Think differently about your performance appraisal with your boss…

The reactions of people who’ve just had a performance appraisal with their boss varies enormously and also highlights how different we are as individuals. Personal reactions, of course, cover a wide spectrum. The Badger’s experience, however, is that while a person’s demeanour and body language says a lot about their reaction, most people share little more than the odd comment about their appraisal with others. There are always, of course, people who think they’ve been treated poorly and say so to anyone who will listen. In the Badger’s experience, such individuals tend to be self-centred, averagely talented, poor listeners, and they normally have egotistic or narcistic personalities.  These individuals, and those at the other end of the spectrum who are just downright lazy, unproductive, and permanently negative,  tend to share their displeasure widely and keep HR functions busy with claims of unfair treatment.

A youngster in their first job since leaving University 15 months ago whined to the Badger this week that their appraisal had been a shock and unfair. The youngster, hungry for rapid career and salary progression, unfortunately failed to recognise that they haven’t adjusted to working life as well as their peers. The Badger explained this, and in the course of doing so remembered some wisdom from a training course he attended many years ago. On that course, a behaviour expert, building on the sport coaching work of Tim Gallway, emphasised that we should think about individual performance using the simple equation ‘Performance = Talent – Interferences’. If someone has 100% Talent, then their Performance is never 100% because there are always Interferences from personal and/or organisational factors. Personal interferences come, for example, from lifestyle, health, family and/or caring responsibilities. Organisational interferences come, for example, from skill set mismatches with work role, adequacy of role definition, relationships with leaders and work colleagues, organisational bureaucracy, and factors like organisational dynamism and workforce stagnation if business growth is poor.

The behaviour expert’s key message was that everyone has Interferences, so no one can ever perform at 100%! Interestingly, they used the same equation to describe the performance of a company. In this case, Talent represents a company’s portfolio of  products and services, and Interferences are largely the policies, processes, and  controls that influence the delivery of the portfolio to clients. Bigger companies tend to have more Interferences than smaller ones, and no company ever performs at 100%, although clever accounting and expectation management often masks this!

So, think about your performance appraisal in the terms above. Your Talent is constant, so your Performance dips when Interferences rise. Eventually Interferences will reach a level that makes you feel like doing something different with your life. It’s very empowering when this happens, because it definitively changes the way you approach your appraisal with your boss.  

Showbusiness for ugly people, Mr Blobby, and the credibility of elderly people with power…

Someone said recently that politics is ‘showbusiness for ugly people.’  It made the Badger laugh because the phrase resonates with recent news items like those, for example, covering China’s 20th Communist Party Congress, Putin declaring martial law, and turmoil in the UK government.  The latter, in particular, has provided comedic value on a par with old television programmes like Fawlty Towers and Yes, Prime Minister. Unlike the first broadcast of these programmes, however, the internet, social media, and 24-hour news mean we don’t have to wait for the next episode because the comedy unfolds continuously in real-time.

Having no allegiance to any political ideology is probably why ‘showbusiness for ugly people’ seemed to resonate so strongly with these news items. Being playful for a moment, the Badger thinks the phrase supports the thesis that in today’s world dominated by attention-grabbing content, Mr Blobby, Paddington Bear, and Winnie the Pooh would do a better job delivering what matters than anyone groomed by the machinery of political parties.

A television news bulletin showing Mr Putin in the Kremlin prompted a visiting relative to ask a great question, namely, ‘Mr Putin is 70 years old, Xi Jinping is almost 70, Joe Biden is almost 80 (and Nancy Pelosi is 82!), so why haven’t they retired?’. They added that they weren’t ageist but merely pointing out that, in their experience, the leaders of large public sector and commercial organisations never appoint anyone of this age to run major projects, programmes, and business units. Why, therefore, are these elderly individuals credible as superpower leaders when they are in the twilight years of mental and physical prowess?

Initially flummoxed, the Badger paused to think for a moment, and then simply said that while many believe the world is a rational place, the reality is that humans are inherently both rational and irrational, as internet and social media content frequently illustrates. The propensity for irrationality can be seen in all walks of life, and especially in those who are trying to hold onto power regardless of whether it’s good for themselves and those around them. Whether elderly superpower leaders are credible is thus questionable.

The visitor expected more, so the Badger pointed out that Biden, Xi Jinping, and Putin are not from a digital-native generation and that they are all past their country’s standard pension age.  Younger, impatient individuals from digital-native generations will be biting at their heels hungry for power and change. In this decade we might thus see events that trigger the replacement of old men as superpower leaders by dynamic individuals from the digital-native generation. Eventually, of course, leaders from the digital-native generation will be corrupted by power too, and the cycle will repeat itself. The visitor looked perplexed and suggested that the Badger needed mind-altering medication…

Returning to balance in supply chains…

Every commercial enterprise and every public sector organisation has a supply chain. When the supply chain works well no one really notices, but when it’s disrupted, for whatever reason, all hell can break loose unleashing all kinds of reactions, realisations, and changed behaviours to deal with the situation. The Covid-19 pandemic and conflict in Ukraine illustrate this rather neatly. They have shown to governments, businesses, and the general public alike, that global supply chains cannot be taken for granted, are  fraught with risk, and can have dramatic economic and inflationary impact when seriously disrupted.

Global supply chains are at the heart of the functioning of the developed world, and the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply highlights some of their advantages and disadvantages.  Globalisation has meant greater exposure to the risk of economic, political, and financial instabilities, health and natural disasters, and to the logistics,  communication, security, and lack of direct control risks that come with far off places. This truth is plain to see as governments and businesses, and we as individuals, deal with the ramifications of the pandemic and geo-political events. It’s unsurprising,  therefore, that much is going on in governmental and business circles to return supply chains to some better balance in order to reduce risk and improve economic resilience. As pointed out here, supply chain reshoring, where this is possible, and the establishment of multiple supply paths with overtly ‘friendly’ countries are being actively progressed to improve future business and economic continuity.  

The Badger’s harboured a feeling for some time that our reliance on complex global supply chains was a problem waiting to happen, and that some kind of ‘event’ would force some retrenchment. It seems that the pandemic and Ukraine have been the trigger  ‘event’, but if this hadn’t been so then it was probably just a matter of time before climate-change weather disasters or military belligerence between superpowers had the same effect.  There have, of course, been global supply chains for centuries – think back, for example, to the Silk Road and the Spice Route. What’s happening in the world today is not their death, but a ‘returning to balance’ that should provide a more balanced, baseline template for the future.

Decades ago, the Badger ran a project that included building hundreds of bespoke computing devices whose LCD screens were produced by just one company in Japan. All went smoothly until the Japanese company unexpectedly stopped manufacturing the screens. The ramifications took months to sort out. The subsequent review and lessons-learned report not only highlighted flaws in the Badger’s company’s approach to managing suppliers the other side of the world, but also recommended that the company’s approach to international supply chains was overhauled to ‘return to balance’ . The phrase is worth remembering and seems very pertinent to what’s happening on the world stage with global supply chains today.