Act or be Acted upon Do you remember the time of the year when we were in school and it would be the time for getting our report card? The nervousness, the trepidation before we got it. Wondering what that’s got to do with the corporate world? Well, the analogy was to bring to fore the point that while we are now adults, but getting our “Performance Appraisal” and our “final rating” is akin to getting our report card in school! On receiving the final judgment which comes to us in the form of the appraisal rating, it’s easy to get overwhelmed or become cynical. Especially when we as an employee feel what we deserve is not what the organisation and the manager have rated us as. There comes the dissonance and the frustration. Its also a fact that “Managerial expectations have their most magical influence on young people. As employees mature and gain experience, their self image gradually hardens, and they begin to see themselves as their ‘career records’ imply. Their own aspirations and the expectations of their superiors become increasingly controlled by the “reality” of their past performance. It becomes more and more difficult for them and their managers to generate mutually high expectations unless they have outstanding records.” The common most reaction/s of employees when they get a rating which they did not expect is: Blame the manager for rating unfairly Blame the system for being unfair Blame HR (the easiest and the most loved reaction) Blame everyone possible but yourself (starting form parents, teachers, colleagues, employees, spouse, children etc) Stephen Covey in his much acclaimed book on personal leadership “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” addresses this matter. In his book he says, “Stop reacting to the external stimulus, instead you decide the course of action you want to follow, thereby increasing your circle of influence as well as the probability of achieving success. In other words, it means, as human beings, we need to take responsibility for our own lives. Being proactive means not blaming circumstances, conditions, people or conditioning for our behaviour. Coming back to the Performance Appraisal, the spirit of that process or rather the soul of that process lies in its “feedback”. But in reality we often miss this important fact. Instead we keep focusing on the rating. Our inability to focus on the present impacts our present and also results in a poor appraisal in the future. It slowly becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. You may ask, so where are we getting here? The point is simple; we as employees need to start taking the constructive feedback seriously and focus our time and attention there. This would make it a mutually Win – Win situation for us as well as the management. As an employee, we must begin by taking responsibility for our careers, our professional and personal growth and development. This is not something which we can relegate to our managers, but take charge of completely, ourselves. Here are some simple and easy ways to go about it in a systematic, structured and focused manner: Disassociate yourself from the emotional response to the rating given. Instead, go to the root cause of the process which is the appraisal feedback which contains, what you did well, what you could have done better etc. It has been observed that many employees react to the rating very emotionally, and start looking for a job change. Changing jobs is a typical “flight” response and unfortunately, may land us in the same land mine we are in currently. The correct response has to be to “fight” it in a constructive, cogent and cohesive manner within the same organisation. Focus on the feedback.Pick out your strengths as evinced by you and your manager, also pick up the areas of improvement required for the short term and areas of development required to be inculcated in you for your future growth and taking up higher responsibilities. Ask for more feedback.If you need some more clarity on the feedback given, ask your manager for more pointers and details. Also might be a good idea to collect feedback from your employees, peers, customers as well. This would help especially because they would have more opportunities of observing you and give you additional realistic and practical feedback. Focus on your strengths and minimise your areas of improvement. It’s smart to focus on burnishing your talents and your strengths as that will accelerate your progress faster.In parallel, you would need to take conscious steps to gradually work on eliminating and eradicating your areas of improvement. While it maybe difficult if you try to chew on all of them together, it’s a good idea to work on 1 area of improvement per quarter, get that under your belt and keep working on that. Then move on to the 2nd area of improvement the next quarter. So by the end of the year, you have successfully worked on 4 areas of improvement at least. Lest this sound simplistic, we all encounter situations when we are stuck in jobs which don’t give us opportunities to focus on our strengths. The suggestion in such circumstances is to continue to excel in the existing assignments and slowly influence your manager and others in your hierarchy to give you opportunities which give you a chance to apply your strengths. But this does require oodles of patience, tact and an unflinching dedication to the tasks that are in one’s plate. To conclude, continue to believe in yourself and in your yet to be unleashed potential rather than be defined by the rating. Always remember the golden principle – “The me you see is the me you will be”. “Shoot for the moon and if you miss, you will still be among the stars.” So go ahead, believe in yourself and become a star!
