Preparation: examples and evidence
What are examples? Examples are evidence. Evidence, that is, in the descriptive and illustrative sense, rather than the condemnatory. One of the biggest flaws that frequently arises when feedback is shared in any management situation is the absence of a clear and relevant example to make the feedback descriptive and meaningful. Consider the difference between the following observations.
- Judgemental – ‘You really need to get yourself organised, it's causing enormous problems for everyone in the team and impacting on patients…’
- Descriptive – ‘Keeping patient records up to date is crucial. We discussed a few weeks ago the difficulties Dr Andrews experienced with one of the paediatric consultations because you had mislaid two of the test results. What improvements have you been able to make on this?’
Hopefully, the difference between these two approaches to the same piece of feedback is clear. The ‘descriptive’ approach is not only more valid and useful, focusing as it does on an informative example drawn from recent work experience, it also creates a more objective and productive basis for discussion. This approach helps to take the emotion out of the feedback and enables the basis for constructive planning. The problem with judgemental feedback is that the job holder will tend to respond defensively to the ‘judgement’ and this may well block consideration of the improvements you as the appraiser would like to see achieved. The NHS scheme provides templates for collecting evidence, such as feedback from patients and colleagues, educational activities and significant incident analyses. Appraisees should start gathering evidence early, against the relevant sections in the preparatory forms. Much of this will already be available, and it is best to start getting it together gradually over a period of a few months. Appraisees should exchange ideas with others about getting the portfolio together and look at the online support sites for more ideas.
So, a key part of preparation for an appraiser, if they are in a position to know and comment more widely about the appraisee’s performance, is to think through examples to illustrate feedback objectively alongside the links to the pre-defined criteria and the evidence provided by the appraisee. This approach is greatly strengthened if there was a timely discussion, perhaps quite informal, about the example which you can refer back to. When considering and selecting examples, be conscious of anything that should be respected as confidential in terms of the involvement of other parties and do not stray ‘off topic’ – remember, the appraisal is appraisee-led.