AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

Nov/14

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Brad Rose on the Importance of Interpersonal Skills to Successful Program Evaluations

Hello everyone, I’m Brad Rose of Brad Rose Consulting, Inc. a Massachusetts-based consulting firm that provides program evaluation, applied social research, and organization development consulting services to national and local non-profits, community-based organizations, educational institutions, philanthropies, corporations, and state and federal agencies.  I’d like to share my views about the importance of interpersonal skills to successful program evaluation initiatives.

Lesson Learned: We all know that a good evaluator must have the requisite technical/methodological skills; he or she must be able to develop a research design, carry out research in the field, analyze data, and report findings. These technical/methodological skills, although of critical importance, are not the only skills that evaluators need. Effective program evaluations also depend upon a range of interpersonal and relational skills that make effective and responsive interpersonal interaction possible.

I recently posted to the American Evaluation Association’s listserv a query about the importance and role of interpersonal skills in evaluation.  I asked for AEA members’ opinions about the importance of interpersonal skills in conducting successful evaluations. The central theme of the many responses I received was that successful evaluators employ key interpersonal skills, and that without these, evaluation engagements are unlikely to be successful.

Among the most prominent reasons that my AEA colleagues said interpersonal skills were important were:

1) the importance of building strong, candid, and constructive relationships, on which effective data collection depends

2) the importance of establishing trusting and collaborative relationships between evaluators and stakeholders in order to help to ensure that evaluation findings will be utilized by clients and stakeholders

3)  Additionally, some colleagues commented that strong interpersonal skills in evaluation enhance the probability that clients and stakeholders will share information and provide valuable insights about the program.

As my colleagues confirmed, effective evaluation necessarily entails trusting, open, and amicable relationships that make access to program knowledge, evaluands’ experience, and critical program information possible. Interpersonal skills are a prerequisite for effective program evaluation.

Hot Tips:

  • Build rapport and trust with clients, evaluands, and stakeholders
  • Act with personal integrity
  • Display a genuine curiosity and ask good questions
  • Make yourself vulnerable in order to learn
  • Be empathic
  • Be both socially aware and self-aware— i.e., be aware of, and manage, both your own and other’s emotions (including the features of emotional intelligence, i.e, capacities to accurately perceive emotions, use emotions to facilitate thinking, to understand emotional meanings, and to manage emotions).
  • Treat each person with respect
  • Manage conflict and galvanize collaboration
  • Facilitate collective (group) learning

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

2 comments

  • Veronica Olazabal, Nuru International · November 21, 2014 at 5:28 am

    I could not agree with you more. I would also emphasize that building strong interpersonal relationships does not come naturally to many evaluation practitioners as it is often thought that the work and evidence will speak for itself which is in fact not always the case. Clients need to be influenced and persuaded to believe the results and recommendations of an evaluation process, which is highly dependent on not only the credibility of the evaluation team, but also, the interpersonal communication skill-level of the team throughout the process, as you so rightfully point out.

    Reply

  • Keith Bernados · November 20, 2014 at 11:26 am

    Mr. Rose, I believe your first two points in your list of “Hot Tips” is very relevant right now. Given that a high level academic, highly paid consultant on ACA, and member of MIT, Dr. Gruber, has been recorded saying that, basically, people need to be lied to about public policy making and laws for their own good the issue of trust and personal integrity will be much in the minds of program clients and stakeholders.
    Good interpersonal skills will be needed to overcome suspicion, doubts and mistrust that Dr. Guber’s remarks have cast on all of social science academia. The third from the bottom of the “Hot Tips” “Treat each person with respect.” is very important. To me that includes not lying to people nor treating them as ignorant children.

    Reply

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