one aspect at a time, to improve the whole organization.

An association colleague of mine regularly encourages her board, staff members, volunteers, and peers to evaluate their performance. Her commitment to self-evaluation sets an example that her 23 employees have come to model.

When, for instance, she asks others, "How do I convey or not convey the organization?s values in my work with other employees or in my interaction with members?" or "What image of the organization do I project in my relationships with members, volunteers, and the community at large?" it gets her staff asking the same questions of themselves.

Likewise, employees are actively involved in writing their own job descriptions and annual performance objectives. They learn to scrutinize their every action by asking one question: "How does this responsibility help me fulfill the organization?s mission?" And as my colleague and her staff members each Monday morning review the week?s work in the context of the organization?s mission, they reflect on how what they plan to work on is dedicated to that end.

Take Jim, the association?s receptionist. His job assignments include greeting and assisting members, welcoming community members to the association, attending various meetings, answering the telephone, and assisting other staff members with their word-processing needs.

Each Monday, Jim takes a few minutes to think about the week ahead. He uses a form to note the things he needs to do. Ever conscious of the organization?s mission, he also identifies one aspect of his work that he would like to evaluate that week.

One week, Jim chose to improve his greeting and assisting of members so that his attention to them was more apparent. He asked himself, "What else do I need to do to help people fell welcomed, cared for, and served effectively?"

To help him evaluate his performance in this area, Jim asked other staff members to inquire, in their daily interactions with members, "What do you experience when you come to the association? What kind of impression do you have when you first arrive? What would you like to have happen differently"

At the end of the week, Jim met with the rest of the staff. He learned that his presence usually makes a good impression on members. He was perceived by many as patient and willing to assist them. However, members reported that Jim sometimes signals nonverbally that he is too busy to take care of them ? that other things seemed more important.

When Jim and his co-workers reviewed Jim?s workload, they discovered that almost all requests for word-processing assistance came early in the day ? at exactly the same time that most members and visitors arrive. They agreed to change procedures ? no word-processing requests when meetings were scheduled in the office. Jim?s primary responsibility during the time members arrived in the office would be to greet them and deal with their needs.

By tying each action, however basic, to how it fulfills the organization?s mission and then allowing the flexibility in how work gets done so as to best meet organizational goals, your staff members ? and you as leader-will soon make ongoing performance improvement a natural part of each day.


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