Performance Appraisals and Phrases For Dummies
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One of the hallmarks of successful employees is their ability to think creatively and develop innovative solutions to the vast number of problems they encounter on the job. Identifying, enhancing, and reinforcing your employees’ efforts to engage in creative thinking is critical. You should be doing this informally throughout the employee-evaluation period, and you should specifically target this area during the formal reviews.


Exceptional: Consistently exceeds expectations

  • Uses an arsenal of creative strategies to productively solve a wide range of problems

  • Consistently generates outstanding solutions to the most demanding problems

  • Focuses on solving problems, not on symptoms

  • Has powerful analytical skills that she applies to every stage of the problem-solving process

  • Establishes workable, prioritized, and highly effective problem-solving plans for each problem, instead of instantly jumping in and trying to solve them all

  • Varies his problem-solving style to meet the nature and demands of the problem itself

  • Approaches all problems with confidence and the expectation that she will generate solid and innovative solutions

  • Actively seeks out problems that require the most creative thinking

Excellent: Frequently exceeds expectations

  • Is a highly effective problem solver from start to finish

  • Comes up with creative strategies when other employees are stuck

  • Is frequently sought for a second look at problems that have stumped other employees

  • Takes a fresh look at problems and identifies new inroads to solve them

  • Creatively uses state-of-the-art technology to help in the problem-solving process

  • Finds solutions that have eluded many others

Fully competent: Meets expectations

  • Defines and understands problems before attempting to solve them

  • Is a tenacious problem solver

  • Has a broad range of problem-solving skills that he applies effectively to all problems and problem situations

  • Is confident in her creative methods and unafraid to take a stand

  • Creatively works his way around, over, under, or through obstacles in the problem-solving process

  • Solves problems before they become crises

Marginal: Occasionally fails to meet expectations

  • Gets stumped on the more challenging problems and quickly moves on to others that are easier to solve

  • Generates average solutions to problems that could yield far more positive results if approached more creatively

  • Is uninterested in new problem-solving strategies

  • Focuses excessively on superficial issues, while often overlooking the deeper cause of the problem

  • Identifies problems, but takes inadequate steps to resolve them

  • Rushes through problems that require more thorough analysis

  • Is reluctant to make recommendations based on her findings

Unsatisfactory: Consistently fails to meet expectations

  • Employs problem-solving techniques that end up generating even more problems

  • Creates more problems than he solves

  • Overlooks or underestimates problems until they’ve become major issues

  • Analyzes minor issues and lets larger problems fester and grow

  • Decides on the solution to a problem before starting her analysis

  • Comes up with solutions that are incorrect, insufficient, and invalid

Thinking outside the box

Exceptional: Consistently exceeds expectations

  • Approaches problems with an open mind and without preconceived notions

  • Questions assumptions regarding the significance of each piece of data and reassesses the value of each

  • Looks at issues, questions, and dilemmas from every angle and generates entirely new ways to resolve them

  • Is unrestrained by traditional problem-solving approaches, strategies, or expectations

  • Generates productive outcomes by including unlikely people or resources in the problem-solving process

  • Is unconcerned with others’ opinions regarding the approach or style that he’s using

  • Keeps an ongoing log of her creative ideas in order to continuously enhance them

  • Thinks outside the box by moving out of his workstation or office in order to literally look at a problem in a different light

Excellent: Frequently exceeds expectations

  • Productively integrates people, processes, and systems that seemingly don’t go together at all

  • Takes concepts that are cast in stone and then shatters, reshapes, or redefines them to generate more productive ideas and solutions

  • Excludes seemingly essential components to open the door to a wider range of creative solutions

  • Is open to totally different ideas, assumptions, and strategies

  • Isn’t afraid to make mistakes

  • Doesn’t give up in the face of doubtful comments by others who observe her unorthodox style

Fully competent: Meets expectations

  • Avoids yesterday’s problem-solving strategies

  • Enjoys working on projects that require creative thinking and solutions

  • Has attended training sessions that focus on creative thinking and problem solving

  • Uses his excellent observational skills to find overlooked pieces of data that can open up entirely new ways to solve problems

  • Has an unconventional problem-solving style that yields better-than-conventional results

  • Is always looking for new and productive ways to use everyday items

Marginal: Occasionally fails to meet expectations

  • Overly satisfied with the status quo

  • Is afraid of making a wrong decision

  • Regards unconventional thinking as too risky

  • Has negative feelings and expectations when engaged in thinking that is slightly different from her traditional approach

  • At the first sign of a problem, immediately reverts from creative thinking to overly structured thinking

  • Believes that he is already thinking outside the box, but his actions indicate otherwise

Unsatisfactory: Consistently fails to meet expectations

  • Is far more comfortable thinking inside the box

  • Rarely challenges assumptions

  • Is unwilling to change her thinking style, regardless of recent questionable decisions

  • Refuses to attend programs that focus on creative thinking

  • Only takes on projects that can be handled with very conventional thinking

  • Avoids projects that call for creative thinking

  • Regards the concept of thinking outside the box as a fad

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Ken Lloyd, PhD, is a nationally recognized consultant, author, and columnist who specializes in organizational behavior, communication, and management coaching and development.

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