It is easy to view the world in black and white. But remember, somewhere between black and white is a whoooooole bunch of gray. That is where I fall into ranks. Lets face it, we all do. Everything we do gravitates to this ashy pigment…of…gray.
Yes, we may show strokes of brilliance or reach the darkest abyss. But even then, odds are that someone has done it better and someone has done it worse. Examine your strengths and weaknesses, do they not offset one another? This puts you back to the mediocre middle. Welcome home, I saved you a seat.
Once per year the Navy evaluates its Sailors using language where there are not enough actions (in existence) to match all the lofty adjectives. No big deal, I liken this to the back cover of a novel. Everyone is just trying to sell their book.
During the evaluation cycle, Sailors take part in a “mid-term counseling.” This requires self reflection and open dialogue with the chain of command. Normally, three strengths and three areas for improvement are identified by the counselee. This inevitably reminds the Sailor of their existence in the gray zone. As a matter of personal opinion, I think this is one of the most brilliant things the Navy does. Sadly, I have yet to meet a Shipmate who *truly* takes this process seriously – but I’ll save that for another time.
At the close of a recent event, I was asked by the facilitator if there were any obvious areas for improvement. I gave some “minor suggestions”. His response was an appreciative acceptance with a follow-on call to action. He said, “Do me a favor, send me an email including three up and three down.” (That is to say three strong points and three areas for improvement)
This facilitator, also a Sailor, was the first person I’ve heard use the term “three up and three down“. Perhaps I’m late to the party and this is common lingo. Nevertheless, I am left to suppose that it was originally harvested from a mid-term counseling session.
Next time you need some feedback on your performance or ideas, consider this strong negotiating tool. It requires the sender to purge or reduce existing bias and evaluate using a two-point perspective. Who knows, it might just propel you to reach a lighter shade of gray.