What Scale…

Tuesday was January 31 – a key day in my (last minute) calendar. January 31 is the last date for filing UK self-assessment tax returns before a fine is imposed by the taxman. I know I am not the only person who submits tax returns at the last moment – although in the spirit of complete openness, January 2012 is actually the submission deadline for UK tax year that finished in April 2011. Nevertheless, this is one form of self–assessment that I never enjoy, which I have to complete every year, but that in reality is always easier to do than I think it will be.

My tax return is also a self assessment that is objective (on line form is a comprehensive step-by-step set of questions) and that has an unambiguous ‘scale’ against which I can assess my performance (tax bands are clear; I know how much I earned; I know how much tax I have paid). At the moment I hit submit – I know exactly where I am for this year, and I know how I compare to last year.

I am sure I am not the only one who finds any self-assessment to be a challenge, especially self-assessments that don’t have the structure of a tax return! How objective can any of us truly be about ourselves? How many of us have the ability to see ourselves as others see us? And even if we did, we are quite proficient at ‘filtering’ out anything we don’t like or don’t want to face up to?

I duly submitted my tax return a good two hours before midnight on Tuesday and as I sat there – momentarily feeling good about my achievement – I found myself wondering how I was doing more generally? The first month of 2012 has been very different from the first month of 2011. A year ago I had responsibility for people and budget, delivery and impact, innovation and partnership. In 2012 I have been living and working with increased ambiguity.

By its very definition, ambiguity is unclear, indefinite, or equivocal. So how do I assess how I am doing in face of increased ambiguity? What scale do I use?

I realised that any assessment of my performance has always been carried out by someone else – my parents, teachers, professors, managers, friends or family – and that those assessments have always been based on a widely accepted performance scale. Although I have often been able to feed my own opinions into the mix, the reality is that any assessment of how I am doing has always been done for me by someone else.

This then provides one excellent and high value way forward for me now – there are many individuals from the list above who I could easily ask how I am doing. And even if they each use a different assessment scale, any opinion they offer will be their own unique perception from their own personal vantage point.

But no matter how valuable these assessments by others turn out to be, I would still be missing the opportunity to assess my own performance – how am I doing? And moreover, if I can assess my own performance and can combine that assessment with clarity about what I want to achieve then – again almost by definition – I have the ability to grow and develop. And I have the ability to ensure I enjoy what I do, and feel good about myself along the way.

My self-assessment then will be two simple questions – what have I done that has energised me most? What have I done that should have turned out better?

Cheers

Steve

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About Steve Street

I have worked in R&D within the Pharmaceutical industry for over 32 years. Up until April 2012 all of my career had been with one company, but that has now changed. I left that company and took up a new role on May 1, 2012 - still very much within the Pharmaceutical industry and again based in the UK. I have been blogging every week now for over 9 years but only on an external site since January 2012. Email updates of the blogs can be requested using the ‘follow’ option within Wordpress. The blogs are only ever my personal view of what I see, think and feel. I am delighted if you agree and find value; happy if you disagree with my views and overjoyed if you feel motivated to comment. Most of all I am simply grateful that you read. Cheers Steve
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12 Responses to What Scale…

  1. Mahesh says:

    Dear Steve
    No matter which topic you choose for the blog or an essay, you make it inspiring!
    Wish you wrote more often!
    With best regards
    Mahesh

    • Steve Street says:

      Mahesh

      Great to hear from you – i very much appreciate you taking time to comment and i am delighte dyou are enjoying the blogs as much as I am writing them.

      Cheers

      Steve

  2. Hey Steve,

    Remember our discussion of the only performance assessment any organization needs is “Percent Of Promises Kept This Week ?” So, I’d suggest a couple more parameters for you : a) What have I NOT de;ivered that I promised to deliver; and b) When have I NOT been true to the ideals I profess. The closer to zero you can get on both, the better you’ll feel in your own skin.

    Cheers,
    John

    • Steve Street says:

      John

      As ever, really very interesting and helpful…and yes I do remember these discussions (and I hope continue to apply that learning). I wondered how well you felt these two parameters would work for an individual working independently? My thought was that the second one (NOT being true to the ideals I profess) would apply very easily. The first (Percent Of Promises Kept This Week) may be a little trickier since the promises would be – in effect – to myself. I say trickier – as opposed to not possible – since I guess I would just need to be true to myself?

      What do you think?

      Steve

      • Hey Steve,

        Keeping promises is just as – if not more – important as an independent ! You still make commitments to clients, to Nikki, Francesca & Sammy… and yourself. We all know how difficult it is to deliver on more exercise, better diet, losing weight, staying in better touch, finally learning Spanish — whatever. And, often the internal commitments are easier to let slide because we’re just “negotiating” with ourselves.
        Bon chance ! Bon courage !

      • Steve Street says:

        John

        You are so right. This really helped me – many thanks.

        Cheers

        Steve

  3. Jim Davidson says:

    Steve have read a few of these keep up the good work! There is life after Pfizer, albeit some times kind of strange. For example, I find myself doing quality assurance type consulting for the last 4 years, would never have thought…..

    Regards,

    Jim Davidson

    • Steve Street says:

      Jim

      It’s always good to hear from and about colleagues doing great work after leaving – it never suprises me knowing the quality of the colleageus involoved but it is always very good!

      Cheers

      Steve

  4. John McCall says:

    Performance assessments are generally difficult when carried out as part of regular reviews. I found that polling a selection of peers/superiors about an individual while promising confidentiality created a result that resonated with the individual who was being assessed. I asked for three inputs: 1) What three contributions by the individual do you consider significant; 2) what do you regard as the three most important strengths of the individual; and 3) if you could change three things, what would they be? Results were compiled and “anonymitized”. This worked well ad had greater credibility than a top down evaluation.

    • Steve Street says:

      John

      More great input – many thanks. I think you may actually have carried out one of those ‘McCall 360s’ on me, and I definitely remember contributing to such exercises for others. I also recall that your process was engaging and positive for all involved and – as you indicate – resonated very well for colleagues receiving the output.

      Cheers

      Steve

  5. Lisa Ritz says:

    I was a “stay at home” mom for about seven years, after working as a professional for eleven years. One of the things I did miss was the feedback provided by managers and peers on my performance. As a mom at home, it was easy to slip into the depressing trap of comparing ones self to other moms–this one keeps her house cleaner; that woman’s child is reading sooner than my own, etc. Eventually I realized that in this as with my profession, I had to find my own sense of achievement against my own personal goals. This was and still is challenging to me. I have taken a different path than many others by interrupting my career with a seven year “at home” stint, and my measures of success have to be based on my own realities.

    • Steve Street says:

      Lisa

      Very many thanks – this is a really a very insightful commentary. I found it very helpful and thought provoking. I think your description of ‘self-assessment’ in different phases of your life/career and your conclusion about the way forward is spot on!

      Well done and thank you.

      Cheers

      Steve

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