Do You Evaluate Weakness?

I recently was reading an article where the author made a comment that went something like this, “Why is it that we hire people for their strengths but we evaluate them on their weaknesses?”

That statement is so true and permeates our culture. I have been on both the receiving and giving end of the typical annual performance evaluations. They typically go something like this;

“Thanks Dave for being here today, I just need to go over your performance this last year. Let me say I’m glad your on the team and thanks for these xxx accomplishments. l…. Now lets look at some areas for improvement.”

The good news always comes up first as a way for us to “break the ice” so that we can get to the real stuff that needs improvement. Come on now – be honest you know you do.

So let’s look at what is not so good about this approach even though we have convinced ourselves that we are delivering it with genuine intentions;

  • Why do we do this once a year? Shouldn’t evaluations be on going and not come as a surprise.
  • Why is it that the majority of time and energy is spent on the “areas of improvement”.
  • On the good areas why do we “leave room” for growth?
  • Does anyone really feel appreciated and uplifted after an annual performance evaluation?

So let’s look at some alternatives that would help inspire our team members:

  • We shouldn’t be doing an evaluation once a year. I would actually challenge why do them at all. The reason we do them is that for those of us who view the world through the perception of logic it appears to give us control over the process. “Hey evals are done on time every year and look we can measure their performance with data like an overall score of 3.6 out of a 4.0.” Remember people are not numbers. Instead we need to develop specific action plans on each of our team members where we develop daily, weekly, and monthly courses of action to feed their strengths. To do this you will need to accurately identify the following;
    • Determine their unique perception of how they view the world around them. It has been both scientifically and operationally proven that there are 6 unique perceptions and one of them is our base that we are born with. Determining this is learnable skill that you can acquire through active observation…no gimmicks, profiles, etc…are required. All that is needed is a basic understanding of predictable human behavior which is the foundation of social-emotional intelligence.
    • What are the unique character strengths that they possess? Each of these perceptions have very unique positive character strengths. This is the “magic” they can bring to your team! All you need to do is determine what they are and “feed” them. Again this is a very learnable skill that only requires active observations.
    • How can I connect with them? If you can determine their unique perception then you will know how to genuinely connect with them such that you are both on the same “wavelength” of communication. Again this is another learnable skill.
  • Why do we have the tendency to focus more on the negatives than the positives? Didn’t we hire them for their unique strengths? The reason we do this is we just might be looking at them from our unique way we perceive the world and what we found successful for us. This is a myth! We are all unique and what motivates us doesn’t mean it will motivate everyone else. Yet some of us have the tendency to want to surround ourselves with people just like us. Remember you are developing a team not an army of clones. If you have a team of only first baseman do you really have a team? Feed each of your team members with what makes them who they are. Discover their weaknesses only so you can find another team member with the unique strengths to fill that gap. Instead of sending them off to a course on how to improve their weakness spend that money on feeding their strengths instead!
  • Why do we leave room for growth on their evaluation? When you really look at this question does it really make any sense? If we are leaving room for growth on their strengths then really it is a measure of our ineffectiveness as a leader. We need to give them the resources they need to maximize their strengths. If this isn’t “maxed” out each year then are we really leading?

If you are looking for a good operationally oriented book that delves deeper in this fascinating subject I would recommend reading “Communication The Key to Effective Leadership” by Joseph and Judith Pawley.


David Kaiser
David Kaiser
DAVE is a retired Navy Commander and current CEO and founder of H2H Dynamics, an authentic leadership training and advisory company that focuses on the essential human to human dynamics that determine successful business, team and personal performance. He served as a Naval Officer and Aviator where he flew 46 combat sorties during Desert Storm. He was one of the officers in charge of the Navy and Marine Corps elite Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape training program where he was first exposed to human dynamics under extremely stressful conditions. In the corporate sector Dave was the Chief Learning Officer for a major defense contractor where he was responsible for all human performance training for the U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command, NATO, NASA, foreign militaries, and various Fortune 500 companies. He directly applied latest research in the fields of learning psychology, human performance, and neuroscience. Additionally Dave lead a three year research study for the United States Air Force Research Laboratory to determine the most effective training interventions to improve human performance of tactical aircrew members. During this research project he discovered the human performance tool used for NASA’s Astronaut selection for the Space Shuttle program and became one of the few people qualified to use the tool. From this research Dave co-authored two published papers at the Interservice/ Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference in 2008 (Best Paper Nominee) and again in 2010.

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  1. The model now increasingly popular is the one that has as objectives: to integrate the human capital in the organizational system and finalize it to the objectives and success factors of business; improve communication vertical (subordinate relationships); highlight the need for organizational development (change of roles, career plans, training, etc.); reward the best resources (consistent with the corporate remuneration policies). Companies tend increasingly to adopt performance management systems Mixed (measuring both the ‘what’ (achievements) that the ‘how’ (skills and behaviors implemented), defined by linking individual performance to corporate and using tools computerized able to ensure a streamlined and simple management of the process.
    The methodology of analysis of the performance of people, the ‘what’ and ‘how’, now needs the support technological that allows managers of the staff getting to the heart of the business and be co-protagonists of business success.

  2. David: I am not a believer in the annual performance review. I consider those as crutches invented to prop up bad supervisors and managers.

    If you are managing your reports properly there is no need to have annual reviews. A great job done should be complimented while it is fresh, not months later. A report that has weak areas needing improvement should be addressed as soon as it becomes apparent, not months later. Regular feed back both down and up the chain of command is essential for a well run operation.

    An annual review simply delays what should have been handled more timely and creates undue stress of both parties.

    • Thanks Ken for sharing. Your statement on addressing feedback both positive and negative in a timely manner is critical to effective leadership is critical.