Ever had a personal performance appraisal and walked out a bit bewildered?
Well, the Singapore General Elections (GE) in September 2015 has surprised many. In some ways, it’s like a performance appraisal isn’t it? This angle gives an intriguing perspective.
It holds great lessons — not only for political parties but also for people’s performance! Let’s take an objective, non-partisan look.
What Creates Surprise
The greater the disparity in assessment between the appraiser and appraisee, the greater will be the surprise. The appraiser here is the electorate in a GE or a boss in the workplace. The appraisee is the political party/candidate or the employee. The tendency is usually to overestimate our own performance. Hence, the surprise or bewilderment at the outcome.
One may argue that it’s just incorrect perceptions, which has little to do with reality. Not so! Perception IS reality in the eyes of the beholder!
What Determines Outcomes
There are two major parts to appraisals that determine results: assessment of actual performance and future potential.
Firstly, the assessment or perception of performance carries the most weight. The result reveals that the vast majority believes one party has clearly delivered more or performed better. Since the last GE, that party made special effort to change, be humbler (even though there’s room for improvement), be more compassionate, and deliver on multiple fronts. It would be fair to reward those who actually delivered, wouldn’t it? Whereas it would take more faith and trust to give greater weight to those who promise to deliver in the future, wouldn’t it? While many have reasons to disagree, the polls show that, however strong the reasons for disagreement, they comprise the minority in this GE.
Secondly, the assessment or perception of future potential carries lesser weight in an appraisal. The opposition, however, is heavily reliant on such assessment for two reasons. Its new candidates have no MP service records, and it also has no delivery records over national policies and programmes. So, inevitably, it has to be assessed or judged based on the restricted current performance, limited past records. more liberal ideology, and associations and other qualitative factors, which are indicative of its future character and direction. If this is perceived to be strongly positive, it could pull up the overall assessment.
On the other hand, if this is perceived to be somewhat negative or there is some discomfort with the potential future direction, it could worsen the outcome. Assessment of future potential is highly reliant on a belief and trust of the appraisee. The inverse is disbelief and doubt. In a hotly contested GE, such doubts can be compounded collectively by the size of opposition as a whole. And if they are generally perceived to be ideologically similar but misaligned to the values held by the majority, then there will be a real fear. This is not necessarily caused by the ruling party but caused by oppositions themselves. If true, that is a sobering thought. The “phew” of relief felt by some when the results were known may be indicative that there may be some truth here.
This performance appraisal angle of view, however, may not be applicable for new candidates. with no past performance. It’s then more like an assessment in an interview. In such cases, only the assessment of a candidate’s future potential has relevance. From the candidate’s speeches and track record elsewhere, the degree to which the candidate share similar values and can be trusted to meet expectations can be ascertained.
What Assures Success
The formula for success, especially now that the electoral preference is clear, is “simple”. If you want to be successful, match your core values, pitch and delivery to the electoral preference. Alternatively, get the electorate to change their preference to match your agenda. The latter is obviously a long march to nowhere.
The ruling party won big this time because, they tried to match their delivery to the electoral preference. Prior to this GE, they had to figure out what will match the expectations. They probably knew they were doing the right things but are none the wiser as to how close a match it would be until the results were out. They scored better than even they expected!
On the other hand, the opposition were similarly surprised. What they stood for seems to be indicative of a mismatch with the electoral expectations and comfort level. While there was the Singapore 50th year and gratitude effect, it was more than that. If it were primarily only this effect, then there is no need to change and all will be well at the next GE. That’s a dangerous gambit if the opposition wants to remain a voice in parliament.
The formula for success, on hindsight based on the roughly 70:30 electoral preferences, is seemingly clear. The values of the vast majority appears to be more on the right and, at worse, centre. The ruling party’s agenda and delivery, including caring for the vulnerable segments of society, clearly matched this well.
The minority may be mostly more inclined to the left and centre. It appears that the opposition agenda as a whole may be more inclined toward what this part of the electorate appreciates. If there is any truth here, then if the opposition go on with the same pitch and agenda, it may just retain this minority. Alternatively, if the opposition wants to be accepted by more, it may have to consider shifting to the centre right in some way that still gives it a distinctive. This is but one man’s perception.
What Relevance Does This Have for Personal Success
What relevance has the above for us as individuals in our career or business? Here are related principles that are relevant to our personal success.
1. The narrower the disparity between what your organisation, boss or manager thinks of you and what you think of yourself, the greater the likelihood that you will succeed in your career. Unless you narrow the disparities through performance that your boss or manager appreciates, your prospect or even days with the company may be limited. While we want to believe in second chances and that people can change, I’ve experienced one instance where the individual self-assessment was so far apart from that of the manager, it was clear that the individual was close to being delusional.
2. Know what your organisation’s and manager’s objectives, requirements and expectations are, and go match it well. The closer the match at the core, the greater will be your success. Help them succeed, and you will succeed. Go find out what, and help their success. Don’t wait for annual goal and budget setting exercises, town halls and offsite meetings to get clued in. If you are not sure what the expectations are and how you are fairing, go and ask your manager. If you are not clear, it’s not possible to match and deliver up to expectations.
3. If it takes anything from a few days to three months for your boss or manager to know a new staff’s performance and potential, go self-assess yourself within that same period of time and match up to succeed. If you are new staff and have no idea how you are doing within 1 to 2 weeks, you are in danger of coasting along and not matching up to expectations. Don’t wait to be surprise with a contrary view of your performance. From my observations, many bosses are not comfortable at giving feedback until it’s too late. Nobody wants to be the bad guy, usually. Don’t wait till you find out that your performance rating is a C or D, that your increment is not what you expected, that you did not get the promotion or worse.
So, do yourself a favour. Go find out and take action to do well. Assess yourself and ask for feedback from your manager and colleagues early so you can adjust, improve and meet expectations. Be open to ask for feedback from others to have a 360 degree view of yourself.
About Benjamin Foo
Benjamin is author of iPOSSIBLE, a book that inspires readers with new perspectives and practical strategy and steps to take to reach their fullest possibilities. He seeks to engage youth and young adults and change people’s future, drawing on his experience, including previously that of an executive vice president of a major publicly-listed company. He welcomes you to message him at iPOSSIBLE on Facebook — please give a thumbs up “Like” too. You may also email him at benjaminfoo@iPossible-International.com if you need advice or encouragement.