Many of us work in roles where our performance cannot be represented by an objective measure that neatly sums us up, and yet many of our performance management systems demand we do just that.
A lot of what we do has a fuzzy impact, with ambiguous barely-detectable results; results that ripple over longer timelines than the yearly appraisal cycle. In some cases our impact might be negative in the short-term because we want to make a lasting change in the long-term: change curves go down before they go up.
This is especially true when learning new skills, because there are phases of incompetence you have to struggle through if you want to gain competence at something new.
Even without these complications it is difficult to judge the full range and quality of what our colleagues do. We might see them dealing with a difficult customer so skillfully that they make it look easy, so we under-value how much legwork they put in to achieve this level of performance and so we mentally tot it up as routine. Then we move on, only catching glimpses of other people because we’re busy with so much else, those glimpses being more memorable if they ping a bias (or heuristic) such as “confirmation” (it confirms what we thought anyway) or “effect” (we have an emotional response to it) – but these superficial glimpses don’t stop us jumping to subjective judgements and thinking we’re seeing the objective truth about someone’s performance.
If that so-called “performance truth” is decided by people “thinking fast” (Daniel Kahneman), and confirmed by hierarchy rather than expertise, then we’re in trouble.
To quote Ryan Holiday (from The Daily Stoic):
because our senses are often wrong, our emotions overly alarmed, our projections overly optimistic, we’re better off not rushing into conclusions about anything
And this doesn’t change when you get promoted.
Continue reading “How is performance-truth decided in your organisation?”
Leadership isn’t easy, it demands a level of self-awareness, self-control and maturity that not all of us are able to muster.
In my experience of working with humans, I have noticed that they have faults. If you are not in a leadership position, maybe these faults are no big deal, but as you rise in the hierarchy and your influence broadens, the impact of those faults is amplified and the probability of them doing harm grows exponentially.
So leaders need to be vigilant about which of their traits are helpful to their leadership role, and which aren’t!
There are many ways to get leadership wrong, and I have certainly been guilty of a few of them (and am certainly guilty of a few more that I’m unaware of – and some I am aware of, it’s a work in progress …). These are linked to many different things, such as personality traits that may mismatch the context of the moment (such as Asquith’s guiding chairmanship being unsuited to the decision-making demands of World War One – more here), or personality traits that just don’t suit leadership so well, or maybe just the leader not being mature enough because leadership is – like good wine – something that often gets better with age.
Here are five immature leader types I have spotted, sadly it’s not an exhaustive list:
Continue reading “Babyleaders: five types of immature leader”
Today is my birthday and so, according to tradition, a higher number is now my age.
I am now unequivocally middle-aged, almost certainly closer to the grave than the cradle, but I don’t mind too much. I like being middle-aged, it suits my personality: being young was fun, for sure, but it was a chore compared to the don’t-mess-with-me-I’m-over-50 vibe that comes with the middle-age gig.
This is not just me making the best of the unavoidable march of time.
I have come to appreciate that the best things in life: good conversation, good wine, good books, are not so available in the noisy discotheques of my youth where I anxiously tried to fit in and appear attractive to women. Now I can relax and enjoy the conversation, the wine and the books and not get all antsy about looking idiotic dancing to Mudhoney’s “Touch Me I’m Sick” at the Chocolate Factory.
This, according to the phrase coined by NASA administrator Daniel Goldin in 1992, makes me “pale, male, and stale”: a self-deprecating description cooked up by a middle-aged white man to make the point that filling your top jobs with middle-aged white men, year after year, is a myopic leadership strategy.
Goldin didn’t describe the individuals as “stale”, just the organisation’s leadership as a whole, but the “stale” tag has become a synonym for “middle-aged” when used in conjunction with “pale” (meaning white) and “male” (meaning man).
This is a bit annoying.
Continue reading “Pale, male, and pissed off at being called stale”