Guess who is at the very center of your People Garden? YOU! As with my first blog, this is about your People Garden work style. It is that time of the year where it is time for all of us to start our self-assessments for our Performance Appraisals. This whole concept has been ingrained in me since my days as a Non-Commissioned Officer in the United States Army. It is a tough job to evaluate yourself. I know, no kidding, who likes sitting down and wracking your brains trying to remember what you did all year. Top that with any issues of having your standards change from one year to the next and it is a bit cumbersome. I think I barely got through my mid-year comments and now it is time to sum it all up for one year.
Last week I had an honor of joining a new Women’s group at work. It was refreshing to hear of our speaker’s career story and what I found interesting was something she said that I said not too long ago to myself – What do I want to be when I grow up? Then I heard a comment on TV from Mr. Romo of the Dallas Cowboys something to the effect that he “wasn’t playing up to his standard.” This got me to thinking about this timing of our performance appraisals that there are some lessons in here for each of us to consider about ourselves as employees.
No matter what our positions in each of the organizations where we work, first and foremost we are employees of that organization. It does not matter if you are a manager or below, you are still an employee. If we take things to account like Mr. Romo’s comment and playing to our standard, then knowing what the record looks like for the Cowboys, then one has to wonder if his standard is set high enough because if you ask any fan (me included), I wonder if it is set too low. Where does that leave us in the land of People Gardening with ourselves?
Attitude – At the heart of all the work we do, we need to have the right mindset to have a good attitude. I have a friend who sent me a picture of his new office and told me that he wants to have a place, a “garden” if you will in my terms, where he wants to go to work. What a great attitude and something that we should all want to do. After all, we do that at home, we decorate our homes with things that make us happy or that are important to us. We are most productive when we have the right attitude about our work. I keep a mirror on my desk. Not because I am vain but because I learned a trick that if I am not smiling while I’m talking on the phone then my attitude comes across in my communications. If I do not have the right attitude then I am not likely to be as efficient and careful on my work projects. In turn, this will affect my ratings. Our attitudes belong to us and we have to invest the right attitude in our work or it will never be at a higher standard where it should be.
Responsibility – When I look at working on my performance plan and I take into consideration what the standards are that I was supposed to meet, ultimately it is my responsibility to make sure that I make the mark for which I aim. By that I mean I do not ever hope to achieve “standard” levels on my rating. I purposely aim for the highest and in doing so that usually means that I do more work than what is standard. Why? I guess I don’t want to ever be “average.” I want to be the right side of the bell curve. Maybe that’s how I became a Presidential Management Fellow at a late age and age doesn’t matter as long as I got here because I set high standards for myself and by doing so I am also teaching my children and coworkers that they too can also set higher standards for themselves. At any rate, my ratings are my responsibility. Having gone through my own Army ratings and now as a federal employee, I always took the time to give my input on my ratings. Think about it, if you leave your rating comments up to your supervisor, to think about your accomplishments, do you think they have the time to remember all of the good work that you did? It is always easy to remember the bad but did they remember enough of the good? They have to do the same thing with at least 5-10 other coworkers and if you want to stand out and be on the right side of the bell curve then you need to invest the time to do your input on the process. Think of this as a positive exercise, are not these the very accomplishments that you will put on your resume? Be responsible to yourself, invest and like what you do with the right attitude!
Action – It is okay to not know what you will be when you grow up. I would easily agree that I do not know where my career is heading. I do know that I don’t want to spend 20 years doing what I’m doing now. Not that it is bad or dislikeable work but like I said before I have higher standards for myself. In taking action, this year with vacancies in our agency I applied for higher positions. I made the Best Qualified list. My goal was to find out if I had the right qualifications to make the list. I made the list and now I can work on some things that will help me get the job when the time is right. My point here is not whether or not I got the position, in fact I was never even interviewed, but more importantly is that I stepped outside my comfort zone and I applied. I took action, I took a risk to find out is there something more for me beyond where I am in my career right now. Taking action is uncomfortable sometimes and I have been through plenty of action times that were scary like leaving the military from Europe to unemployment stateside. I had a position with two different large tech firms and laid off from both during periods of transition. Life took a turn with going into self-employment and then going back for my education. Guess what?
I am thankful for all of these periods that took me through times where I needed to reflect and figure out what course of action was best for me and my family. I can take those moments each and every day and say that I am doing my best to be the best employee that I know how to be and I am holding myself accountable. So when it comes that time in the near future when you think about letting someone else write your performance rating, be kind to yourself and think about what your future looks like. Will you remember next year what you did last year? If not, then make sure you give yourself some credit where credit is due and invest in your future.