Okay, so now I know what a peer review is. It is feedback to the book proposal from a fellow author. Back in the day when I worked for Warner-Lambert, I learned what a mighty gift feedback can be. I consulted with them for almost two years, working in the HRIT department. For each of those years, I wrote and managed the compensation planning system and process. When I arrived on the scene, the process was to distribute individual spreadsheets to managers so they can enter proposed merit increases, bonus awards, and restricted stock distributions for their employees. I don't remember exactly how many spreadsheets were distributed, but there was probably close to 2,000, if not more. Warner-Lambert had an employee count of approximately 47,000. The entire compensation cycle was cumbersome, error prone, and tedious.
My first assignment was to write a system to automate the compensation cycle process. I think we used dBase III for that one. Later iterations were in Clipper and FoxPro. Whatever the backend, I developed a tool that distributed the databases on 3.5" floppy disk to help automate the roll up and reporting procedures better. It worked, but it wasn't the best design. The second iteration was client-server with a centralized database. No roll up necessary. It provided better control and fewer errors, but it was slooow! Put more than 20 managers on the system at any one time and the system bogged down. The third system I designed but didn't code was the web-based Combined Compensation System or CCP. That was the winner. It was also one of the first applications to go when Pfizer bought Warner-Lambert.
After two years of consulting with Warner-Lambert, I heard there was a position open for a manager in the department. It was a technical manager role. There were no direct reports. I asked the department director at the time, David Erikson, if there were any rules in place that prevented me from applying for the position. Today David is CEO of Mindkey Global A/S. I am happy for his success. When I asked David, he was sitting behind his desk with a pen in his hand. He looked up, put the pen down, and said the job is yours. I know you and we don't need to look any further. He asked me to submit my resume so he could get the hiring process started. After 13 years in consulting, I was tired of not having any paid time off. I wanted the job for the paid vacation and benefits. It was a good move even though I took a big pay cut. I am ever thankful to David for giving me my start in corporate life.
Warner-Lambert employed an anonymous 360 review process as part of the employee appraisal system. It was the first time I ever received a report card from my co-workers. After my first full year as a manager, I almost derailed my career. When the 360s came back from my peers and subordinates, I was completely shocked. The feedback from my superiors and customers was fine, but what I heard from the people I work with on a day-to-day basis ran shivers up my spine. To summarize, "Victor is arrogant, condescending, and makes me feel stupid." I was blown away by this! I thought I was performing to the best of my ability. I had no idea I was making people feel this way. It certainly was not consistent with my personal values and heart attitude. I was completely unaware of the impact my management style was having on others, although my wife may have raised a red flag a once or twice.
Our new Director, Chris Erikson (no relation to David), cared deeply for us as people, more so than as employees. She recommended the Leadership Development Program at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, NC. The tuition stood in excess of $6,000...$7,000 if you include travel, lodging and expenses. Our department didn't have that kind of training money in the budget for an individual contributor. I asked two of my customers, the VPs of Compensation and HR, to fund the training. They agreed to split the cost. The course was the most amazing diagnostic I had ever been through. I've never attended anything like it before or since.
What I learned was eye-opening. The behaviors called out in my 360s were readily apparent to the observers. For the 13 years prior, I earned a living walking into a company and providing right answers to technical problems. I became highly successful by telling my clients how to do things the right way. These behaviors didn't change when I became a corporate manager. I did not realize that the behaviors that drove my success as a consultant would not allow me to progress as a manager. You must treat people differently when you are their leader. What a revelation to me!
I've been gifted with an ability to define technical solutions to problems very quickly. Within a few brief moments of understanding an issue, I can usually visualize a solution in my mind. Telling clients how to fix a problem is what consultants get paid for. Telling teammates how to fix a problem, isolates them from the solution, hurts their feelings, and does absolutely nothing to foster teamwork. The psychologist assigned to mentor me through the diagnostic suggested altering my approach through targeted questions. Even if I could visualize a solution early in the problem solving process, don't tell your teammates what that solution is. Start asking questions to steer your teammates to the solution. Let them develop their own thinking through your influence. It drives buy-in, teamwork and collaboration. The changes worked phenomenally well. My next years' 360s came back exemplary. I successfully overcame the negative perceptions. If it wasn't for hard feedback, I never would have made it.
The author gave me hard feedback in the peer review, but I know his intent is to help me succeed. He thought there might some conflict of interest between books he's written and mine. I don't believe so because my book is very different from anything out there. He absolutely did not like using the term "10 Commandments" in the title. He had a lot to say about that, but the editor had already made the point clear. His conclusion, "the author seems to be a good enough writer to go forward." Thank you for your gift of feedback!