Having finished this year’s Nano with a book in first draft form and a few days to spare, I was thinking about the need to maintain one’s self confidence to achieve these sorts of goals. Historically I haven’t been that imbued with enough self confidence but as I age I get better at, at the very least, convincing myself I can do things. It has taken quite a while to get here.
For some it was second nature.
Recently an acquaintance went to a corporate shindiggery-thingy where he met people in the same line of work and engaged in the papier-mâché version of casual sex where people share pieces of cardboard as the end game of the interaction rather than bodily fluids. When we met, shortly after, he recounted one encounter.
Him: ‘I met Rodney Hybrid-Postbox the other day.’
Me: ‘Rodney? Bloody hell, he used to work for me.’
Him: ‘He said. Sends his regards. Seems he’s doing well. He’s a partner in Globetrotter, Pince-nez and Globule.’
Me: ‘I’m not surprised. He always had a certain self confidence. I did wonder where he would end up.’
He was unique, was Rodney. I wrote a year ago about my experiences of appraisals in the work place, here if you are interested. I carried out several hundred in my time but Rodney’s was unique.
One of the things you learn working with a bunch of highly educated (I could say intelligent but that’s not the same thing) hyper sensitive overachievers is that, for the most part, they suffer from various versions of impostor syndrome and need bigging up in some way to maintain their fragile self confidence.
Not Rodney. Rodney was from the generations of associate lawyers who had to complete a self appraisal form against a set of criteria which a partner and he would discuss. Each of the five categories (variously technical competence, time management, team working, client relationships and something else I can’t remember) he would give himself a number out of 5 and then a comment that was meant to identify strengths and areas for improvement (nothing as undermining as weaknesses, necessarily).
In each case Rodney had a five and nothing he considered needed any work.
At the end of the form there was a box ‘to be completed after your appraisal’. The idea was the partner and the associate would offer up their versions of what worked well and what needed doing and this box would contain the summary, usually some actions.
Rodney listened to my thoughts, nodded at my well-pitched suggestions for things to consider and laughed gently at the idea that perhaps his form suggested a little self awareness wouldn’t go amiss. He promised to give serious thought to what went into the final box.
I received it back inside a day. It said:
Rodney is considered to be probably the best associate in the department.
I went to see him; I ran through the points I’d made and asked if he thought he might reconsider that final box. He agreed he would. He laughed dutifully when I said just taking out the ‘probably’ wouldn’t work.
It took him two days this time. It said
Rodney is considered to be probably the best, if not the best, associate in the department
I knew he would go far; I was just never quite sure in which direction.