Come on down! Let’s estimate the retail price of annual performance reviews. Whoever is the closest to the actual retail price, without going over, wins the Spice is Right cake.

Spice Cake

Innovative companies such as McKinsey replaced annual evaluations with quarterly coaching assessments to better serve beginner and intermediate level associates as well as alleviate time-consuming and therefore expensive practices. In my experience, annual assessments are dreaded routine for management with outdated methods robbing employees of authentic feedback and organizations of improvements. While a harsh critique, an overhaul of traditional performance reviews is long overdue as well as an honest look the silent intimidation keeping an ineffectual tradition in place.

What is more comforting than chocolate cake? Three different types of chocolate cake from Cake Monkey Bakery. Mini malted chocolate, salted caramel and raspberry red velvet cake accompany a cautionary tale about too much of a good thing.

Chocolate Cakes

A True-ish Story

Once upon a time, a young bird called Russell, The Crow, would not fly. Russell, The Crow annoyed everyone. He squawked incessantly creating a terrible ruckus refusing to fly, get his own food or listen to advice. The other crows in the neighborhood shouted and pleaded for Russell, The Crow to fly. They flapped their wings demonstrating lift-off technique, but he said, “No, thanks. I’ll stay here.” And Russell, The Crow stayed on the ground for a few days until the neighbor’s cat ate him for lunch.

The End.

Our professional comfort zone is a misnomer in my experience. This phase symbolizes the antithesis of ease and moreover, a concealed impediment to progress and possible danger to our professional reputations. Refusal to leave the familiar territory of an outgrown position summons multitudes of unexpected challenges to our attitude impeding progress and promotion. Ultimately, we end up simmering in discontent, toying with concocted drama, a real threat to our respectability instead of forging ahead to the unknown.

Why are extra-credit projects being treated as requirement? Let’s locate missing brownie points while enjoying a hard-working chocolate treat and ponder how to keep discretionary efforts from being discounted, mislabeled and under-appreciated ever again.

Brownies

With the ubiquity of work-like-an-owner slogans, companies appear desperate for donated work, but can they manage those gifts when received? Discretionary effort, over-and-above job requirements generously gifted, is dangerous territory becoming potential demotivation without transparent expectations and rewards. Further, programs become disastrous without tools for assessing ebb and flow of discretionary efforts as employee’s interest in extra assignments vacillates. If premature turnover of A+ performers is a pattern, mismanagement of elective contribution may be a culprit.

These caramels are for you, Lilly Ledbetter.

An article published in a respected business journal reports women are less likely to interview for executive positions if rejected previously, which launched a firestorm of internal dialogue still irking me weeks later. While men also become more hesitant to try again, this study concludes women are more impacted because of fairness issues, having faced covert bias they are more doubtful about trying again. Admittedly, my reactions vacillated between furry and defeat yet finally landed on steadfast resilience, a renewed sense of confidence we are on the cusp of shattering age-old gender biases holding corporations back from reaching their highest potential.

Tart

Consider influencers in your professional circle, formal and informal, providing lessons on topics from technical know-how to discernment required for finessing sensitive conversation. Whether consciously recognized or not, teachers are everywhere, some hidden in agonizing lessons ultimately growing into deep-rooted wisdom while others super bosses, furthering expert insight, facilitating our promotion and recognition. Although no journey resistance free, time spent in discomfort is partially within our control based upon how promptly one asks for help when faced with dilemma.

Bran is the perfect ingredient for this story because we need movement. Our lesson includes poop or get off the pot wisdom mixed with practical advice about how to be less annoying while preparing for the big promotion. White chocolate amaretto cream rescues these muffins because bran is as tasteless as the imaginary story of what is holding us back from actualizing our dreams.

You’re going nowhere fast. Everyone aspires recognition, rapid promotions plus maxed-out bonus dividends, but if your personal fast track resembles an unrelenting traffic circle, a pause for self-reflection is in order. Reflection does not imply commiserating with sympathizers nor blaming others for frustrating circumstances; rather, let’s review the genuine state of affairs. The goal, direct access to the freeway and putting that roundabout in the rearview for good as you zoom off to the next chapter of your career.

Let’s begin with a couple questions about the final destination.

Are We There Yet?

Your buttercream is currently under surveillance. The competition just ate your lunch and has come back for dessert. The question is are you going to let them have your chocolate cake and eat it too? Let’s talk tough about keeping your adversaries at bay.

Competition, what competition? Banish this phrase from your professional lexicon evermore and assume that rivals are lurking everywhere. We are probably all guilty of letting our guard down due to being either disinterested or completely naive about the strength of a competitor thereby giving up market share for easy grabs. In short, we were temporarily oblivious allowing the opposition to get the better of us.

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Pink Panther Cake

Tequila probably won’t fix your training issues, but it’s worth a shot. An extra heavy pour of Patron, in the glaze of our cake, will make reviewing your team’s last shop call scores a bit easier. The orange and chocolate are excellent carriers for the 80-proof alcohol in cake form and the ganache filling has been whipped into shape, which is more than we can say for your team.

Your training isn’t working. You are officially up you-know-what’s creek because your team’s closing ratios show decline. A decline? How can they go to training and come back less capable you ponder to yourself on the verge of meltdown. Your grandiose dreams of total market domination have been crushed under the heavy weight of nightmarish mediocrity.

The Gods have obviously turned against you and not even the sacrifice of your self-esteem will appease their wrath.

Today we are exploring dysfunctional team dynamics, while we sip chocolate cake in liquid form. A hot chocolate detox of barely pourable bittersweet ganache with a gigantic marshmallow is in order because the team isn’t getting oolong. Don’t let the marshmallows fool you; this is no lightweight Swiss Miss story. 

Fancy Hot Chocolate
Chocolate Cake Hot Cocoa

Let’s start with a gut check. Please say the names of each member of your team mentally and calculate how much success you hope they have. As much as you want for yourself? Hmmm… How are you feeling about your boss? We probably all have a wee bit of cleaning to do while some teams may require hazmat level intervention due to the toxicity levels of unchecked dysfunction and outright extinction of team cooperation.

A high-octane chocolate cake offering a double shot of espresso will be our dessert today because it’s time to wake up those meetings that are presently asleep at the wheel. Get ready for the instant sobering realization that your routine meetings, affectionately known as nap time to your staff, are in dire need of a jump-start.

Chocolate cake with coffee butter cream
Chocolate Espresso Cake with Coffee Buttercream

In a word, your meetings are narcoleptic inducing agony. The comfortable cruise control mode you’ve set is silently killing your career aspirations and choking your team’s productivity while you erroneously believe that you are accomplishing something. A quick analysis of what your meetings are truly achieving will undoubtedly reveal that adjustments are in order.