“Dear Boss — About my Performance in this COVID Crisis…”

(A captured email…)

Photo by Brett Sayles via Pexels

To: Jim Shoo

From: Mike

Subject: Upcoming Mid-Year Performance Review with You (Road Kill Alert!)

Jim — As my leader, yesterday you asked me to start pulling together materials for my 2020 Q1 and Q2 performance vs. plan for our upcoming mid-year review. Geeze-Louise. Because of this crazy pandemic, all those well thought out and stretch-but-achievable goals and objectives we agreed to back in December for this year are not exactly relevant anymore.

In fact, most of them are in a state of rigor mortis.

When the whole world — including our company — went into the blender back in March, as you know we had to start making stuff up day-to-day. Improvise. Scramble. There was no play book for this. The customer orders fell off a cliff and by early May, two of our key accounts had to close their doors temporarily.

Chaos would be an understated way to describe it. But you know all that. And as Regional Sales Manager I was supposed to be building the business this year. Yeah — right.

In fact, it’s morbidly humorous when I look at Objective #2 on my performance management plan: “Increase revenue in the region by 14%.” Ugh! The final Q2 report I saw yesterday indicates my region’s revenue FELL by 37% in the quarter. So, I guess my rating for that one is “Did not meet expectation.”

Which brings me to Objective #6 which was about hiring two new sales reps in the first half of the year to help meet that 14% revenue target. What a nightmare! Instead we had to furlough Kelly and Pat, both of whom were showing good promise. Looks like another “Did not meet expectation.”

Looking at some of the other objectives: “Meet on-site with four key customers each quarter.” Nope. Didn’t happen.

“Make a presentation at the annual industry association conference.” That’s another no — we were all bummed when they cancelled it. Too bad — Tampa in April would have been great for our company’s exposure and for my golf game.

And I was supposed to migrate my region to the new sales forecasting software in the second quarter (Objective #7). Surprise! That’s another ”Did not meet.” When we all but closed the corporate offices and all the IT folks had to immediately jump through hoops to support everybody else who suddenly had to work from home, the new forecasting project got put on hold. Who knows — maybe for good. There are bigger fish to fry right now.

I did exceed expectations for one of my objectives — reducing travel costs. In fact, during April I reduced them to zero since my team and I were working out of our dining rooms for the month. Woo-hoo — Get out the gold star!

In normal times only hitting one of seven objectives would have likely earned me an invitation to seek employment elsewhere.

But these are obviously not normal times and despite all of the craziness these last few months we held things together with gum and string and while I admit it’s not much of a standard, we did better than most of our competitors and many of our customers appreciated what we tried to do for them.

However, we rarely documented any of the real time decisions you and I made or actions we took beyond our emails and texts.

The obvious point is (and I’m sure you’ve heard this from other members of your team) when we had to pivot and figure out a new set of actions in real time, those items — and those new expectations — are not in the system anywhere. My original 2020 performance management plan is dead in the water but has HR offered any guidelines about how we should measure what I or any of us did in reality? Just what does it mean these days to have “met expectations” in the first half of the year?

And how is my performance under these conditions viewed by our senior leaders who have a lot of sway over my future? The people on my team are asking me the same question about their performance feedback since all of their plans and targets got similarly flushed and I don’t know what to tell them.

Seriously, boss — Who can be held accountable for what in this pandemic pandemonium? Trying hard and having good intentions are noble but they are not the same as getting results. And the last time I checked we don’t give out participation trophies around here.

No one saw this coming except maybe for Nostradamus so how do we handle this?

Also, when we have our mid-year discussion next week on our video chat the other challenge will be for us to agree on what the last half of the year’s expectations will be. What are my new revenue and customer retention targets knowing that two of the states in my region just this week announced they are rolling back the state’s re-opening because of a surge in virus cases? We both know that will have an impact on orders.

Like last quarter my team and I will do the best we can with the hand we’ve been dealt but even that bad hand could get worse in the next month. When I consulted my Magic 8-Ball (you did encourage me to improve my decision making skills…) about what the next six months will bring I repeatedly got the response “Ask again later.”

Anyway, sorry this email turned out longer than I planned and that I dumped a little. Or maybe a lot. It’s just been stressful on all of us (and our families) these last few months and I long for the so-called “good old days” — like 6 months ago — when we were not all in a 24/7 hurricane. Talk with you soon.

About the author: Mike Hoban is a West Michigan-based leadership coach and advisor who also writes about business topics, with a recent focus on leadership and the COVID crisis. He has been a leader and/or consultant for 40 years and has worked in multiple countries to provide training, executive coaching or assessment feedback to thousands of leaders. His LinkedIn page is https://www.linkedin.com/in/mike-hoban-b5756b6/ and he can be reached at mjhoban99@gmail.com.

Mike Hoban is a West Michigan-based leadership coach and advisor who also writes about business topics.