Appraisals and 2014 elections

Am just looking for lessons from the 2014 elections and everyday seems to throw a new one. No this isn’t about Jaswant singh. That is part of another lesson. 🙂 This is about how we all assume that when we get adulation, it’s forever and when someone has negative ratings, it can’t be turned around.

As many of us in the corporate world are either undergoing an appraisal or are about to.. Here are two examples of how ratings are transient and how as the appraisee we fail to see our blind spots and as a manager too we fail to see the appraisee’s failings.

Before the start of the Delhi elections what was your rating for Kejriwal ? Like me, many of us would have rated him “consistently exceeds expectations”… He was the brains behind the Anna “anti-corruption” movement, he spoke like one of us and we all felt he had the guts to take on the political bigwigs. The symbol of his party, the broom, was so apt – he will help us sweep politics clean !!! Imagine him in your team.. He was well spoken, found the most important pain point in the organization and using innovative, inclusive methods, successfully solved it and he would have been rewarded with a promotion. That’s precisely what happened. Delhi gave Arvind a promotion when they trounced Congress and gave his party 28 seats, the second highest. Then the 49 day drama happened, the Somnath Bharti incident happened, the CM house issue happened, the promise of never forming the government was broken….. Rumors of how he and his party are Congress’ B-team and then he jumped into the fray for the Lok Sabha elections. Going to Gujarat and the drama there, the infighting within the team, taking a business house’s private chartered jet to reach a venue, loose statements about putting journalists behind bars ….. And soon, we, the true “Aam aadmi”, the common man, who is Arvind’s manager changed our rating !! Today for me, Arvind “does not meet expectations” not even inconsistently.

Very important for managers to not get taken in by the success of one important project.. Watch out for the hidden blind spots. Arvind’s arrogance, refusal to accept a different point of view, inability to be a team player, intolerance to criticism, inability to take feedback, inability to stay and perform…. Classic characteristics of a self absorbed, executive who in the long run would do more harm to the organization than good. The slide across the appraisal rating scale for Arvind has been rapid and it happens all the time in the corporate world. Example ? A certain Murthy who was a star performer, but had a weakness for extra marital affairs :(:(

Now to an interesting movement the other way around. Just after the second time that Modi won in Gujarat, the noise around the 2002 riots peaked and everyone wanted his head for it. His rating at that time would have been “does not meet expectations” from all of us. The media and other political parties had us believe that he was the devil himself descended upon the earth and that we should not let him into our homes. Just that our Gujarati brothers and sisters thought differently and voted him back a third time, news of the “Gujarat model” surfaced, the lightening speed with which Tata’s Nano plant was shifted from West Bengal to Gujarat came up, the fact that Modi was a great administrator surfaced. We the common people, as Modi’s managers, started to look beyond the popular press and found an interesting appraisee. He has risen from humble beginnings like many of us, had no godfather or mother (having Advani as a godfather is a disadvantage!), rose through the ranks of BJP and delivered good governance for 15 years. One subset of managers (Gujaratis) were rating him as consistently exceeding expectations !! There may be a Modi wave or there may not be, but here is one colleague who has worked hard, managed to deliver consistently under harsh scrutiny and managed to break through the targeted negative build-up that the press and other parties gave him.

Guess what, this too happens in the corporate world a lot more than we like to believe. This is a manager’s blindspot.. Refusing to see someone’s performance because they deliver in a different style, have a different way of doing things. How many times have we not given credit where it’s due ? Sure Modi has a busload of feedback, but, here’s the deal – he seems willing to listen to that feedback !! Suddenly, we the common people want to rate Modi atleast a “Meets expectation”. What an amazing turnaround of ratings….

So the moral of the story is the appraisal process is serious business, just as elections are. In the corporate world the appraisal process if followed well, will reward the true performers and help the laggards to find other opportunities. In the elections, because there is huge information asymmetry, the best performer may not win, but atleast we, the citizens as managers need to participate and keep a watch over whoever wins. Just as we handout an improvement plan for non-performers and sometimes ease them out of the organization if they continue to not perform, we need to do the same with the elected leaders. That’s our responsibility.

Do we get it though ??

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