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Performance Review: Using Assignments to Assess Employee Growth and Development

Effective leaders manage by keeping their fingers on the pulse of their employees' key activities. When tasks and assignments are delegated, leaders must take the time to review each employee's progress against goals to determine what, if any, additional and coaching is needed to successfully complete the assignment or to enhance their skills.

There is a two-fold purpose of an assignment performance review. Leaders are receiving a progress report on the delegated task or assignment. They are allowing the employee to provide details and input on what has happened to date, and the results. The employee is also providing feedback on any problems, issues, and concerns that may have surfaced. This allows the leader to provide insights and to suggest possible courses of action, if needed.

The second aspect of an assignment performance review is to assess professional employee growth and skill development. Properly performed, an assignment performance review allows leaders to guide and direct the professional development of their employees. This is the most important aspect of the review.

The purpose of delegation is not only to assign tasks and assignments, but to build and polish an employee's skills and capabilities. Only when this happens can leaders know with confidence that tasks and assignments can be successfully delegated, and overall performance and results increased.

When leaders monitor an employee's performance, they are performing a mixture of a work and planning review with a developmental planning review.

A work and planning review directs and controls the employee's performance in the traditional management sense, while a developmental planning review is designed to assist the employee in improving his or her personal skills. When reviewing the progress of a delegated assignment or task, the leader is doing both.

During an assignment performance review, the leader is reviewing the actual progress toward specific goals of the employee while also assessing his or her knowledge, attitude, and on-the-job skills. During the review, leaders are not controlling and directing but seeking balanced input from the employee. In this manner, problems, issues, and concerns are discussed while the leader probes with questions to identify the degree to which the employee has worked to resolve them. Leaders provide their insight or advice only after employees have given a full report of their progress, the problems and issues that have arisen, and the various alternatives they have tried.

Throughout performance assessments, leaders need to build trust and rapport with their employees to develop deeper levels of loyalty. There are several things leaders need to avoid so the relationship with their employee is not undermined during these reviews. These include:

  • Unwarranted Criticism. Leaders should base their judgments and criticisms on facts, not supposition. They must avoid making unwarranted negative comments or judgments about the employee's performance, attitude, and decisions.
  • Analyzing the Employee's Motivation. Leaders should avoid playing the role of an "amateur psychiatrist" by not analyzing an employee's motives or behaviors.
  • Controlling and Directing. Leaders should avoid giving a detailed solution to existing problems without asking employees for their input.
  • Threatening and Coercion. Since leaders are using delegation to develop employee skills, they should avoid at all costs any attempts to coerce and force an employee to do things their way. They should avoid threatening employees with intimidating and negative consequences.
  • Questioning. Leaders should avoid second-guessing their employees with questions about every idea, decision, recommendation, or suggestion. The purpose of the performance review is to analyze performance regarding a delegated task and to assess how employee skills have improved.

Once the initial phase of the review has been performed and the assignment thoroughly discussed, the leader and employee should agree upon an action plan for the remaining portions of the project. The leader should include any plans for self-improvement and growth the employee may require, which may include additional training or coaching in specific skill areas. Whatever the actual plans, leaders should make sure they are realistic, attainable, measurable, and on a scheduled time line. Both the leader and the employee should know what will be done and how, and detailed milestones that the employee needs to achieve must be set.


Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. is author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. He can be reached at 800-654-4935.

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