Mid-year Appraisal. Mid-year Self-appraisal?

Unexpected growth upon reflection

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.

Happy Self-appraising!

Memorial Day

In Memory of Those Who Paid the Ultimate Sacrifice

During Memorial Day we can often get sidetracked with the typical preparations for grilling the perfect meat entrees, who to invite, or even whose place is the best to visit to enjoy that perfect grilled hamburger and side of potato salad. You have worked hard these past months and your boss has been a complete jerk! You deserve this three day weekend! You need to take advantage of this paid-time off to party that stress off, or finally catch up with your friends that you have avoided due to all those overtime hours at work. Jokes aside, it can be difficult to remember that this day was meant to spend time truly honoring our fallen heroes who bravely defended our country when the social norm pressures us to do quite the opposite. For example, Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer; thus, one of the most lucrative sales events of the year. That 70” television that you have always wanted is now half-off and is in limited supply! You must spend your holiday time off shopping or getting those amazing deals! Again jokes aside, this is why it can be difficult for some to commemorate the fallen veterans, current service men and women, and families. 

The purpose of this blog is not to shame or induce feelings of guilt for having plans to spend time having fun on Memorial Day, but to inform you that there is a way to do both – to combine the two elements. For example, you can use the party that your attending as a social platform to educate and/or remind people of the true purpose for Memorial Day. The VA Long Beach Healthcare System even has a ceremony that is open to the public that is based on honoring the service and sacrifice of our nation’s fallen heroes who gave everything. On the other hand, you could take a more subtle approach and make a social media post acknowledging our fallen heroes and making sure to not offend but to rather inspire. Memorial Day is a day of remembrance, but again that doesn’t mean that you cannot combine the elements without respecting the true nature of why this day is observed. I hope you have a blessed day and can join me on May 27th in honoring our fallen heroes. 

Authored by Damian Fowler, LMFT

Mental Vacationing Plans?

Just imagine….

relax and recuperate (R&R)

Each day may bring new stressors and ways to overcome them take deep reflection. What do you need to relax and recuperate? Can this be accomplished in a day, 2-days, or 2-weeks? Developing a plan to recuperate following expected times of stress can lead to immediate relief or even a “mental vacation”.

My dear husband likes to troll Zillow and send me photos of where he would like to retire. I was initially annoyed at the interruptions, but when I took time to understand his excitement, he was taking his own mental vacation by planning/researching a future goal. This process put him in an optimistic mood.

I realized I did the same when it came to vacation plans. The entire process of selecting dates, checking flights, adding up reward points, etc. is very exciting. There is the process of planning that can motivate you during times of duress and the act of taking a vacation. I must admit, taking a vacation is a relatively new thing since I could never afford one (so I thought).

Taking a moment to set forth a goal related to a vacation (say visit Greece) can lead to the act. Maybe it’s in the way-future and can serve to engage in a process that maintains that goal. Even if a vacation plan is a one-day spa-day. Groupon has some great deals. Whether you can afford it or not, the process of planning can lead you to feel more relaxed (as long as you leave the coulda-shoulda-woulda out). There is a great book “Smart Couples Finish Rich” by David Bach that offers good ideas on financing goals based on values.

Last year my family took our first family vacation. We flew to Kauai. Our twins were graduating high school and leaving for the Army/College and we had never really taken a “real vacation” in the past. It was a year long process, which served as a positive stress reliver and turned out amazing. Now when I see an ocean sunrise I am instantly filled with positive memories to carry me through life’s rough patches. A worthy investment indeed. Happy vacationing…