Updated: Jun 13
“What did you think of the presentation?” I asked a co-worker last week after a presentation on a process improvement idea that could make the company over $100M.
“Well, I think it started out a little slow. Some of the charts were hard to understand. I’m not sure she’s the right person to execute.” This was his answer.
“Sorry, perhaps I should have been more clear in my question. Let me rephrase. ‘What did you think of the idea? What ways can we adapt the ideas to improve the business?”
I was shocked that his first reaction was to evaluate and judge the style of the presentation and the competence of the presenter. Who the f*ck cares!? What about the $100M? If it’s a solid $100M idea, wouldn’t you help her execute? Or will you just sit back and judge?
Traditional corporate management practices have trained us to constantly evaluate others. Instead of teaching people to add power and build strength with others, we’re taught to judge and evaluate their competence. If you are sitting in judgement, you are complicit in affecting the outcome. How about using that energy to help?
Stop evaluating, and use that brainpower to help!
Evaluating is Expensive. Companies waste colossal amounts of money evaluating people, for a minuscule return. In the example above, they are going ‘test it out’ and have this poor guy pushing a rock uphill while they decide if they like what he’s doing. He’s going to end up making $2M and they’ll wonder what happened to the $100M. I’ll tell you where it went, you squandered it all hemming and hawing about whether or not to support him, and now the opportunity has passed.
Now might also be a good time to talk about Performance Management. Companies spend MILLIONS on these yearly evaluations, and people are finally asking ‘are we getting a return on investment from these?’ When have you ever seen someone with a less than stellar, even just slightly less than stellar, review actually get energized and motivated to improve their performance? Usually, they leave their jobs, and sadly, sometimes they mentally leave their job while their body still comes to work. No company has ever improved performance through performance reviews. Period.
I had a job once where I was asked to fill in a ‘Potential Rating’ form for all my direct reports. I had to state the highest position they could hold in their career. In their entire career!! The organization wanted to know who was ‘Hi-Potential’ and who wasn’t. What a dehumanizing exercise! I felt really uncomfortable determining someone’s potential like that. What right do I have to limit someone’s potential? My only recourse was to say that all my employees were capable of rising to the highest levels of the organization.
Judging goes against most people’s beliefs. I don’t know what religion you are, and I’m not here to preach. But I am surprised that people whose religions say ‘don’t be judgy’ seem to check that at the door when they go to work. ‘Don’t be judgy’ means don’t be judgy, EVER. Unless you are a judge, then I guess you have to be judgy.
What about feedback? Feedback is a beautiful thing. Constructive feedback to help someone see their blind spots can really accelerate someone’s growth. Feedback on the work can help multiply the impact of an idea.
There are 3 simple rules for feedback:
Ask permission first
Give it to the person directly. When you give your feedback to someone other than the person, it’s gossip.
Check in with yourself. Is this feedback is coming from a place of true caring and helpfulness. Will your words help? If you just want to tell them why you don’t like what they did, and it is likely to cause them only shame, maybe you can skip the feedback this time.
Commit. Either support an idea or not. Don’t sit in judgment and wait. If you support an idea, make sure it’s great. If you don’t support it, don’t participate. What I see too much of is leaders taking a ‘wait and see’ while they starve an idea, cripple it and cause it to die a slow death. If something is good for the business, put energy behind it, give it what it needs to thrive. If you’re not going to fish, cut bait. (that’s the nice way of saying sh*t or get off the pot.)
Brain Twist. I want you to keep a log this week, with 3 columns:
Times I judged
Times someone asked me to judge
Times I decided not to judge
What do you notice? When are you tempted to judge? How often are you asked to judge? How can you flip it around to be supportive instead of judgemental?