Sunday, March 11, 2012

Of Evaluation and Evocation

I can never forget the first annual review of performance of my work in an organization. The appraiser was my boss, my hero, Ravindran G, working with the Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), a then leading, UK-based multinational. Being a management trainee, there wasn’t anything substantial I believed I had achieved. I had visited seven departments over the year, observed how they worked, how we could improvise, working on small projects, but had not really done anything that stood out. So, when the time for the review came closer, I was quite worried. What had I to show? How would I be received? And there was money tied to the evaluation. Worse, heart of hearts, I knew it was not a great year. I was feeling really low.

Ravi scheduled a two hour meeting with me for my review, which didn’t make me feel any better! I was totally unprepared about what to say. At the appointed time, he took me in his ‘buggy’ to the club and we sat over a cup of coffee. He pepped me up saying, “Looking sharp, Nathan,” which meant that I had dressed well. This made me feel at ease, and I was starting to feel better. This was going to be easy, hopefully.

Ravi started off by asking me, “How was the year, gone by? Do you believe we have lived up to your expectations? What does your conscience tell you?,” etc. The two hours that were to be my evaluation, actually turned out to be one of the most engaging conversations I have ever had. He kept egging me on with appreciative nods. I told him about my fear of evaluation and my nervousness, and everything I had done over the past year. I admitted my failures, mentioned my small wins, owned my goof-ups and discussed my plans. I spoke like one who didn’t fear evaluation.

At the end of the two hours, I felt a huge burden off my shoulders. I asked my boss what I could do better, and he told me in simple words, “You have done well! Do what you are doing; stay honest and you will go way up ahead. And, by the way, focus on your strengths. Don’t worry about what you are not good at. And, do small things exceedingly well.

From this experience, I came out stronger and enriched, with the knowledge that one needs to put in a lot into the job and not overly focus on evaluations. For years, I strive to conduct meaningful review sessions where I focus on what has been achieved, evaluate performance, not the person, not scare them off, but evaluate to give them developmental feedback, shore up their confidence and be in their moment of evocation of their professional and personal growth ... just as Ravindran G did years ago.


  1. Straight from the heart, meant to touch hearts! 'Simply' Brilliant!

  2. Sir, when i was reading this blog, i could actually in a way relate to what you had gone through many years back although some of my circumstances are very different....I want to tell you that i thoroughly enjoyed reading about your experience and it gives hope to so many of us...Thank you for posting, hope you have a fantastic day!!!

  3. It was a good post emphasising on the right things to focus on ..... setting the right perspective for all for this appraisal period !!!

  4. I must say that there was something in the blog that compelled me to reply to it (comment on it). what was it???

    Well it was something that I could identify with. Something which I appreciated and something similar that happened with me by my first manager. Maybe that is the reason for me to stand up confident today and look forward to my professional career.

    Must say an amazing insight and a lot of teaching, introspection and understanding embedded in it.

  5. This is really nice Nathan, great learning from both you & Ravindran G...

    I feel, make appraisals about pluses, similar to what was mentioned by Ravindran G "focus on strengths", this reminds me of Peter Drucker who said, "Assesing an employee's performance should always begin with strengths".

  6. This story led me to do two things - first reaffirm the belief that being a fair and just person is a precursor to being an exceptional professional, and in my heart, thank that first supervisor who treated me with dignity, respect and fairness in the appraisal process.

    Thank you for sharing.

  7. Hi Sir,

    As always it is indeed very much relating to us. Really liked your message that staying focused on one’s strength and do not stick to what had gone wrong.
    Be honest in whatever you do and everything falls in place.

    Thanks so much for sharing this as its very much relating to our Performance evaluation discussions. 

    Best Regards

  8. Fantastic message out of your experience as always boss!!! Thanks for sharing and this little message from you stands out always :)

  9. Thanks for sharing Sir as it enhanced my confidence of facing my first appraisal and even showed me how we have to be..


  10. Thanks Sir to share this message at the right time of appraisal and evaluation. This is really helpful for everyone...

    Thank You,

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