Evaluations: A Tool for Leadership Development

Blog prompt: Describe how you have used/might be able to use the evaluation process in your organization as a tool to identify and develop future leaders. Include how the evaluation process can help identify specific activities that would support the future leader’s professional development.

As a faculty member, I’m involved in an evaluation process unlike any I’ve participated in over my career. I want to reflect on this process — and will do this as part of my primarily blog. For this exercise, which is part of a class I’m teaching (EDUC 363: Seminar on Personnel Issues), I’ll focus on how I’ve used prior evaluation experiences to (1) develop future leaders and (2) map my career path.

Developing Future Leaders. When I was an administrator and I think even when I was an office supervisor, I viewed the evaluation process as a developmental tool. I worked toward creating an experience where we could identify a person’s strengths, areas for development, and activities that would support the evaluatee’s professional development. I would try to focus on long- and short-term goals. For example, if a person said, “I’d like to develop my skills in word processing” I would work with the person to set up a time when s/he could take a class to develop that skill. Working at a community college made this pretty easy because we usually offered those courses and we could easily arrange for the person to take a class. I’ve always felt that investing in those around me allowed them to grow, increased motivation, and created a deeper commitment to the organization. Occasionally a group would say, “We’d like more help with our customer service skills, especially responding to unhappy students.” When this happened, we brought in a customer service training program designed to help address these concerns and simultaneously remind all of us of how each interaction with a student was a teachable moment, one where we could help the student succeed and also create a stronger bond between the student and the college.

Some of my leadership coaching came from informal interactions with others. I’m thinking now of a former colleague who recently was granted tenure at the community college where he works. One day about ten years ago  I was the Dean for Student Services and he was a staff member in the financial aid office either finishing or having just finished his undergraduate work. Because he was one of those people who really stood out as a potential campus leader, I asked him if he was thinking about graduate school. He said he was but was still in that process of deciding where and what to study. I encouraged him to get his master’s degree — and additional experience — that could help position him for future opportunities. He went on to get his master’s degree in counseling, was hired full-time as a counselor in the district, and now is a tenured faculty member. Because he has worked at all three campuses in the district and held different positions, classified & certificated as well as many key committee assignments, he’s well positioned to pursue administrative positions should he be so inclined. If I were still working with him, I’d continue using the informal “evaluation” process that began with that earlier conversation to identify his future professional goals and steps he might take to achieve those goals. Reviewing his resume and identifying any gaps in his experience that would keep him from achieving his goals would be essential. A second step would be to then develop a plan for closing those gaps.  This is similar to the steps I would have taken in a formal evaluation process except that I would use the annual evaluation to help set goals and more frequent informal meetings to reflect with the person on her/his goals, gaps in their experience, and ways to fill those gaps so the person could achieve their long-term goals.

My personal leadership development. Not surprisingly, I take pretty much the same approach to my own leadership development. As a faculty member, I don’t currently aspire to an administrative position but would like to become a faculty leader at the university. My first goal is to work on tenure. It seems a bit self-centered, doesn’t it? But realistically, becoming a faculty leader will require a great deal of time, effort, and energy that could detract from my successfully meeting the requirements for tenure. What I will do, though, is connect with faculty leaders on our campus to identify how one actually becomes a faculty leader. I’ll adopt a mentor or two who can help me identify the types of leadership roles faculty might take on, the gaps in my experience & preparation, and professional activities that will help position me for those experiences. In terms of steps: identify key faculty leaders and set up meetings, identify the many faculty leadership possibilities, narrow my focus to those that interest me & where I could be the most help, and outline a path to those positions. What initially intrigues me is how I might help other faculty members with their tenure process, in particular those underrepresented in the tenured faculty (other women and faculty of color).

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