“Self-evaluation is the beginning, middle, and end of self-management.” – Bruce Tolgan
We’re in performance evaluation season at work, which means lots of introspection, assessment, candid discussions, and 360 degree feedback. It’s a time that tries to balance looking backwards with forward-looking planning, including specific goals.
For me as a manager, it’s an especially busy period, as I’m carrying a normal heavy workload with the extras of thoroughly seeking feedback on all my team members, and on my team in general, and preparing detailed PEs that accurately capture the last 12 months and look forward to the next 12. For individuals, there are the extras of providing feedback on colleagues and assessing yourself as objectively as possible.
Coincidentally, I’m busy reading Not Everyone Gets a Trophy, by Bruce Tulgan, a book about managing and leading Generation Y. While the book is specifically about Generation Y (and as a Generation Y person, myself, I find it interesting and a bit insulting how we’re represented!), many of the lessons are applicable across the entire workforce. Case in point: in the chapter Teach Them How to Manage Themselves, there’s a subsection called Self-Evaluation is the Beginning, Middle, and end of Self-Management.
Quoting from page 120:
Rigorous self-evaluation is not just a key component of learning good judgment. It is the beginning, middle, and end of self-management. It is the essential habit of self-improvement. If you teach Gen Yers one thing, teach them to make a commitment to constant, rigorous self-evaluation. Teach them to assess their use of time, the productivity and quality of their work, and their behavior. Teach them to ask themselves these questions:
Productivity: Am I getting enough work done fast enough? What can I do to get more work done faster? Should I revisit my priorities? Do I need to focus my time better? Do I need to postpone low-priority activities? How can I eliminate time wasters? Do I need better time budgets? Do I need to make better plans?
Quality: Am I meeting or exceeding guidelines and specifications for my tasks and responsibilities? What can I do to improve my work? Do I need to make better use of checklists? Do I need to start adding some bells and whistles to my work product?
Behavior: What can I do to be a better workplace citizen? Are there substandard behaviors I can eliminate? Are there superstar behaviors I can start adding? Should I be taking more initiative or less? How can I take more initiative without overstepping my bounds?
Of course, self-evaluation is an engine of self-improvement only if you use the information you’ve learned from it. So teach them to focus on their self-evaluation and really use what they learn from it. Teach them to start one little goal at a time – the smaller the better.
When I read that last paragraph, I was reminded of this quote from Michael Jordan (and no doubt there are many similar quotes from other folks): “I’m a firm believer in goal setting. Step by step. I can’t see any other way of accomplishing anything.”
Obviously, these lessons apply beyond simply the newcomers to the workforce, and I’ve asked myself and my managers many of these questions over the years. The answers aren’t always what you’re expecting, but they’re always important.