Archive for the ‘management’ tag
Rambling post ahead…
One of the most difficult things for people to hear is criticism. Whenever we’re judged or evaluated, it brings back the primal sense of survival. Our competitive nature stirs and we look around the room saying “I’m better than that guy, right?” Ok, maybe you don’t do this but I sure do. I also see this behavior frequently in others.
This year at work, I’ve been taking a strength-based approach to our reviews. There’s a push within our division to try this new approach and I like it. The idea is that we discover people’s strengths and then figure out how to put them to use. By focusing on building strengths rather than fixing weaknesses, we tap into a person’s greatest potential. If you want to argue about this, you can always call Marcus Buckingham and chat.
Still, no matter how you slice it, reviews are not easy. They aren’t easy to receive and they aren’t easy to give. Out of respect for the people on my team, I won’t share any stories from this year or any previous years with them. I will say that giving an effective review is very challenging. I hire the best educated, smartest people I can find. They are world class practitioners in their field. At review time, I have to decide which one of these people is “Successful”, which is not meeting expectations and which exceed them. There are rules to this game, so not everyone will be above average. Most of these fine people end up being “Successful”.
As their manager, my challenge is to provide an evaluation and feedback in such a way that it helps them understand not only how they performed but also how to improve. They have to be satisfied that I’ve been fair, that I have a good understanding of their accomplishments throughout the year. They have to trust me.
Over the years, I’ve had people shrug like they don’t care, get mad, jump excitedly, cry, laugh, and stare in disbelief. I know that the range of emotions is not tied to the review itself, but rather how it matched up with their expectations of the review. I’ve given good reviews and had the recipient be disappointed. I’ve also given reviews to laggards who shrug it off and say “yep, that’s me”.
All this brings me to my conclusion: you have to have thick skin to receive a review and you have to have thick skin to deliver a review. When I receive my review, I try to remember that it isn’t the end of the world. Good, bad, or inbetween it’s valuable feedback I can use to improve myself or my situation. When I deliver a review, I know that I’ve put a lot of effort into making it valuable for the recipient. If they don’t like it, that’s their right. Today I’m right smack in the middle of the process and the one thing I know for sure is that it’s hard work.
It’s that time of year again where everyone at my company starts thinking about reviews. There are meetings and documents and more meetings. It’s interesting to watch it all play out.
As an employee, I like looking back at all of the things I’ve accomplished in the past year. I have fond memories of many projects, and I shutter when I think of others. I always get a bit philosophical around review time as well. How will I do? Does it matter? Could I have done better? How am I going to top that this year? There’s also a bit of anticipation that builds between now and when the reviews are ultimately delivered (about 2 months from now).
As a manager, there are pros and cons to this time of year. On one hand, I am extremely proud of what my team has accomplished. I get excited reading about the many things they’ve done, learned, and explored. On the other, I struggle with the decisions around rating people. Who is Successful and who is Outstanding? How do you compare the work of a developer with that of a community manager? Which results were more significant? How does that relate to the employee’s pay grade? I get a headache just thinking about it.
There are two things that I really enjoy though. I enjoy talking with each person on my team about what they accomplished, the impact they had on the team, and how they can get better at what they do. The second aspect I like is assigning the raises in the tool. Of course, I wish the pool of money was unlimited! I like the feeling of giving someone a raise. In my fantasy world, everyone would get massive raises and would walk away delighted. I know that won’t be the case, but it still feels good to push the buttons and make someone’s pay a little bit higher than it was when I started