Are we Aligned on my Value?
Consider Bob and his manager Gloria: Bob joined the company six months ago. Bob is working hard and super excited about everything he’s getting done. He feels like he’s doing the best work of his career, cranking out tons of great stuff, going way above and beyond. It feels great and he can’t wait for his review when Gloria will recognize all his effort and contribution.
Until one day, in one of their one-on-ones, Gloria gives Bob a thin-lipped smile and takes a deep breath and tells him that he’s underperforming.
The first thing Bob feels is shock. Underperforming? Really? Then he feels anger at Gloria for not seeing things the way he does. How could she be so blind to all his hard work? Then he feels dejected that his manager’s view of him is so far from his own, and then there’s the wave of self-doubt: maybe his best just isn’t good enough, or maybe this team will just never value his strengths and he’ll have to move on. Resignation starts to set in.
Gloria is just as frustrated, because try as she might to explain what she sees as very basic responsibilities Bob is dropping, it doesn’t seem to stick. Things are suffering because of Bob’s negligence, but the message just doesn’t seem to get through to him. When she suggests specifics that he could work on, Bob reacts with exasperation. To him, it seems Gloria is just piling time-consuming minutiae on top of the real, significant contributions already taking up all his time.
Bob’s problem: he is performing an incomplete role, doing some work very well but in a way that leaves other necessary work undone. He’s doing what he judges is valuable and important, but not what his manager is asking from him.
Most feedback loops don’t address this gap well. A lot of review conversations tend to focus on strengths, weaknesses, and specific work results. These seem like reasonable topics, and there’s value there, but I also find this often leads to a review that looks like this:
This the “Dungeons & Dragons Character Sheet” model of professional evaluation. You could literally do that, if you wanted:
This is clearly not a good measure of Bob's value to the team.
The key challenge is Bob is making his own determination of what is valuable, and his view isn’t aligned with Gloria’s. If Bob and Gloria could align on the value of Bob's responsibilities their conversations would be much more productive. During conversations about performance, Bob and Gloria should focus on the the concept of value contributed to the team. The results could be dramatic and Gloria could move on to additional coaching or expanding Bob’s responsibilities.
Are you aligned with your manager and team?