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Leadership for Lineworkers, Part 2: Performance Evaluations

Dec. 18, 2019
When you move into a supervisory position, you will be responsible for evaluating your direct reports. Here is what to do and not to do when you perform evaluations.

When you get promoted into supervision, you will be responsible for evaluating those workers who directly report to you. It is critical that your assessments are well thought out and provide good information to provide comprehensive feedback to those individuals.

 Performance evaluations typically have checkboxes or list numbered categories for the supervisor to mark as a method of assessing the worker’s abilities, behaviors and skill sets.  What is the most difficult part of evaluations? Several issues come to mind:

1. Taking the time to sit down and start writing an assessment of those workers you will be evaluating.

2. Discussing your observations with those workers and having a meaningful discussion with them on the things that are positive. You also must try to head off areas where there are observable negative trends.

3. Allowing the worker to provide feedback to you on your performance. The person who you’re evaluating may not know where he or she stands with you. Also, he or she may be confused about the direction you want the department to go. Also, the worker's expectations may be off base due to leadership's lack of communication and failure to take the time to clearly communicate goals and objectives.

It’s even more difficult when you consider the fact that you might be writing and discussing an evaluation with someone who was once your foreman or journeyman when you were an apprentice.  A month ago, you were on the crew and now you’re the person in charge and making assessments about those same people.

Here are some tips on how to do an effective performance evaluation.

1. Separate your professional relationships from your personal ones. The best advice I can give is to be open, honest and direct. Have a conversation with those individuals who you will be leading and directing and make sure the message is positive and they know you have their back. At the same time, however,  let them know you are in a different role and your responsibilities are on a different level. You now report to someone else who has a vision of the direction they want to go.

2. As a supervisor, make sure that you perform crew visits, observe the work and take notes. Observe how your crew leaders are discussing their tailboards. If you have feedback, take them aside and have a conversation. Write two sentences a week on each person you are evaluating. After six months, you will have a lot of information to put into the evaluation that is timely, accurate and not based on guesswork. 

3. An old lineman once told me this, and it holds true for just about every interaction you have with team or crew members: “Criticize locally, praise globally.” Negative feedback should be done one-on-one, and praise communicated in front of everyone.  

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