The Evaluation: Lessons from The Apprentice
Years ago, I was on national television. A reality show whereby I arrived in New York City along with fifteen other smart young thinkers in expensive suits, all vying to be an apprentice to Martha Stewart herself. We befriended Martha. We dined with Donald Trump. We felt like Mark Burnett Productions was brilliant simply for finding us. Basically we were all cocky little chumps with nice teeth and attitude problems.
Receiving an Evaluation with Humility
As the show progressed and people got fired, the pressure was on. We grew honest and outspoken about each other’s weaknesses. Some were passive. Some caved under pressure. Some couldn’t lead or were bossy in their approach.
I remember someone pointing at me and saying: “You’re controlling. You always want it done your way. And you eat a lot of carbs when you get nervous.” I looked up with a menacing stare while stuffing my face with yogurt and granola. “I’m not controlling,” I replied, picking a blueberry from my teeth. “I’m just successful.”
But inside, I thought about these words.
I remembered the time my kids and I made sugar cookies at Christmas and I had to repress the urge to rip the cookies from my children’s hands to make them look more beautiful. I recalled the time I sat on the floor and re-did hundreds of binders because they weren’t exactly the way I expected, my poor secretary muttering under her breath. And I thought of the times in my own marriage where I’d had preconceived notions about “how things should be” and showed disapproval in my actions when things didn’t measure up.
While that peer-evaluation of me on The Apprentice wasn’t what got me kicked off the show, my fellow reality stars were absolutely right. I had a control problem. And yet while in some settings I seemed to have all the answers, it wasn’t always easy to give negative feedback when I was afraid of hurting someone else’s feelings. I’ve often struggled to provide appropriate evaluations of others in the workplace.
Offering an Evaluation with Honesty
I had a legal assistant once who never formatted letters correctly. I repeatedly told her how things should be with her nodding like she totally got it and then the same mistakes would occur. So the awful moment arrived when I had to sit down and give her “constructive feedback,” but I was young and green and I ended up saying that perhaps she could, like, possible work on just a few of these issues but I really, really liked her as a person and those are really nice shoes?
Not helpful. Why was I so afraid to be honest?
Sometimes offering a frank evaluation is the only way a person can grow and develop.
But being frank doesn’t translate to being rude. It doesn’t mean standing tall and towering over others, shaking a finger at what needs to change. Perhaps my reality star critique was a bit more sharp than normal in tone, but it still doesn’t mean one should award a five-star, exceeds-all-expectations vote when someone simply walks through the door and warms a chair. We all need to learn to give and receive honest and productive feedback.
When Giving or Receiving an Evaluation, Make It Count
The next time you are put in a position to give feedback, make it count:
- Put prayer and thought into it.
- Deliver it in a way that is a mentoring opportunity, with love and a soft touch.
- Reach out with humility, knowing we are not perfect.
- Provide valuable insider information to others in a way that’s helpful and constructive.
If you have to receive it, hear the words as rocks that you can polish into jewels. We are imperfect creatures, and even after a lifetime of achievement we often still need someone in our ear, whispering, “Well done, but next time spare us the drama and be nice to Herb, the mail guy.”
I’m grateful for my dear friends on The Apprentice. For their honesty. For their friendship. For their willingness to say it straight and hold nothing back. I have tried to grow and change from their helpful evaluation instead of blowing it off as competitive puffery. In the past decade, I’ve worked on it. I’ve tried to really capture others’ viewpoints, careful to value all points of view before I come to a final conclusion. And when my children make Christmas cookies, I give them loads of sprinkles and say, “Go for it, kids. Make a jumble of red and yellow until all we see is a mass of brilliant sugar.”
When you get honest feedback, it’s a gift. Unwrap it. Try it on. Don’t waste it by rolling your eyes. Listen with a discerning heart, and be grateful we don’t always have to be perfect. We are students under God’s great tutelage, and until the last day on earth we can always improve, and strive to exceed expectations, and continue to be thankful for honesty in all things.
Each year, workers everywhere receive an evaluation of their job performance from their employer and, while most evaluations in the workplace don't go quite the way they appear on some television shows, those annual evaluations are often the source of everything from disappointment and stress, to surprise and a boost of confidence. How do we approach and receive evaluations as Christian workers? What can we learn from Jesus about giving and receiving words of instruction, correction, and affirmation? How can entrepreneurs and the self-employed remain accountable for doing good work and for keeping an eye on weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the workplace? Our series, The Evaluation, takes a closer look.
Featured image by Kompania Piwowarska. Used with Permission. Source via Flickr.