As a leader, I know that performance evaluations are an important part of life.  Additionally, I know that performance evaluations, if given and received properly, can be a critical tool for helping to build people as leaders and professionals.  But before I share some personal leadership insights on this important subject, I’d like to share the results of a quick math test with you to illustrate the first of four leadership principles I’ve learned as a leader about evaluating performance for growth and development.







So what can you quickly tell me about the results of this simple math test?  How easy was it to notice that one equation is totally incorrect?  If you are like most people, it is pretty easy to spot poor performance, but what about spotting good performance?  While it is true that one of the equations in the above math test is completely wrong, how quickly did you also notice that five of the equations are completely right?  Unfortunately, most of us have been trained to evaluate performance by first looking for what is wrong in people’s performance with more of a judging spirit rather than looking for what is right in people’s performance with more of a coaching spirit.  As a leader for many years, I’ve done both; however, as I learn and grow as a life-giving leader, my sincere desire is to help people grow and develop by focusing more on their positive performance rather than their negative performance.       

Leadership Principle #1

  • Life-giving leaders look for more good than bad and more right than wrong in people’s performance.

The Bible states in Psalms 139:14-17, “I will praise You [God], for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.  My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!”  If we know that God has wonderfully and skillfully made each one of us and He has precious thoughts toward us, then why should we think differently about God’s most valuable creation when it comes to evaluating performance? In fact, when we think about people the way God thinks about people – His most prized creation – it becomes easy to be a source of real encouragement in people’s professional growth and development by focusing on their positive performance and not their negative performance.  I’ve heard it said that “encouragement is oxygen to the soul” and I believe it because I have personally experienced the real power of encouragement in my own professional growth and development as a leader.

Leadership Principle #2:

  • Life-long disciplined learners can grow tremendously by learning from their successes and their failures in life.

Some time ago I learned from another leader that effective leaders reflect upon their successes and their failures in life and they learn from them.  Personally, I have found this to be true if someone really wants to be an effective life-long learner.   In fact, Proverbs 24:16 states, “For a righteous man may fall seven times, and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity.”  Plus, as a Christ follower and disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, I’ve learned that a life-long disciple is actually a life-long disciplined learner.  Therefore, as a life-long disciplined learner, I realize that I must exercise discipline in self-reflection in order to effectively learn from my personal successes and failures in life. Furthermore, I have personally found that it is much easier to reflect upon my successes in life and learn from them versus my failures in life; however, I have also found that while it may be more emotionally difficult to reflect upon my failures, some of my most significant learning and growth has taken place when I have honestly sought to learn and grow from my failures.  As a result, I’ve learned that failure is never really failure unless we fail to learn anything from it.

Leadership Principle #3:

  • Criticism or evaluative feedback is critical information that is necessary to help people learn and grow. 

Once I attended a leadership seminar with author and speaker, John Miller, who wrote the book titled, QBQ – The Question Behind The Question.  In that seminar, John shared this powerful leadership principle for personal growth and development.  As leaders, if we truly embrace the revelation that criticism is actually critical information that is necessary to help us learn and grow, we will have found a powerful key to learning and growing as people.  Such a definition helps us understand that criticism or evaluative feedback is actually about the performance of a person, and not the person.

For example, when one of my sons was performing on stage in a drama skit, he forgot to turn on his microphone as well as a couple of other things that needed a little tweaking.  However, when he was critiqued, he didn’t like it and didn’t receive the evaluative feedback very well…just like you and I when our performance is being critiqued.  The reason we tend to feel this way is because we take the criticism personally rather than receive it as an opportunity to receive new information about our performance that can help us learn and grow.  Once I explained to my son that criticism was necessary critical information that he needed to help him improve his performance, he became much more open to the opportunity it provided for his personal growth and development.  I know that this is not an easy thing, especially when our own performance is being critiqued; however, I also know that we can all grow through this process if we are willing to receive criticism as critical information necessary to truly help us learn and grow as people.

Leadership Principle #4:

  •  Life-long disciplined learners effectively apply what they learn to grow and develop in life.

It is one thing to learn something, but it is another whole level of learning when we actually apply what we learn by doing it in real life.  James 1:22-25 states, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.  But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”  Therefore, to help us be “doers” and not just “hearers” only, we can effectively apply these leadership principles by asking the following four practical questions when evaluating people’s performance for growth and development.

  1. What did a person do well?  By asking this question, we intentionally look for good performance that we can affirm through encouragement as a life-giving leader.
  2. What did a person not do well?  By asking this question, we demonstrate the courage to risk the approval of people by giving them honest evaluative feedback on performance that can be improved. 
  3. What can a person do differently to improve his or her performance to another level?   By asking this question, we seek to provide practical information that people can effectively apply to help them learn, grow, and develop to a greater degree in life.
  4. What did you most and least like about a person’s performance? By asking this question, we may be able to help people self-reflect upon their successes and their failures so they can learn from them.

 In Summary:

  • Life-giving leaders look for more good than bad and more right than wrong in people’s performance.
  • Life-long disciplined learners can grow tremendously from their successes and failures in life.
  • Criticism or evaluative feedback is critical information that is necessary to help people learn and grow.
  • Life-long disciplined learners effectively apply what they learn to grow and develop in life.

Thanks and have a blessed “Make It Happen” day!

Evaluating Performance For Growth And Development Copyright 2010, The Make It Happen Learning Institute.  You have permission to reprint the leadership article, Evaluating Performance For Growth And Development, in its entirety only, and forward to your colleagues and friends, provided the copyright notice remains part of the reprint and transmission.  All other rights reserved.