Mason jar performance evaluation #3

Quality performance feedback

Strip #3:  “Your ability to get an entire group of people off track and into the weeds so quickly will be missed”

Right.  Well, can’t say I didn’t see this one coming.

Meetings are funny things.  You can make agendas, set ground rules, and choose outstanding facilitators, and they will still grow legs once in a while and wander off.  Then there’s guys like me who occasionally feel the need to grab the wheel, swing left on the first unmarked road, and take the team off on a little off-road jaunt.  A sure sign that I’m getting bored.

I do have the best of intentions.  I have a bright group of analysts and they thrive on entertainment.  I am an entertainer at heart and the temptation is often just too great.  This isn’t always a pure distraction.  When I see that things are getting a bit too serious and that rigidity is creeping into the conversation, a good story does a lot to reset everyone back to a more neutral frame of mind.

You don’t have to put on a song and dance for breaks like these to be effective.  I often use this time for training, on topics that range from basic leadership, to logical analysis, to policy development, communication, critical thinking, and team building.  I’ve had a lot of money spent on me for both formal and informal training and these are great opportunities to share that education with my team.  Before I’m done, I try to aim the subject matter back towards the task at hand and we generally settle right back on track.

Bottom line: Agendas and team focus are essential to the success of any meeting, but don’t be afraid to let things spin out into the dunes once in awhile.

-These quotes are from a jar that my team presented me as I was leaving to accept a promotion.  They are the impressions, thoughts, and ideas that they had come to associate with me during my time there.  I’ve decided to share them, and what I remember of how they came to be, with my readers as I draw them at random-

Mason jar performance evaluation #2

Quality performance feedback

 

Strip #2:  “Always acknowledge a fault frankly.  This will throw those in authority off their guard and give you opportunity to commit more.” -Mark Twain

This quote is at the bottom of my company email signature.  Funny?  Yes.  But also so, so true.  I’m really glad someone on the team picked this one.  I love it because it covers so much  essential truth in such a short time.  That’s Clemens for you.

First, there is the unequivocal admonition to admit error, and to do it quickly.  He doesn’t say “If you have a cool boss”, or “if you are sure you won’t be blamed”.  The rules are “always” and “frankly”.  Absolutely brilliant.  I don’t know about you, but I haven’t met the problem yet that got smaller and more manageable with age.  A team member who comes to me quickly with a problem gives me the best chance to minimize the damage.  I’ve tried to do the same for my own leaders and rely on them to reward my trust with trust.  On base, this strategy has always bought me more than it cost me.

Second, there is the expectation that leaders will find such disclosures surprising, disarming even.  It’s kind of a sad commentary on the state of leader-team relations, but it’s also very human.  We don’t naturally value the admission of error, and leaders often forget to establish it as a cultural norm and create a safe environment for it.  Explicitly setting that expectation, and always delivering on the promise of  safe disclosures, has never failed me in overcoming the human reluctance to self-report.

Finally, there is the promise that this behavior will be rewarded, the bookend to the extension of trust at the beginning.  I used to think he referred to the opportunity to continue messing things up while those in authority were off their guard, or that that fessing-up would mitigate the punishment for your original screw-up (after all, you can only commit other faults if you are still employed).  From a more optimistic perspective I see, rather, a banking of good-will that occurs when disclosure enables deft recovery.  This is currency you can draw upon on the next time (and there is always a next time).

Bottom line: Get trouble on the table fast and never miss an opportunity to reward it’s disclosure.  In the uphill race against mistrust, you can’t afford to miss this even once.

-These are from a jar that my team presented me as I was leaving to accept a promotion.  They are the impressions, thoughts, and ideas that they had come to associate with me during my time there.  I’ve decided to share them, and what I remember of how they came to be, with my readers as I draw them at random-

Mason jar performance evaluation #1

Quality performance feedback

 

Strip #1:  “I admire that you make time to read…”  This one also includes a quote from Harry S. Truman: “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

It was probably a familiar sight each day around 11 to see me close up my office and head for the cafeteria, Kindle in hand.  I have always been an avid reader, although I must confess that I am not remotely an intellectual reader.  You will find a lot more of J.R.R. Tolkein, Stephen King, Orson Scott Card, Anne Rice, and Frank Herbert on my Kindle than, well.. I don’t really know what authors to put here, since the point is I don’t read them much.  I have some friends who are very astute, literarily speaking, and there have been a few uncomfortable pauses in our conversations over the years, as they have mentioned an essential author that I’ve never heard of.

Still, there are biographies, histories, scientific reviews, and social analyses in my library.  Not just old textbooks or gifts, but ones I’ve actually gone and picked out myself.  Admittedly, it’s probably 1 cerebral work for every 10 fun pieces, but I have finished every one and am certain they have broadened they way I look at the world.

The other important part of this ritual isn’t so much the reading as it is the break from the schedule, from the pressures of the day, to re-set and recharge.  I often use this time as much for quiet thinking as I do to read what I brought with me.  It really helps to evaluate where I am on the day’s tasks, and to be much more efficient as I start working through the second half of the day.

Bottom line: keep putting stuff in your brain, but take time out to process it too.

-These are from a jar that my team presented me as I was leaving to accept a promotion.  They are the impressions, thoughts, and ideas that they had come to associate with me during my time there.  I’ve decided to share them, and what I remember of how they came to be, with my readers as I draw them at random from the jar-