Evaluation season can be a nerve-wracking time of the year for employees. For those in Residence Life and Housing, it is all encompassing as there’s a wide-range of areas to assess one’s growth and success. For student and professional staff alike, knowing a performance evaluation is ahead can sometimes bring self-doubt and general uncertainty and anxiety. One’s perspective of feedback can make or break the outcome of a conversation involving feedback. One of my favorite tools in my supervisory tool belt is Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly Engaged Feedback Checklist from her book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. This 10 item checklist is essential to the supervisory experience; when utilized properly, conversations involving constructive feedback happen with significantly greater ease.
The ten items stated on the checklist are simple and straightforward, yet often missed when the time comes to give or receive feedback. Below is my breakdown for utilizing each of Brené Brown’s checklist items in the supervisory experience:
- I’m ready to sit next to you rather than across from you.
While I typically sit across from my staff members when giving feedback, it is the mentality of the seating arrangement, the power differential that can set the tone. Going beyond the seating, I always ensure my posture and body language is open yet intentional as to create a calm and comfortable environment. The location of evaluations is also important; I choose a neutral yet private location such as a private lounge or room where our worlds collide evenly and have them pick a seat first.
- I’m willing to put the problem in front of us rather than between us (or sliding it toward you).
My favorite interpretation of this is separating the issue from the person and making the issue/potential resolution the focus and not the perceived individual flaws causing the issue. This is a time where you plan to work together to find a resolution and not allow finger pointing to creep in.
- I’m willing to listen, ask questions, and accept that I may not fully understand the issue.
Often times when it comes to performance or any issue in the workplace, our first reaction is to assume we completely understand why someone isn’t performing to standards or that we know someone else’s perspective of a situation. These assumptions can cause irrational frustration, but when we allow ourselves to remain open to the perspective of others, we gain insight on the missing pieces we cannot perceive on our own.
- I want to acknowledge what you do well instead of picking apart your mistakes.
As supervisors, it is of deep importance that we celebrate our staff members when they go above and beyond. Many supervisors find recognition to be superfluous, but it is not always recognizing someone for simply doing what’s expected, but noticing an area they doubt themselves in and recognizing their strength and/or growth in said area. Anyone on my staff will tell you that I am a perfectionist; however, while expecting the best, I celebrate excellent work and growth when I see it.
- I recognize your strengths and how you can use them to address your challenges.
Before providing constructive feedback, it is important to identify the individual’s strengths as these strengths are what will be used to strengthen areas that are found to be challenging. This supervisory homework allows us as supervisors to come to these conversations prepared to coach staff members through the process of growth through the utilization of strengths. There is also a need to challenge staff members to take on this self-reflective homework as well for increased productivity.
- I can hold you accountable without shaming or blaming you.
From my perspective, this is the heart of the entire list. While I don’t always have time to run through this list, I always recite in my head, “I can hold you accountable without shaming or blaming you”. Missing this point is why feedback has developed such a negative stigma. When we assume someone’s intent is to make us feel small or if we approach a situation with the intent to “put someone in their place” we shame them. Shaming and blaming is the enemy of productivity. Use accountability as a way to show staff members you care about their success and growth because this is the true intent and purpose of accountability and constructive feedback.
- I’m willing to own my part.
It is important to exhaust our resources in helping those we lead. By doing so, we own our part in their growth and overall success. We check in, we follow up, we utilize trial and error for solutions and take responsibility where responsibility is due.
- I can genuinely thank you for your efforts, rather than criticize you for your failings.
If you haven’t seen clear success or that idolized “180 turn”. What have you noticed as small wins along the way? What effort has been clearly put into addressing challenges? Being able to notice and celebrate these efforts will encourage staff members to continue on towards greatness.
- I can talk about how resolving these challenges will lead to your growth and opportunity.
When we can address challenges and discuss them productively during an evaluation or accountability conversation, we must discuss the purpose behind the conversation. The intent is not to make anyone feel small or condemned, but to make every staff member feel empowered to better themselves with the use of their own strengths and skill sets. What vision do you have of each of your team members? What do you feel success would look like for them? Create and share your vision and goals for your staff members’ success and ensure there is a connection between the constructive feedback and vision.
- I can model the vulnerability and openness I expect to see from you.
Lastly, be able to model the healthy perspective you want for staff members to have when receiving feedback. The fastest way to implement modeling this is by intentionally seeking feedback. After every 1:1 meeting and staff meeting I leave a spot for Daring Greatly Feedback. My team expects it and often comes prepared to share both constructive and affirmative feedback. Constantly seeking feedback is a great personal accountability action because it challenges us as supervisors to seek the growth and development that we challenge our teams to seek.
Daring greatly is a daily action and is valuable within evaluation season and beyond. This checklist helps to add value to these systematic processes and increases the productivity of the conversations in which the feedback is given and received. Consider adding this checklist to your supervisory tool belt. I’ve found this to be a great transferable checklist to use for both our professional and our personal relationships and experiences. Happy Evaluating!
For more information on Daring Greatly, check out Brené Brown’s powerful website, full of phenomenal resources: www.brenebrown.com.
Bianca Hicks is a Residence Life and Housing professional at the University of Akron in Akron, OH and a Directorate Body member of the ACPA Commission for Housing and Residential Life. She is passionate about adding value to the student experience through leadership development, retention-focused decision making, accountability, and effective programming. Additional loves: faith, family, friends, learning, educating, and inspiring. Bianca is an alumna of Bowling Green State University (B.S.) and Ball State University (M.A.). Connect and learn more about Bianca via Twitter (@BiancaHicks1) and WordPress (BiancaHicks.wordpress.com).