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It's important to be silly, to be serious, to be strong, to be frail...for what is life if we only shared a mask?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

On Report Cards and Performance Reviews

My daughters got their report cards recently and our pulse quickened wondering how they fared. Call it the PTS – the “parent teacher syndrome”. You can be a CEO or you can be a check out clerk. In the classroom, the teacher rules. Make no mistake about that. It turns out that the girls were doing fine and met their "targets". We looked at it, hemmed and hawed. Not telling them that they did better than us when we were in school :) High fives, had to keep promises that were made earlier in the school year all slowly depleting the family riches or lack thereof. I might have to take a deep breath and commit to adopting a dog.

In the adult world, most companies are doing their performance reviews. Did your work matter during the fiscal year? Did you contribute to the company’s bottom line? What are the success metrics? Who did better in the group? After all the bonus pool is finite. Benchmark this, benchmark that. Now if you are very organized, you would have kept a journal and starting January 1 of the previous year. You would have meticulously noted everything that you contributed. If not, you have to rewind, pause, record. The end result, a performance grade that will either reward or rankle for the rest of the year.

The point is that we are constantly being assessed. From birth to death. There are external parameters being laid every step of the way. As a newborn baby, you have APGAR tests and others. You come home all swaddled and you are compared to other babies, toddlers. When did she start talking? Is he walking? What about gross motor skills, fine motor skills. At school and college, your grades define you. You graduate and start work and your bosses provide the measurement. And those companies with the 360 reviews give you the opportunity to rate your boss. At home, your children or partner will give you the 360. Or this constant need to keep up with the Joneses. A bigger house, a more expensive car, exotic vacations and the list gets longer and the compromise continues.

At some point, you stop believing in yourself and start mirroring the opinions. An ex boss once told me when he was doing my performance review 8 years ago “Perception is reality, because people believe in it.”

History, however, is peppered with stories of heroes who defied perceptions and created their own reality.

This anonymous quote sums it up nicely. “Excellence can be obtained if you care more than others think is wise, risk more than others think is safe, dream more than others think is practical, and expect more than others think is possible."

Here's to those who feared less and dared more.

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