The traditional performance assessment process gets a bad rap for being too infrequent, filled with unhelpful feedback and focused too much on raises and bonuses. But that doesn't mean that we should scrap it all together. There is value in getting well rounded, ongoing feedback from the people who you spend most of your time with.
Rather than trying to re-invent the system in its entirety-- a large undertaking for any individual leader-- I recommend starting with yourself by conducting a reverse performance review instead.
What makes a reverse performance review? It's initiated by you and it asks for a range of feedback from your direct reports in order to build realistic progress plans that you actually report back in on.
Whether you're the CEO of a Fortune 100 company or a newly promoted supervisor in a fast-growing family business, here's a process that will yield the best results:
1. Build a support group.
Identify three to five people you interact with on a regular basis who would be willing and able to offer you ongoing, objective feedback. The wider the mix of peers, direct reports, stakeholders (and maybe even your boss), the better.
2. Ask the same three questions.
Sit down with each person individually for no more than 30 minutes and ask them the same three questions:
- As a leader what should I keep doing?
- As a leader what should I start doing?
- As a leader what should I stop doing?
Why these three questions? They're open enough to produce valuable feedback without being so broad that they'll overwhelm. As you listen to the answers, be on the lookout for broad themes that emerge. The more frequently and consistently you get a piece of feedback, the stronger the imperative to act on it.
3. Commit to a course of action.
The great thing about a reverse performance review is that you get to decide what you want to work on. As you review the feedback you've received and the key themes across your discussions, know that you don't have to work on every single thing that emerges. It's important to take what's useful and to leave the rest.
In fact, I suggest taking away no more than two or three specific things you're going to work on over the next 90 days.
Make sure you've got a clearly defined end goal and an articulated success metric for each development point. Then share these with your support group and ask them to hold you accountable.
4. Follow up in 90-day increments.
Every three months or so, book in a 15-minute session with each person and share what you've done since the last time you met, what went well, what you'd do differently and what you're going to do over the next three months.
You should use these sessions strictly for an update on your progress and to hold you accountable to the things you've decided to work on. Keep focused on the discussion and try not to let small talk and socializing creep in (you can always schedule those for a different time).
Rinse and repeat this process every six months and continue to work on no more than two or three key issues at any one time. You'll begin to see lasting behavioral changes in the way you lead that will have a significant impact on your team and your organization.