I am a big fan of regular appraisals and have written several blogs recently recommending them to everyone. I use a specific format which is designed to allow both parties to discuss their assessment of the performance of the appraisee. My belief is that one of the biggest challenges in any relationship comes when one party thinks that they are performing at a certain level, and the other party has a differing opinion. Unless this can be put on the table and discussed, openly and honestly it is likely to fester. Doing these events regularly will turn them from an event into a process. Meaning that they are still important but no longer a ‘biggie’ allowing all parties to be more open and honest with each other and so, over time, they can become ever more constructive.
The other misgiving I have with the process is that it is inherently unfair. Typically, the boss appraises the person reporting to him or her. That is fine, but my sense of balance would tell me that this process is intrinsically uneven. When does the subordinate get to voice their opinions on the boss to the boss?
If, as mature adults, in the twenty-first century, we are trying to work together, towards a common goal, why would we not feel that it is important and appropriate to receive similar feedback from the people who report to us?
So, we have recently started doing appraisals of me. Now I have to tell you, that as a boss and business owner, of a certain age, this was more than a little daunting. It was daunting, not only to me, but also to the person who was to conduct my appraisal. For me it was a case of ‘eating my own dog food’. As a principle, I will never recommend something that I don’t do.
So, some months ago we tried this ‘upward appraisal’ for the very first time. Despite the nerves and the perturbation, it was conducted very professionally and respectfully. It was a challenging situation and I am pleased to say that my appraiser did not hesitate to challenge me directly. We used a slightly different format than we would do in a standard appraisal but it was nonetheless effective. Afterwards a friend asked me how I felt and I said, nervous as it was a new experience, excited, as I didn’t know what might be revealed that I might agree or disagree with and above all, proud. Proud that we both had the courage and openness to undergo the challenge.
Reflecting back on the process I am extremely grateful to my appraiser, for her openness, honesty, respect and balance. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn about myself and for the opportunity to improve and grow. I am humbled by the experience.
The great Robert Burns once wrote “O wad some Pow’r the gifted gie us To see oursels as others see us!” I have been privileged to have been allowed to see how someone else sees me and would recommend it to you. I am amazed that it has taken so long for me to realise how simple and necessary this process is. So here are my challenges to you this week.
If you are not conducting regular, open dialogue appraisals with your direct reports, why not and when will you start? If you are, well done, and when will you commit to being appraised yourself?
Go on. I dare you.