A Passion for Excellence There is the story told of a platoon of soldiers who were on a forced march. There was great resentment. It showed on their faces. It showed in their stride. They seemed to drag themselves forward because they did not want to. They had to because they were ordered to! Yet, after the march was over, and the soldiers were now tired; but free – they had the option of going on a mountain hike; or resting in their camp. Most went on the hike; felt exhilarated by the challenge posed by the mountain; and returned late at night, tired but happy – and smiling! It is all about Passion. There are some who find passion in their occupation. They are truly blessed. Because if they have passion for their occupation; they will most likely also have a passion for excellence. Take the case of R. K. Laxman, passionate about political cartoons. One cannot imagine Laxman doing anything else. Day after day – always a new gem everyday. And a large diamond on Sundays! Laxman sometimes gives a demonstration of drawing a cartoon at Rotary meetings. It is a pleasure to see him. So facile, so fast, so entertaining; so passionate! No wonder he is among the best there is, in the whole world. And he keeps at it still, in his eighties. Neither the TOI, not Laxman can unloosen the chord that ties them to the ‘common man’! Some find passion for a hobby outside their job. This is not as good. But it is better than nothing at all. Commander Eric Lopez worked with me in a pharma company, as a Distribution Manager. He had retired early from the Navy. He always did an adequate job – sometimes a good job. He was honest, sincere and hard working. But every evening he waited for the clock to strike 5.30 – so he could be off… to his home and his passion – playing the wooden saw with a violin bow. He was perhaps the only one who did this. And he was invited to give performances in different parts of India – and even abroad, in Israel and Russia. He taught his two daughters this unusual technique and sometimes one of them accompanied him. It was a heart warming ‘sight’ and it was soothing music to our ‘ears’. Lopez spent most of his non-working hours, practicing on the musical saw. It was his Passion. A passion he found in his hobby rather than in his work. And there are those who find a passion only after the end of their working life – in their retirement! Like my friend Felix down the road who retired from BPL after 32 years, and then began growing roses. He got so good at this that he was elected President of The Rose Society of Mumbai. He developed some unusual rose grafts. He grew more and more; and different roses. Many five star hotels became his clients. Ferntastica evolved from a Passion to big business. ‘Too little, too late,’ you will say? Well with passion ‘Better late, than never’!
Technical v/s Adaptive Challenges A Challenge Worthy of a Leader Kartik was very tense waiting to meet his division head, for ‘7th’ review meeting in the last two weeks on Project NexGen. The project had been terribly overrun; ever since the deadline was missed, panic had set in the division. The division head now wanted almost a day to day account of how things were shaping up which was not helpful to the project and had ended up adding more pressure on Kartik and his team. He had seen some of his team members cracking up with pressure. However, he had believed in his instincts, even though his boss and his team members feared the worst. This was a completely new challenge for the company. “We have never worked in this area before. We lacked a strong product development experience in the organisation, but we knew that if we pulled this off, it would give us an edge in the market place. As it is, margins on our current offerings were taking a huge beating in the maret place. NexGen was a beacon of hope. We were trying out new things and learning at the same time,” shared Kartik. Each of the previous ones had been a one way conversation the head telling Kartik how he has taken a big risk with Kartik’s idea; questioning almost daily on various aspects of the project. Each time Kartik had come out […]
Eight Hiring Tips for Employers: From Application to Interview Hiring decisions that result in “bad” hires sap your organization’ s time, training resources, and psychic energy. These are the top hiring mistakes to avoid during your recruiting and hiring process. Do these eight activities with care; your recruiting, interviewing and hiring practices will result in better hires. Better hires will help you develop a strong, healthy, productive, competitive organization. Here are eight recruiting and hiring tips. 1. Pre-screen Candidates A half hour phone call can save hours of your organization’ s time. Pre-screening applicants is a must for recruiting and hiring the best employees. You can discover whether the candidate has the knowledge and experience you need. You can screen for applicants who expect a salary that is out of your league. You can gain a sense about the person’s congruity with your culture. Always pre-screen applicants. 