BLP TIG Week: Tips for Navigating Changes in Leadership and Business Priorities as an Internal Evaluator by Erika Cooksey

Hello, my name is Erika Cooksey. I am employed as an internal evaluator at Cincinatti Children’s. I’ve been a member of AEA since 2011, and I co-chair the Social Work TIG.

A change in leadership can be a positive and stressful experience for the systems that it affects. A leader, new to an organization, brings new energy, ideas and priorities, including philosophies about how data should be used and presented. Internal evaluators with organizational history often have established and vetted methods of data collection and reporting. In a perfect world these methods would align with the needs of the new leader and they would move forward together in harmony. However, in most work environments a change in leadership requires change in the way evaluators do business. Navigating the waters of change can be complicated but establishing a good working relationship with new leadership early on makes working through change more manageable.

Hot Tip: Learn what they value

Meet with the new leader to gain an understanding what’s important to them. Assess where they are on the spectrum of understanding evaluation. Ask specific questions about their background; results and reports that were useful at their last job; how they used data to make decisions in the past; and what they need to know in the next 60-90 days to understand the work ahead. Learning more about their association with data will help assess the current state of your work and whether you should consider other methods of data collection and reporting.

Image of desk with laptop, calendar, pen, coffee, clock, etc.

Hot Tip: Approach change with an open mind

It’s important that evaluators critically assess the need for change when appropriate. This process requires time, focus and input from others. Create an environment that fosters open and honest discussion about your work. Positive feedback and accolades are great, yet it’s often the feedback that wasn’t easy to receive that is the most valuable.

Some behavioral tips for receiving feedback include: encouraging others to voice concerns and suggestions; supporting a questioning attitude and being a gracious recipient of feedback. If making a change is the right way to go, consider providing prototypes to the new leader and other stakeholders to get feedback. 

Rad Resource: Maintain professional standards

Refer to AEA’s Guiding Principles as you review your methods of evaluation. Maintain high standards and ensure that your data collection practices preserve credibility and integrity. Think critically about how changes in the evaluative model will impact the business. Make decisions regarding needed changes based on your analysis. AEA reminds us to “continually seek to maintain and improve their (our) competencies, in order to provide the highest level of performance in their evaluations.” While change is sometimes difficult, it can lead to a better and more efficient approach.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Business, Leadership and Performance (BLP)  TIG week. All posts this week are contributed by members of the BLP Topical Interest Group. 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.

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