I hate doing the yearly appraisals of my team. They force me to judge and rate people and I hate it. Most people does, I believe. The conversation feels unnatural to me, forced, and all the insecurities of the world creep in. I guess that only means that it is a valuable exercise.
During appraisals, I always stumble upon a pattern that I thought worth sharing: praising the top performers puts them in danger. The pattern unfolds this way: when someone outperforms the rest, she knows it. By praising her, she´ll validate her inner talk (I knew I was doing well!), and a short rush of excitement will fill her (think Rafa Nadal saying VAMOS! after a disputed point). That is all positive energy. All good. But that´s when ego will take the reins. Excitement gives way to entitlement. Entitlement is ego telling you that you deserve more. That you belong somewhere else. How come you are so good and you don´t make as much as this other? How come they promoted this scumbag instead of you? Once you feel entitled, the world owes you. The world is suddenly an unfair place, full of crap, full of incompetent people that is making your life miserable. If you don´t tame your ego, either you become a resentful hater or start a quest for wonderland, that place where people really value you for who you are and crown you king of the world.
The more you stand out, the more you must focus on what you do, instead of what you are. I tell you because I´ve been there and this is simply the best strategy. It is the way to achieve peace of mind, fill your soul, and grow proud of you. And, ironically, the less you care about some things, the easier they seem to reach you. That is, though, not a good thing, as I believe you are being put to test again, to see if you resist the siren songs of entitlement again. Aristotle said a long time ago: "It is hard to bear the results of good fortune suitably." It is hard, and that´s why it is the ultimate test of your abilities.
And for the manager, should we stop praising top performers then? I won´t, I cannot help it. I sincerely admire the work of some people and will not resist the urge to tell them. As for the risk of turning their life miserable as a result? Well, I´ll write a blog post to see if I can prevent it ;)
Have a good weekend all!