5th December 2017 by Malcolm Allison
I was thinking back to the time when I had my first performance appraisal. It was an uncomfortable experience. I armed myself with justifications for a good review, including as many examples of my performance as I could find. The whole discussion was a jousting match between me and my manger. He tried to convince me that I was average, while I tried to show him that my actions had resulted in great progress for my brands, so I should be rated as excellent. I lost.
I recall that the appraisal focused primarily on numbers and targets, and that there was barely any mention of the ‘softer’ skills. These are in fact very important, and can govern a company’s reputation. One such skill is integrity.
In the 25 years since my first appraisal, the working environment has changed significantly.
I think two movements have driven this change. On one side, we have seen the impact of Putting Customers First – a programme pioneered by the airlines. The pharmaceutical industry has been slower to adopt the initiative, but now the annual reports of all major pharmaceutical companies are lifted by stories of patient engagement. On the other side, internet search engines have had a considerable impact on the amount of health-related content available.
We now have a trialogue between drug companies, health care providers and patients. This evolution has consequences for the pharmaceutical companies. I think that over time, the patient is going to become the most important party in this relationship.
So how does this relate to integrity?
We see customer satisfaction as the mission in our encounters. We still measure success by dates and profits. But along the way, our performance is being appraised by our internal and external customers, and they are making their decisions based on our integrity.
In my last company, I was impressed with the acronym LIFE, which had been introduced to measure performance in the areas of leadership, integrity, flexibility and efficiency.
To me, integrity, stands out from the others: L, F and E can be measured on a scale - which leaves room for interpretation. But you can’t measure integrity – it is binary. You either have it, or you don’t. Also, Integrity is defined by its surroundings; you can’t judge it by simply observing a person’s behaviour, you can only judge their integrity by observing how they react to certain situations.
I remember an appraisal I conducted a couple of years ago. I have known and managed the employee for some years and her performance had been excellent. We ran through the business objectives, and turned to the LIFE discussion.
We discussed examples of her performance that demonstrated her passion for integrity. As we wrapped up, the conversation moved towards some recent positive news about our company reported in the pharmaceutical press. The discussion, which had begun as her appraisal, had become an appraisal of the company. We were not appraising the company’s performance or share price, we were appraising its integrity, based on an event that had occupied the press. I realised what a powerful measure integrity has become, for both internal and external customers.
I wonder how different my first appraisal would have been, if we had undertaken it from today’s position. I doubt the conclusion would have been much different, but maybe I would have come out with a more positive outlook if we had spent time appraising my integrity. It’s difficult to hear you need to do more for your brands to get that ‘excellent’ rating. But, if my manager told me that everything I did, I did with integrity, it would have given me a sense of pride that may have encouraged me to strive for that excellent rating next time.