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Coaching Is Not the Same As Evaluating

The goal is not to give the player a score; the goal is to see the player grow.

I hated Year End Reviews. I hated them as an employee and, for a while, I hated them as a sales manager. Does anyone else feel the same? After all, we all know these meetings come every year at the same time. There is a scheduled meeting between an employee and manager. At that meeting, the manager does most of the talking. He walks line-by-line through areas of evaluation for each employee. He talks about what he observed from the employee’s performance and explains why he gave the employee a particular score. In the end, a document is signed and everyone goes back to work.

Why do we do this? This system doesn’t work. We all know it, but don’t do anything different. In the end, it feels like a waste of time— a pencil whipping exercise of creative writing year after year. That’s what I told myself at least.

One day during a leadership meeting, a friend of mine helped me to realize the system was not the problem. I was. He told me, “Do you realize Year End Reviews may be the only moment inside a calendar year when an employee has 100% of their leader’s attention. This should be the most important day of the year for every employee. Yet, most of us, as managers, dread it and write up our reviews at the last minute.”

His wisdom hit me hard that day. The people I managed deserved better. I had been managing, not leading. The thing is—you manage processes and resources. You lead people. I had been so focused on the process of year end reviews—I forgot it was about the people. I only evaluated them instead of actively coaching them.

This distinction has the power to change everything.

Why? Because an evaluation is an event which happens to somebody. They get a score and the evaluation is over. No genuine exchange occurs. Coaching, however, is an ongoing, give and take process, between a coach and player. The goal of a year-end review is not to give the player a score, the goal is to see the player grow.

When I look back on my former leadership style, I see that instead of being a coach focused on the growth of the players, I had become a manager focused on producing an accurate score. Applying the process had become my goal. No wonder I hated the process!

When I recognized it was my Duty to coach and develop the people on my team—and not just evaluate them—my motivation changed. Review day became the most important day of the year between me and that person.

When I switched from focusing on myself and getting through review day, to focusing on my team throughout the year—I exercised my Duty because it was my moral obligation to help my people grow. If your people are not growing and becoming a better version of themselves through your influence, you may be managing but you probably aren’t leading. You may be evaluating, but you probably aren’t coaching.

The people we lead deserve our best. It is our moral obligation to give it to them. Giving evaluations alone is not giving our best. When we focus on coaching them, this is when we begin to do our Duty and fulfill our moral obligation.

Dig Deep Questions:

  • How are your people growing under your leadership?

  • Are the members of your team growing through coaching? Or are they just being evaluated?


It is important to us for you to have an opportunity to exercise Duty, not only individually, but together as a team. This is why we have created practice cards with scenarios. We invite you to discuss as a team what it means to exercise Duty via our Coaching Cards.

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