Give Me Five!
|Five fingers and five minutes. That’s about all it takes to sweep team members up in the wake of your appreciation and kind feedback.|
Last night, I celebrated. With the help of Brenda Tassava, my business partner, we completed our sole employee’s first performance review. I use the word ‘celebrate’ deliberately, but it’s not my choice. Tiffany, the ‘reviewee’, is the one who came up with it. She said, “You shouldn’t call it a review. You should call it a celebration, because that’s what this feels like.”
Tiffany, I didn’t tell you at the time, but I don’t think anyone has ever made me feel prouder.
As you can imagine, I spend a great deal of time talking to practice managers and owners about the review process. When you give a topic that much airtime, it’s incredibly important to your own credibility that you’re able to walk your talk. Though I had finished the outline for Tiffany’s ‘celebration’ weeks before, on my way to the meeting, I began to doubt my approach. What would this review accomplish? Indeed, what was the purpose of it? Was I really going to sit across from an intelligent, educated, self-sufficient adult and rattle off a list of things I thought she needed to work on? What in the world was that going to accomplish? My company is only three years old and though Brenda and I have spent a lot of time reflecting upon our Mission, our goals, and our strategic plan, I can tell you that we are still far from clear on what we’re doing on a day- to-day basis. How could we be? Everything we touch is new: new technology, new business relationships, new educational venues, new company services. The only thing routine about our lives is that nothing is routine. We are continually adjusting to meet the various client demands and technological glitches that all of us face in this modern and complicated age of service. And from this free falling state, I’m going to dictate to Tiffany where she should be? Come on!
Our review was a celebration because we affirmed what we were doing together, not what she was doing. Instead of sitting down and saying ‘three nice things for every negative remark’, we reviewed our Mission Statement and goals and asked one another how we were working as a team to accomplish them.
We talked about the job description I had designed for her. There were objective bullets on it: “You have to be available to work weekends and after-hours to accommodate our clients’ needs”, but mostly it listed the macro and more subjective points of what we wanted her to do: “Thread our Mission Statement through your work” and “work positively with other members of the team”. We spent time talking about what we believed these sentences meant and how we believed they applied to our day-to-day work. This wasn’t a review for her. This was a discovery for us.
It wasn’t all a love fest. Tiffany makes grammatical errors in our print work and it bugs me. When she doesn’t proof her work it can make our company look slipshod and to be frank, it ticks me off. How do I talk to her about without making her feel bad and ashamed? Here’s how. I reflected upon my own ability to produce error-free work and realized that I too have a problem with proofing. If error-free work is so important to me, then why don't I do it? I realized that the solution to my problem wasn’t to give her unrealistic direction like, “be more careful”, because clearly that wasn’t working for me. The solution was to figure it out together. “Let’s agree that we are going to check everything three times. At least one of the checks will be completed from a printed copy and by another individual” was what we came up with. Instead of tearing her down, our ‘celebration’ provided us both a chance to build something up.
I’m far from perfect. Using Tiffany’s annual celebration as a chance to reflect upon all of our efforts, instead of a demoralizing list of personal deficits or a ‘good marks and bad marks’ score card, was a way that I made myself better. Last night, I formed a stronger relationship with a capable, smart and fantastic individual that I’m so very lucky to work with. Together we broadened our company’s ability to succeed. As Tiffany herself said, “These are great! We should do them more often!”