Being fair when identifying weaknesses in a direct report.

Jacob White

Director Web Development at Caleres, Inc.



"I was once put in charge of a team of project managers. At the time, I had little experience managing projects, but as a developer in the past at this company, I had worked on many projects with this team. Because of this, I had my own preconceptions about various people in this team. I was very concerned that the personal negative experiences I had previously had with one of the people on this team could cloud my ability to give them quality feedback. I needed to figure out how to evaluate everyone in the team fairly, in a way that was deeper than my own personal past experience."

Actions taken

"I started by running a series of very short meetings (15 minutes) in the morning to evaluate how the team defined the work they did, how they did the work, and how they measured the quality of the work. We did this every morning for two weeks and because of the strict time limit we were able to accomplish a lot in the total two and a half hours that we met. In addition to this, based on the advice of another leader in the organization, I started a journal of observations about each individual. I tried to capture observations about the way each of them communicated, worked, and solved problems. In the end, I was able to more easily identify differences between personality, skills, and weaknesses in behavior."

Lessons learned

"I really recommend taking time to clearly figure out what you are managing in your position. Identifying and being clear about what value your team creates, how they accomplish that value, and how you can measure the quality of their work is essential to any team. Taking the time to not only track those measurements but also reflect on the individual contributions each person makes to that outcome is very valuable. Observing these two things, the work, and the people, will allow you to automatically start seeing your direct report's strengths and weaknesses. The time we spent defining the work allowed me to observe my team in a framework that was deeper than my own previous experiences and assumptions. The journaled observations about behavior played a key role in the direct feedback I had to give later on. It allowed the team to see what I needed them to change and helped to prevent the conversation from being one based on differing opinions."

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Jacob White

Director Web Development at Caleres, Inc.

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentPerformance MetricsLeadership TrainingPerformance ReviewsFeedback TechniquesCareer Growth

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