Dreading Performance Reviews

This is the week that I dread every year. This is the week that I deliver performance reviews for each of my direct reports, seven in all.

I do my best to make this task easier by following all the leading management advice. I am a regular subscriber to the Manager Tools podcasts. (For anyone who earns their living managing people, I highly recommend this website. Mark Horstman and Mike Auzenne provide loads of great practical advice for managers.) As a true disciple of the Manager Tools framework, I have one-on-one meetings with each employee every week. At these meetings, we discuss ongoing tasks, career development, SMART goals, and a variety of other issues. Because of these meetings, I think that nobody walks into their review to be blindsided by negative feedback.

I still dread the review process though. Mind you, some of the reviews are relatively easy, even pleasant. For strong performers, their review is simply an extended one-on-one meeting, with a fruitful dialog about personal and department-level goals.  I find the reviews of weaker performers to be pretty straightforward too. With those folks, we have already discussed plans for improvement, and they already know where they stand with regard to their goals.

I find it most difficult to deliver reviews for the people who fall in the middle. These employees are usually described as “solid”. They perform their assigned tasks well enough. They are fairly reliable, have decent attitudes. However, they do not excel in any particular area. They are rather content to do what they are doing, but they have not demonstrated the ability to stretch beyond that. These folks often have fairly long tenures in the department and the company. They are “good employees”, but they are often left in the dust of the more ambitious, proactive newer employees who have made a big impact in a short time.
Reviewing the middle group is difficult because they often feel that good attendance and checking their tasks off the to-do list should translate to a stellar review, or a promotion. The fact is these folks usually get a decent review, but they are not often promoted. They are simply outperformed by their co-workers.

The middle-of-the-road reviews truly pain me. These folks certainly want to be promoted, and probably feel that they have “put in their time.” Unfortunately, they also fail to see why the person next sitting next to them is continuing to advance, while they stand still. They don’t always seem to recognize their co-worker’s initiative to improve their expand their skills and improve their performance, how they align their goals with that of the Director, and that their suggestions often make everyone’s job easier. I feel badly disappointing these people; I really like them. Some have been co-workers for many years; they are good-natured, funny, enjoyable members of the team. As we all know though, not everyone can be Captain of the team.

I gave a review like this today. I had to disappoint someone who probably feels like he should have been promoted with a bigger raise. The feedback I gave today was no different from feedback in the past, but I am sure that it stung a bit more today.

It stung me too.


Reviving New Year’s Resolutions

Times Square NY
Times Square on New Years Eve – Photo Credit: Countdown Entertainment, LLC

I admit it. I’ve blown it.

My New Year’s Resolution was to gradually chip away at the 20 lbs or so, that have gravitated to my waist, hips and thighs over the past couple of years. It quickly went the way of many of resolutions: a fast descent to oblivion. According to a 2007 Franklin Covey survey, whether it be to save money, quit smoking or lose weight, over a third of us break our resolutions before the end of January.  Well, I guess I am in good company.

Why did I blow it? Lack of commitment? Too many distractions? The discouragement driven by an unrelenting New England winter? Maybe.

A winter for the dogs
This winter is for the dogs!

I thought my resolution was simple enough: to keep a journal of my daily eating habits, including my abundance of coffee and the occasional Hershey’s Nugget, as well as the tasty veggie soups and salads I proudly munch at lunch. My journal would force me to PAY ATTENTION to what I eat. Further, by publicly acknowledging this effort here, on this blog, I would use my pride as a weapon in this battle. Failing in public, for everyone to see, stings much more than does slipping up in private.

I started the year off with a BANG. It was great! I lost 2 pounds during the first two weeks. I diligently recorded my diet and calorie intake using my handy little “LoseIt!” iPhone app.

And then, I stopped. I stopped tracking my meals, keeping a journal, weighing myself. I haven’t gone on any binges or anything, no big Italian Subs, or chocolate cream pie. I just stopped paying attention.

However, the beauty of New Years Resolutions is that you don’t have to be waiting for the ball to drop on Times Square to re-invoke it. No time like the present!  So here I go. Again.

I hereby resolve to put myself on the path to healthy living by doing a few simple things. I will keep track of what I eat. I will start to step outside of the office for a walk at lunch. I will pay attention. By doing this, I will begin to make progress on this very Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound (SMART) goal: to lose 1 pound per week. That’s it. One pound, not two, not five. Just one pound each week.

New Years Resolution: Round 2. Here I come!

Charting a Windward Course

I am no sailor, but it strikes me that the journey I have begun this year has some similarities to a transatlantic voyage.

Like a sailor, I am charting a course from Point A to Point B. To get there, I will have to navigate some rough currents. I have settled on weekly SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely) goals as the buoys to measure my progress. At times, I will have to tack back and forth as the wind changes to maintain my ultimate heading.

My original goals for the year have merged. I want to lose some weight (and gain some energy), and I want to make regular blog posts to enhance my writing skills.  I have committed to blogging at least once a week, and that has evolved into periodic posts on my ‘weight loss project’. Each week, I assess my progress for both goals.

So far, my writing has been more prolific than I expected, although I don’t think quantity dictates quality. It’s a challenge to discover things to write about, and to choose the right words to shape my message. In my professional life, I write pretty sterile, stiff business reports. Dull, dull and dull.

Finding a more casual, conversational voice is sort of like trying on skis for the first time. Very awkward, very scary but I’m really hoping to get good enough to enjoy flying down those moguls. I am starting to believe writing will become a favorite hobby. I think as many people want to read my posts as want to listen to me sing ’80s pop songs in the shower, though.

