Self Appraisals in the first grade

Several people I work with attended an interesting training here at Oracle.  It was a course designed to give you tips on how to do presentations to executives.  I heard some key themes included: being on message,  brief,  in control, prepared, etc.

Most importantly,  you should make sure you talk about things they care about (not what you care about) and in words they use.

It’s not just that you shouldn’t use jargon, you should be purposeful in your intent to communicate your ideas from the point of view of the audience. Of course, this is always useful, but the higher the career stakes, the more you really want to get it right.

I have a been thinking about this for a few days now as I have a much harder task in front of me than a meeting with executives,  I have to present “what I do” to my daughter’s first grade class.


Here is what I do.

Meetings, emails, meetings, emails, IMs, emails, reviewing reports, emails about reports, twitter, blogging, email, thinking, email, email about thinking, document review, email about document review, and so on…

pretty much email. That’s what I do.  Nothing very concrete there.  In fact, I’m sure there are a lot of people who do a lot of email and their jobs would be wildly different than mine.

Of course, I’m not really worried about putting this into first grade language.  I have regular access to a first grader, and I have a good idea what she does and does not understand (or care about). But I do realize that I need to be more specific about what is in the meetings and emails or I will confuse and bore them.

So as I was thinking about what exactly to talk about, I realized that her class is already familiar with the concept of performance feedback.  They do self appraisals every day. The class uses what they call  “Reflection sheets”* to capture when they do (and do not) show evidence of following the school rules (Respect, Useful, Listener, Ethical, Safe).  As you can see, it’s an optimized process for minimal paperwork with maximum utility.

As I work to define what I do in a way that is interesting and meaningful to a first grader, I realize that maybe what I really should be doing is recommending that business consider having more reflection sheets and less self appraisals.

I am finding myself especially fond of the useful one, I think that’s worth a second look.


*I could only get agreement to have a copy if I promised to black out her name

5 thoughts on “Self Appraisals in the first grade

  1. What a great idea! 🙂 Amazing that the concept of Ethics is now introduced to first-graders! Pity that wasn’t around a few decades ago, when our financial ‘leaders’ were that age!

  2. This post got me thinking about the whole “appraisal” vs. “reflection” approach. While “appraisal” is often saddled with its literal “value” meaning and the sometimes too narrow focus that entails, “reflection” gets short shrift because it isn’t seen as driving results as much (the old measurement trap). Of course, the desired results from 1st grade can be much more than simply grades or scores (although you wouldn’t know it from the way funding is done.) Should there be a connection drawn? Or is it enough to say that both the Behaviors and the Outcomes are what we want?

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