Full Circle

Eva —  December 19, 2013 — Leave a comment

circle with arrowsIt’s the end of the year at my library, which means it’s performance evaluation time. I may do a deeper dive into our evolving performance management process in a future post; today I want to talk about how my library board has incorporated 360-degree feedback into my evaluation.

Since my first director’s evaluation in 2008, I’ve encouraged staff to share their feedback about my performance with the Board Chair. At first, it was very informal; I emailed the staff and the Friends of the Library Board and said, “if you would like to share your feedback about my performance, here’s the Chair’s email address” (I let the Chair know that I was doing this before I did it, of course).

In 2011, the feedback-gathering process became a bit more formalized, though still pretty casual. The Chair developed a brief feedback form with three bullets:

  1. Please share your thoughts regarding the Director’s performance.
  2. What activities should the Director do more of?
  3. What activities should the Director do less of?

I send the form to all staff and to the Friends of the Library Board with a message that gives the relevant details (Chair’s email address, deadline, that this is optional and anonymous). The Chair then compiles the feedback and the board discusses it along with my self-evaluation as they prepare my annual review.

When I tell other library directors that I solicit anonymous 360 feedback, I often get a lot of incredulous looks and some choice comments. Frankly, most think I’m crazy to encourage my employees to send my bosses unedited, unfiltered feedback about me. “Why would you do that to yourself?” they ask. But the feedback that is given to me has not been surprising: People think I’m stand-offish; too corporate; willing to pitch in where needed; communicative. This is nothing I don’t know already, and nothing too outrageous. If there are any off-the-wall remarks, my trustees are intelligent adults who recognize them for what they are and won’t incorporate the outlandish ones in my evaluation.

Here are the primary reasons why I volunteered for 360 feedback:

  • It gives the board a better sense of my day-to-day impact;
  • Employees have an outlet for their feedback, which gives them a sense of inclusion and influence;
  • It gives the board a better idea of staff concerns; and
  • It improves my evaluation when the board has a fuller picture of my overall leadership of the library.

If I’m brutally honest, though, my decision to have staff provide direct feedback to the board boils down to this: I refuse to live in fear. Leaders cannot be afraid of negative feedback from anyone, whether it’s my employees or my bosses or my patrons or my family. I very much prefer that we put it all out there so we can deal with it. I have no expectation that everyone will love me, and I understand that I can’t make everyone happy. And because People Make Choices, I choose to openly solicit employee feedback because that’s the culture of openness I want to promote here.

I received my 2013 evaluation a few weeks ago, and was surprised when my Board Chair shared that all of the employee feedback was positive–this is the first year that has happened. Several of the comments praised the open and collaborative environment I’ve encouraged. I definitely count this as a library leadership success story!

Do you have the opportunity at your library to provide 360 feedback to the director? Let us know in the comments how it is done in your organization.



Eva Davis is the Director of the Canton Public Library in Canton, Michigan--not Canton, Ohio, or Canton, Massachusetts, or Canton, Mississippi. (It is an easy mistake to make.) Eva honed her supervisory and management skills working in customer service, research, and publishing before heading to graduate school at the University of Michigan School of Information. She became a librarian in 1998. She was an intern and then the teen services librarian at the Plymouth (MI) District Library before moving to the Ann Arbor (MI) District Library, where she was Head of the Youth Department at the Downtown library, Head of Youth Services for the system, Head of Branch Services, and finally Associate Director for Public Services. Eva has held her dream job as the Director of the award-winning Canton Public Library since 2008. She received the Michigan Library Association's Frances H. Pletz Award for Excellence in Teen Services in 2003, and is a graduate of both Leadership Ann Arbor and Leadership Canton, where she learned that she is moderately Affiliative according to MAFF, her color is "Green" on the Four Color Personality Test, and her Myers-Briggs Type is INTJ (although she has worked diligently and consistently on improving her Sensing, so she now leans ISTJ). Follow @CantonLibrary and @EvaDavisCPL on Twitter. (Photo credit: Susan Kennedy)

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