*The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Only joking.

Actually, the names have only changed as political figures have changed in the 10 years since this article first appeared. The sentiment – and the experience – remains just as valid today.

IS anyone really surprised that Scots voters like Charles Kennedy and hate William Hague? Is anyone really interested?

I wondered at the point of the latest popularity poll to be carried out in Scotland, when the outcome was so blindingly obvious. It did make me snigger just a tad though, not least of all because Tommy Sheridan’s vote was 0%. Apparently those who like and dislike Sheridan cancel each other out. Tee hee! I think being a nothing must be worse than being hugely liked or intensely disliked, at least there’s a reaction. Poor Tommy.

Anyway, only 3% of Scots like William Hague a lot, and just 12% like him a little, while Charles Kennedy polls 12% who like him a lot and 33% who like him a little. 36% really disliked Hague and just 5% disliked Kennedy a lot.

It was just another election newspaper filler really, because as we all know it will make absolutely no difference to the end result. Labour will win, and all the love oozing out of Scots’ pores for nice Mr Kennedy will vaporise without a trace.

Popularity polls are rife in politics. But on reflection it seems to me that we do it in business too, except we call it a performance appraisal; the difference is that popularity polls are just fluff, not taken seriously by pollster or pollee.

I would have thought the political parties should perhaps be carrying out these “appraisals” internally and well in advance of a general election, rather than leaving it to the press, but then logic never seems to rule in politics.

In business, performance appraisals are now standard. Employees are usually rated against a scale by their supervisor or manager and given improvement targets (where necessary) for the next 12 months.

In my IT company we did things a bit differently. And we still achieved Investors In People recognition. We didn’t give employees marks out of ten for punctuality, accuracy, or initiative. We didn’t give marks at all. In my view, problems with punctuality and accuracy should be dealt with as they occur, and not stored up in a grubby little file ready to be wielded in anger at the annual performance appraisal.

In fact, our appraisals weren’t even called appraisals. We had Personal Development Interviews, where our employees were asked about the things that matter in their job; we asked where they wanted to grow in the company, and what training they felt they needed to help them achieve that. We asked if they received enough support from management to fulfil their daily objectives. We asked if they were happy.

And then we asked what they thought of the management. We carried out a full reverse appraisal of the management team. No holds barred. We brought in an independent consultant and compiled a comprehensive questionnaire that covered the team’s skills (or not) as managers/directors and their personal characteristics.

The response was brutal. We all felt our characters had been assassinated. But then the truth always hurts, doesn’t it. Certain directors were felt to be unapproachable. Some were great communicators, but poor finishers. Some made promises that they didn’t keep.

What did we do? We held a breakfast meeting and we told our employees exactly what we each intended to do to address the issues they had raised about us.  The final outcome was worth all the hard work and tears. We made changes, we underwent training, we listened, learned and ultimately we earned new respect from our employees.

So the truth of the matter – which is bound to hurt and which is why it is probably being ignored – is that the leaders of our political parties need to look a bit more closely at themselves. Perhaps carry out a reverse appraisal that digs deep into their “management skills” and their personal characteristics. Then listen to the feedback and do something about it. That way, four years down the line, we won’t be sitting bitching about whom we like and don’t like a matter of weeks before polling day. The hard work will have been done and all the party leaders will be enormously likeable characters with all the skills required to lead the country. Ha!