Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Have Them Show Their Work

At some point in elementary school, we begin to hear from our teachers that it is not enough to simply fill in the blank with an answer, that we also need to "show our work".  Why is that?  Because it allows the teacher to review how we came to our answer.  Did we use the right formula, was our logic sound, did we understand the key concepts, etc.  In assessing our progress on the educational journey, teachers are evaluating both the quality of our decisions and the final outcomes.

I was reminded of this when I watched one of Dan Ariely's videos on BigThink called Promoted to the Level of Incompetence.  "One of the problems with promotions is that we promote people based on outcomes, not about the quality of their decisions," says Ariely, Professor of Behavioral Economics at Duke University.   

There is an element of this in annual performance evaluations.  In most programs, we ask the leader to document successful outcomes against their goals, which becomes the justification for the performance rating, the size of the annual raise, the bonus, and ultimately, consideration for the next big promotion. 

What's wrong with that?  Well, as Dan Ariely argues, the outcome is not the whole story.  Like the teacher, we need to evaluate both the final answer and process for how the leader got there.   

A well rounded performance evaluation includes a measurement of behaviors and competencies such as judgement, integrity, collaboration, and strategic thinking, and change management.

Ask your team to show their work, and include that in your evaluation of who is ready graduation and who needs more time with you at the chalkboard.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Wonderstruck by Taylor Swift's Mom

We gave our 6th grade daughter an early birthday present this year - tickets to see Taylor Swift in concert at Madison Square Garden on the last night of her Speak Now tour. 

I love Taylor Swift for being a role model my daughter can look up to, for writing songs with clever lyrics that tell authentic stories, and for staying true to herself and her dreams.

But it was Taylor's mom who left me "Wonderstuck".

My daughter made three large posters to bring with her for the show with messages she hoped Taylor would see:  "I wrote lyrics for your next album", "Your lyrics mean the world to me", "We have the same birthday - December 13th".  The posters were colorful and a lot of thought and effort went into their creation.  When we arrived at MSG there were lots and lots of posters, most of which were lit up in some way so that they could be seen from anywhere in the arena.  Hers were not, and hopes of them ever being seen, much less read, were dashed.  Still, she  held them high, cheering and singing at the top of her lungs.

Halfway through the show, we noticed that people were being selected from the crowd and brought to an open area just to our right.  And, the person overseeing the selecting was none other than Taylor's mom. 

Taylor left the stage and started walking through the crowd hugging and waving to fans as she made her way to another small stage that rose from the floor - right next to us!  She then proceeded to sing three songs from that spot while her mom looked on, smiling at fans and singing along.

My daughter held up her posters with new determination, changing to a new message each time the small stage rotated around.  Maybe Taylor saw them, maybe not.  Her generous smiles and thank you's were delivered to one and all in attendance. 

It was Taylor's mom, just a few feet away, who noticed.  She pointed to the birthday poster and then made the heart symbol with her hands that Taylor and her fans have made famous.  My daughter turned to me, crying happy tears, and said that this was the best birthday present we ever gave her.

So it's a member of Taylor's incredible support team who was the highlight at the show for me - Mom.  Thank you.  We were Wonderstuck, all the way home.