Years ago I had a young man, who by the way has become very successful, working for me and we were about to embark on his annual performance review. Jeff (not his real name) had worked for me about 10-12 months and I gave him a little post it note with the following written on it…very stubborn, hard headed, inflexible and very idealistic and I told him to think about these concepts when we did his review later in the week.
Jeff took the post it note home and I am sure was quite surprised receiving it and quite taken back as to where I was going with those not so fine attributes. Anyway he promptly took the post it note to his Dad, who proclaimed, “How does Ron know you so well in such a short period of time?” When doing a review for someone I always thought it best to provoke some intense discussion, not to create animosity but to really help the individual improve and focus on what is really important. You see, I realized what a gem Jeff was as an employee, I realized just what and where he could go if he had the right support and focus in his career so I wanted him to think of these negative comments and where it might hold him back from achieving his potential. I also think annual reviews in many cases are too generic and not very well thought out. How many times would you just like to get it out of the way? The important part of the review was the time you get to spend together discussing the plusses and minuses of someone’s performance. Remember, plusses and minuses not just the negatives. It seems these days that people (bosses, in particular) forget about the fact that in order to keep you around and gainfully employed you must be doing some things right and they focus on the negative. It cannot be a constructive conversation when you only focus on the negative.
The really funny part of this story was years later I met Jeff in Switzerland. I was flying into town from the US and I asked him to meet me at the train station for a beer and to get caught up. Here he comes down the street in his Bally shoes and his Hugo Boss suit all decked out with his leather portfolio by his side, he sits down at the table and says, “I have something to show you…” Inside his portfolio was the post it note I had written years before on those attributes that were not so becoming. He said, “There is not a day that goes by when I don’t look at those words and think of how you saw me and what I must appear like to others, so I think about it when I interact with others.” Talk about being floored with making an impression. Ten years later he called me when he was cleaning out his desk for another move up the corporate ladder and found the post it note again. Both of us had gotten a lot of mileage out of that post it note and story but it makes me think of how it’s the little things we do in other lives that are most meaningful to them and just how are we all connected in those endeavors.
As I was doing some research on my new book, I started to really study millennials. They really think like Jeff. They are looking for mentors and guidance and want to do the right things and learn. Their expectations are a little different and it scares most of us baby boomers. If we apply the principles of mentoring and coaching and have open dialogue with them about the successes and failures, the plusses and minuses how rewarding that relationship can be. Keep in mind your employees want your time, input and most importantly your thought within their reviews as well as mentorship.