Grade Yourself

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again… who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
-Teddy Roosevelt

When was the last time you took a test and earned a grade?

I’ve been on Army Reserve Annual Training for the last few weeks teaching West Point cadets (Go Army!), and it’s been a reminder of how intensive the course work is. Over the 3.5 weeks of class, the cadets had 4 graded homework assignments, 2 graded tests, a final group project presentation, and a final exam – intense!!  

I am teaching what could arguably be the most motivated and highest caliber group of students in the country, and if teaching these students virtually is REALLY challenging, how does anyone teach in a less motivated virtual environment?!? I honestly don’t know how our teachers got through the last year, but I salute all of them. 

But, while reflecting on the last few weeks, I realized how long it’s been since I had a “graded performance.” Sure, I am critical of myself and reflect on how I did in a meeting, a podcast, or a project deliverable on any given day or week. Still, it’s different than receiving an associated grade with that event or project.

This week we had MCFA quarterly conversations, and in the spirit of school, I asked our team to grade themselves on how well they did on their quarterly priorities. Surprisingly, it led to much different conversations than what would usually ensue during these reviews. We usually focus on “did we accomplish this or that,” and “if not, why?” But giving ourselves a grade really made the conversations critical – in a productive manner – of how we really did. 

So, I challenge you this week to stop criticizing yourself and start grading yourself – and your team – on roles, responsibilities, and the big “projects” or “events,” like proposals, project deliverables, and meetings. Criticizing ourselves leads to negative self-talk, whereas grading ourselves leads to better preparation. 

BJ Kraemer, President