Week 25: A Note on Positivity

As the polar vortex looms and the forecast calls for 1-2 inches of snow tomorrow, I am reminded of the absolute importance of positive thinking. It is necessary to make it through a Midwestern winter, and it is an essential component in evaluation work as well. Cheerfulness makes anything more palatable, even snow pants.

Often when working with clients I am reminded of how my attitude and frame of reference as an evaluator sets the tone for the work at hand. There are many opportunities to improve the quality and usefulness of evaluation findings with a positive approach, including: 

Reporting Findings with a Positive Delivery: For example, if three quarters of students are below an academic standard for a program you are evaluating, instead of stating, “75% of students are failing to meet the standard” one could state “25% of students are meeting the standard, which shows a X% increase from last year.” Focusing on who is PASSING instead of who is FAIILING is a simple change that makes a huge difference in the tone of the findings.

Remain Upbeat and Positive Amid Project Tension: Often times evaluators get in the weeds with their clients when it comes to program changes, stresses, and obligations. When clients and other stakeholders get overwhelmed and tense, it is an opportunity to redirect the group to productive brainstorming, documentation methods or other opportunities to bring the project’s energy back to the original goal and intention. 

Celebrate Successes with Your Clients: Clients can be engrossed in the daily work of their programs that they forget to celebrate the gains, improvements, and successes. Be unbounded in communicating program strengths and growth. Encourage clients to share these successes with their stakeholders as well. Everyone likes to hear that they are doing something right. Successes can be something as simple as finally securing the data needed for analysis after four weeks of scrounging for it to finding statistically significant gains in a program. 

KELLEY’S USEFUL TIP: Approaching evaluation with a positive frame of reference will make your clients feel more at ease and less “attacked” by the findings. At your next client meeting, try starting by highlighting something positive you have observed and see how it influences the tone of the discussion.