2. Prepare the Candidate If your applicant fails to ask about your company and the specifics of the job for which he or she has applied, help the applicant out. Prepare your applicants better for the interview, so interviewers spend their time on the important issues: determining the candidate’s skills and fit within your culture. Prepare the candidate by describing the company, the details of the position, the background and titles of the interviewers, and whatever will eliminate time wasting while the candidate interviews within your company. 3. Prepare the Interviewers You wouldn’t choose a college for your child or launch a project without a plan. Why, then, do organizations put so little planning into interviewing candidates for positions? Interviewers need to meet in advance and create a plan. Who is responsible for which types of questions? What aspect of the candidate’s credentials is each person assessing? Who is assessing culture fit. Plan to succeed in employee selection in advance. 4. Don’t just Rely on the Interview to Evaluate a Candidate The interview is a lot of talk. And most frequently, because applicants are not prepped in advance, a lot of interview time is spent giving the candidate information about your organization. Even more time is invested in different interviewers asking the candidate the same questions over and over. During an interview, candidates tell you what they think you want to hear because they want to successfully obtain a job offer. Organizations are smart when they develop several methods for evaluating candidates in addition to the interview. According to the Chally Group, a Human Resources consulting firm, in, The Most Common Hiring Mistakes, research at the University of Michigan found that, “The typical interview increases the likelihood of choosing the best candidate by less than 2%. In other words, if you just ‘flipped’ a coin you would be correct 50% of the time. If you added an interview you would only be right 52% of the time.” 5. Don’t just Talk During an Interview Every interview needs to have components other than questions, answers and discussion. Walk the candidate through the company. Ask about his or her experience with situations you point out during the walk. In a manufacturing company, ask how the candidate would improve a process. Watch the candidate perform a task such as separating parts or components to get a feel for their “hands-on” ability. Have a documentation or writing candidate write a description of the steps in one of your work processes. See how quickly a person learns a particular task. Ask how the candidate would approach improving the quality of a given accounting process. As long as you use tests and tasks that are directly related to the position for which the individual is interviewing, you will earn reams of relevant information to use in your selection process. 6. Don’t just Evaluate “Personality”, Instead evaluate ” Job Skills and Experience” Sure, it would be nice for you to like everyone at work. But, this is much less important than recruiting the strongest, smartest, best candidates you can find. People tend to hire people who are similar to themselves. They are the most comfortable with those candidates, of course. This will kill your organization over time. You need diverse people with diverse personalities to deal with diverse employees and customers. Think about the customer that drives you crazy. Isn’t it likely that a new employee with a similar personality would have the same problem? Likewise, hiring a candidate because you enjoyed and liked him or her, as the main qualification, ignores your need for particular skills and experience. Don’t do it. 7. Differentiate the Critical Job Skills, Via Testing and Discussion How do you differentiate one candidate from another? Everyone has a “wish list” for all of the qualities, skills, personality factors, experience and interests you want to see in your selected employee. You must decide on, and perhaps, test, the skills you most desire in your candidate. What are the three – four most critical factors for contribution and success given the job, the skills of the other employees and the needs of your customers? Once you have identified these, you cannot “settle” on a candidate that does not bring these to your workplace. Or you will fail. 8. Develop a Large Candidate Pool Take the time to build a candidate pool with several candidates who meet the needs of your organization. If you don’t have to make a choice among several qualified candidates, your pool is too small. Don’t “settle” for someone if you don’t have the right person with the skills and experience you need. It’s better to reopen your search. These mistakes are often fatal to a candidate’s ultimate success within your organization. If you do these activities successfully, you increase the probability of a happy, successful employee contributing what you need from him or her to your organization.