Friday, December 15, 2006

Performance Review

I figure one of the higher-ups set the "objectives for 2006" for his subordinates (my bosses) that include a line item "100% of subordinates shall receive performance reviews," because suddenly everybody made time for performance reviews for everyone in the department. Typical corporate foolishness that if you're not careful will increase your cynicism. Happily, my own cynicism was successfully hidden from view during my recent performance review, because it was never mentioned.

I find that bosses in performance reviews tend to have different approaches. Some, who've read The Minute Manager look for a way to "catch you doing something right." Others tend to look for some imperfection to try to "improve you." I have two different agendas during a performance review. One agenda is to identify what I can do better than anyone else and then do more of it. The other agenda is to identify what I'm failing worst at and then... AND THEN WHAT?

There's two ways to deal with what I'm failing worst at. 1) figure out "how" I'm goofing up and conquer that weakness. 2) figure out how to avoid doing what I'm weak at and do that less.

This is a subtle point that's missed by too many people. If I'm good at X and I'm bad at Y, then I might work at getting better at Y. ME, I'll charge ahead and try to figure out howto get better at Y. This is stupid. Smarter of me is to figure out how to ditch Y, opening up more time to do more X.

But first you have to know what is X and what is Y. You have to know at what you suck. At lunch today we were talking about the Japanese and German attitudes during WW2. It's common to believe they thought they were the ubermen much better than anyone else. Superiority was their birthright. It wasn't, but they thought so. I like to say that "Germans make no small mistakes." You have to acknowledge the possibility that you're ignorant or wrong to have any hope of learning or correcting yourself. If I believe I'm inherently superior in every respect, I'll deny the existence of any weakness in myself. I won't know what's Y unless I can get a clue.

The person who is least likely to learn is someone who thinks he knows everything. The Pharisees could never be forgiven because they denied they'd ever done anything wrong. This idea generalizes. In my performance review, I had my bosses tell me where I'm strong and where I'm weak.

I've got to listen carefully to hear what I don't want to hear. It's human nature to hear bad news and then spend whatever energy it takes to explain it away. When I was a Deacon at Trinity, folks would leave the church, when they'd leave sometimes they'd write a letter explaining themselves. I was always annoyed when the Deacon board would talk and talk until we'd explain it away and make no effective changes addressing the reasons cited.

This brings to mind the Bible passage that Louis is going through at Blythefield right now:

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:

For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.

But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.

I figure the anti-pattern I saw in the Deacons' meeting was finding a way to behold our failures and then finding a way to go our way and forget what we'd just heard. This may not be fair, but it seemed that way at the time.

There are some specifics of this passage that I want to point out. I think that the metaphorical glass or mirror of this passage is the law. The next verses speak of the perfect law of liberty. And elsewhere we see that the Apostles taught that God's law serves the role of a mirror, showing us our faces are dirty.

In a business setting, if you find you're weak at Y, you should merely avoid doing Y. In a personal, moral, setting, if you find your face is "dirty" at some point of the law, you should endeavour to avoid more lawbreaking in the future and use the "soap" of grace to clean your guilt.

I almost didn't paste in that last verse. Everything I've said above is supported without it. But it's right there and I think I can take a personal application from it. I think of what I've written and said. I suppose somethings I write well, those are my Xs. And some things I write poorly, those are my Ys. That's what I sat down to express in this little note.

But then I took a delivery from the clue train. I try to make the habit of asking the unwanted question of "am I guilty of this?" And that last verse speaks of bridling one's tongue. Ah yes, I see. I owe some people an apology for speaking harshly and unknindly. I wonder if I'm going to do anything about that...

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