As I walked into my supervisor’s office I felt a sense of vulnerability. Mid-year evaluations: I was about to open myself up to feedback and I promised myself I would not become defensive and ask probing questions related to areas “needing growth”. Mid-year reviews are based on “the metrics” in most organizations; my organization is new to “the metrics” and struggling to introduce them into performance evaluations. I was prepared with notepad and pen in hand. My supervisor was nonchalant and reported that he had emailed me the review with “no concerns” and expected me to return it be close of business. I was a bit surprised that there was not only “no concerns” but no feedback. No “you surpassed all your projected benchmarks” or “the productivity reports indicate, w, y, z…”; nada! I was left feeling underwhelmed and wondering if I were actually being “appraised” or “evaluated” for the work I have done for the organization.
I reflected on my former days as an Army Officer and recognized the time and effort spent on preparing evaluation. Even the poor performers I evaluated I found areas that they did well in and highlighted them. I loved to create evaluations for top performers because there was so much to say and very little room on the structured form. Initially I was uncomfortable with giving feedback to poor performers, but I made a point to create suggestions for improvement and held them accountable for areas they fell short. For example, if an officer ducked out of inventory or pawned off on another soldier, I would remind them of their DUTY to fulfill his/her role. These are opportunities to grow and model behavior. They either agreed or disagreed, but I believed I did the right thing and made the Army a bit stronger verses being “too tough”.
There were many times when I felt awkward and shrank in my seat as I explained my rationale for his/her evaluation. Eventually I grew to appreciate this process. I would ask myself “why do I feel anxious” or “what about this meeting is emotionally challenging”. I had found that I was a “people pleaser” and wanted everyone to like me (short lived). I would also rely on my authority verses well-formulated and specific feedback justifying my appraisal. I changed my approach following this insight. I reminded myself that I “may be missing information” and asked myself to be open to feedback. Moreover, I am not perfect; I can be incorrect or misperceive information. I can defend my decisions AND be open to feedback. When I accepted this process into my delivery of performance evaluations I became confident in my words and decisions. I believed in this process. Feedback I was given was mostly positive. I was perceived as “fair and impartial” by subordinates. I held people accountable without losing my cool (this was not instantaneous).
Self-care helped me to remain grounded. I attended chapel services and actually took lunch-breaks. I made time for physical training, and this assisted with controlling anxiety and perfectionism. I once had a senior officer scream at me for something unnecessary or misinterpreted and I remember looking in his eyes and calmly repeating his words. He immediately realized he was overreacting and his tone changed. He was very upset and embarrassed with himself. I didn’t know what he was going through personally or professionally; I refused to personalize it and not engage in unsolicited feedback. This was difficult because enjoy being a team-player and working harmoniously. I chose to let it go (like Elsa from the Disney movie Frozen; I actually sing this song in my head). One day later he brought me a cup of coffee (no apology) and I accepted this as his apology language. No explanation necessary.
Back to the underwhelmed meeting. With tables turned and being in a civilian (verses military) organization I felt I was short-changed. After all, this is the civilian sector and people ought to be more intentional, right? I reflected and was reminded that I value great leadership. Leadership that invests in my performance. I realize I may be the least of my supervisor’s worries; I want him to help me grow and any feedback is welcomed, actually encouraged. I eventually went back to my office. I took a look at my evaluation and came up with my own performance appraisal. I reviewed the productivity reports for each quarter and identified many areas I grew to master. I was creating new programs and pushing to enhance services. I began to recognize my value though my supervisor had not. I created a new position, which was not based on metrics and pitched it to him. He accepted and I was able to branch into new executive core competencies my old role did not have. I may not have control over other’s behaviors, but I can change mine. I can continue to be/think like a leader despite not holding a formal position in the organization. I will leave you with a quote on IG that read “Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth”-unknown.