It’s the Holiday Season with all the hints of real or man made snow, glowing lights, holiday parties, and shopping for presents for family. It is also the end of the calendar year, which could mean it’s time for your annual review. Lately I’ve been doing some coaching with my clients on their yearly written reviews with their Managers.
Yes sometimes we get a sparkling and raving review which can seem as if we are standing on a stage with a large audience in front of us, where we can hear them cheering and clapping in response to our success and achievement! Yes, when the delivery communicates this tone that can feel great! Then there are those reviews where it feels like everyone is conspiring against us, gossiping about all of our recognizable or possibly unrecognizable flaws and weaknesses we may have not realized were even there. Yet they have been exposed and now it feels as though everyone knows this about us. We can’t hide anymore, so feelings of failure are ever so prominent.
There is also the way you may have found all of this out. Maybe you were given a written report and were told by your Manager, “here take this home and read this and after you’ve had a chance to process it, then come back and we’ll talk about it.” Once you’ve had a chance to review your review, a natural response to that may be “Really! Why couldn’t you have spoken to me about this in person and why couldn’t you have told me a while ago when you first noticed it?! Aren’t you supposed to be my Manager who is great at communicating?!” Well, there is always room for improvement, isn’t there.
Reviews are an interesting way of creating the space for growth in the work place. If you don’t see what you would want to hear, & the feedback was painful in some way, how could this be an opportunity? We all want to be liked so when we hear or see something that challenges that, it can hurt. One opportunity is to reflect on the gap between where you are now and where you want to be.
I’ve been working with one of my clients for six months now. We started to work together after she got one of those not so positive reviews. I started noticing an improvement in her after only a few sessions, as did some of her Management and peers. One of the reasons she was able to benefit so quickly from engaging in the coaching process was because of her openness and willingness to change, and going through the sometimes challenging, yet rewarding work it takes to improve oneself.
She had her review last Spring and as a mid year review to see how she’s doing, she is meeting with her boss to once again go over what was discussed about 6 months ago. In doing so, all those old feelings of failure, anger, hurt, and insecurity are resurfacing. Regardless of how she received the information, what’s really important is the information itself. Having this type of information available to you is an opportunity in being able to know how others perceive you.
Yes it is a perception – how they are experiencing you, trying to understand you and learning how to appreciate you. Whether it’s correct or not, the real question is, is that how you really want to be experienced by someone else? I would imagine that if I were having a conversation with most of you, you would probably say no.
So back to the session with my client…I asked her to look at the growth and transformation she has experienced in our work together and since this last review, and what she felt her biggest breakthrough was. After trying to ask the question in a few different ways she admitted she was having difficulty coming up with an answer. She initially described it as having a hard time getting in touch with her feelings. What ended up coming up was an old insecurity and the recognition of how often she has criticized herself making it difficult to acknowledge herself for anything positive. That in and of itself was a beautiful breakthrough!
If you grew up with or have experienced a lot of criticism in your life well then it would make sense you have a hard time getting in touch with your feelings because the feeling response to criticism isn’t pleasant. Feelings then become unpleasant. One way that some of you may have learned self-criticism while growing up was hearing things like “don’t cry” or “don’t be angry.” If you were taught that those feelings were bad or wrong, then why would other feelings be right or appropriate?
As a follow-up to our session and to help her prepare for her upcoming midyear review, I am having her make a list of all the things she loves about herself and all the things she can now compliment herself on. I then asked her to apply those answers to how they are being practiced and are evident in her job performance. When you find a new voice and practice it, that voice starts to show up more comfortably and maybe even get a little louder. In turn, that old unproductive voice that didn’t make you feel very good tends to quiet down.
This is just another example to remind you that when it comes to being human, perception is everything. When it comes to others’ perceptions about you, it’s about using that feedback as a tool and opportunity to evolve and grow, remembering that the only thing we can control are our own thoughts. When it comes to your own perception about you, you do have the power to change that. Our thoughts can be instantaneous and automatic but like our breathing that is also automatic, we can control our thoughts as much as we can control our breath. This is where perception becomes power. Yours.