My weight loss project is a little slower going. I committed to logging everything I eat in a private journal (ok, most of what I eat), with the hope that I could drop a pound a week. My results have been lackluster. I lost a pound last week, and about a 1/2 pound this week. Trending in the right direction, but not quite the pace I want.

With this in mind, time to check the navigational charts and do a little tacking. Steering a ship is about making lots of little adjustments. Pull on the rudder too hard, and you could capsize the boat. I definitely need to make a few adjustments.

So, looking ahead to next week, I will still log my meals, including the occasional Hershey’s nugget, but I will also step up my activity a bit. I walk to work every day. This week, I will take at least two days and walk at lunch too. Walking will get me away from my desk for a bit, clear my head, and give me energy.  This time next week, I should be back on track for my long-term weight loss goals.

We will see how I do. Next week we’ll find another buoy to aim for.

So Far So Good

SMART Goals:

So I have to say, so far so good. Last week I set two separate SMART goals for myself for 2011.  First, was to get back on track with my weight loss goals by simply keeping track of what I eat. By just paying attention, I think I can lose a pound a week. Second, I set a goal to post to my blog at least once a week, in the spirit of WordPress’ weekly post challenge.

So far, I am happy to say that I am making progress!

First, I am on my way to being fully engaged in my health. I’ve kept a private of everything I’ve eaten over the past week (including the brownies yesterday, and the dinosaur birthday cake over the weekend). It’s hard to be in denial about what you eat when you keep a journal. So, even though I had a brownie or two, and a slice of cake, I probably had smaller portions of all of it.  I’ve also paid attention to my level of exercise. I haven’t started a new exercise regimen, but I have taken into consideration what I need to do to burn off those that birthday cake.

I met my goal for the first week. I lost a pound. Hopefully, I will do it again next week.

Second, I think my post a week goal has morphed into something that might turn into a happy endeavor. I could easily say that I met this writing goal by simply updating you on my weight loss project, and killed two birds with one stone.  But I did more than that.

I’ve launched a new separate blog. In that blog, I’ve decided to blog about my experiences as a non-native resident of Rhode Island. I’ve lived here for some time now, and am constantly surprised by the geographic and cultural diversity of the smallest state in the Union. My plan is to offer periodic posts about the places we eat, the sights we see, and things our family does in Little Rhody. I started the blog this week, and have just two posts to date, but feel free to check it out! My Life in RI

So far in 2011, I am pretty happy with my SMART goal progress. I’ve kept my goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. And, by making it all so public, I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself keep my eye on the ball. I just hope I don’t drop the ball in Week 2!

Don’t Let “Perfect” be the Enemy of the Good

The famous French philosopher Voltaire is credited with the following premise (loosely translated): “The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good.” I first remember hearing it during a management training seminar; the speaker was demonstrating the point that spending too much time creating perfect products can kill a team’s productivity, damaging the manager’s, and perhaps the business’ performance.

I’ve found that this concept can be applied in many dimensions, including my personal life. This blog, for instance:

I often fail to update my blog because I haven’t found the perfect idea … or I have an idea, but I don’t think I have enough to say about it … or whatever it is I want to say doesn’t sound very entertaining, witty, or relevant.

I think … “No one would want to read that, or about that.”

How pretentious of me! No one reads my blog anyway!

So the idea gets put into the disorganized filing cabinet in my mind, left to tackle another day. Eventually, that less than perfect idea disintegrates, like a yellowed, worn, neglected piece of paper.

I should just write! If I am really worried about perfection, then I should write more! You know what they say about practice, it makes perfect. Well, I will probably never get to “Perfect”, but I won’t let that stop me …

SMART GOAL #2 for 2011: I’m Posting (at least) Once a Week All Year


One more resolution for 2011: I’ve decided I want to blog more. I want to at least one more dimension to my already busy life.

I am NOT going to just think about it. I am going to DO IT. (Once I say/write it “out loud”, it’s kind of hard to turn back.)

So, SMART GOAL #2 for 2011:
Starting right now, I will be posting on this blog at least once a week for all of 2011.

Let’s see if I can stay true to this goal.
I know it won’t be easy, but it might be fun, inspiring, awesome and wonderful. Therefore I’m promising to make use of The DailyPost, and the community of other bloggers with similiar goals, to help me along the way, including asking for help when I need it and encouraging others when I can.

If you already read my blog, I hope you’ll encourage me with comments and likes, and good will along the way.



My First “SMART” Goal for 2011


OK. No more nonsense. No more procrastination.

Over the past 2 years, I’ve let myself go. After losing a good bit of weight after my second child was born, I decided to go back to school for my MBA. There I was, burning the candles at all ends: extra coffee at work,  snacking while studying, and grabbing meals on the run with the kids. It was like the “Freshmen 15” all over again. Ugh.

Well, I finished school in September. I have my MBA in hand. It was a wonderful, challenging experience, but I have prolonged healthy eating for long enough.

Time to pay the piper. TODAY IS THE DAY.

Baby steps though. No need to set myself up for disappointment!
I’ve given myself a series of smaller goals: “SMART goals”. I am a disciple of SMART goals in my professional life; time to bring my work home with me.

With each success, I will get a reward. Something small, maybe dessert, maybe a nap!

So, SMART Goal #1.
I WILL track everything I eat this week, and any exercise I do.

By just paying attention to this, I plan to lose 1 lb by next week, January 10th.

That’s it: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely.

Here we go !!!!

(Wish me luck!)