Job references are issued at the end of a work relationship, sometimes in between, in regular intervals.
They are usually a judgement of how well an employee has performed during the period after the work has been done. You are the judge. You evaluate their work and you write your verdict up in a reference. It makes it seem like the responsibility for an employee’s performance would be totally theirs, not the leaders.
This relationship changes dramatically when you write a job reference at the beginning of your relationship and keep it in your drawer.
How would you like the employee to perform? What would the ideal job reference for that employee look like if it turned out to become a perfect relationship?
Really, write your employee the best reference you can think of – in advance!
Here’s the crux: Make it your responsibility that they live up to it, not theirs.
Provide them with the environment and the support they need to thrive. Don’t blame them if they don’t deliver the results, ask yourself how you can support them better.
It forces you to be more considerate about whom you hire. But more importantly, it forces you to do everything you can to get the optimum out of your relationship.
And in that sense, when you finally write the real reference, the one that gets handed over, it’s much more a verdict about your performance as a leader as it is about their performance.