We do annual reviews this time of year at Zillow Group, and each employee--including me--is rated on their performance as well as their demonstration of our core values. We do 360-degree reviews, meaning managers are reviewed by their direct reports in addition to their peers and managers. We also do a self-evaluation and compare it to what others have to say.
A good review should contain no surprises if your manager is providing real-time feedback throughout the year. Instead of just hashing out what went well and what didn't, a good review should include a thorough discussion on the specifics of your career development and progression. There is always opportunity for growth, even if it doesn't mean a promotion, like in my case. (That's the whole premise of my podcast, Office Hours; we can and should all continue to learn how to be better leaders, especially at the CEO level.)
I report to our co-founder and executive chairman, Rich Barton. Rich gives me my review every year, along with co-founder and vice chairman Lloyd Frink. They compiled feedback about me from 22 people this year -- a mix of my direct reports and other employees. They also got feedback from our board of directors, from employee reviews on Glassdoor and from their conversations with our shareholders and business partners. So it's pretty thorough.
My review went well. Rich and Lloyd reported that they (and others) think I am doing a good job as CEO. But in the spirit of turning on the lights--a core value at Zillow Group--here are a few areas that I can improve on in 2017:
- Keep meetings with the senior leadership team sacrosanct: As we grow, it's increasingly harder for my direct reports to stay coordinated with each other. I've heard from this group that we need more frequent, regular communication to keep ourselves swimming in the same direction. Senior exec meetings shouldn't be rescheduled or cancelled.
- Delegate more: I travel a lot, which is forcing my direct reports to figure stuff out when they can't find me. This has been a beneficial (though unintended) side effect of my schedule, and Rich and Lloyd said I need to continue to identify places for my direct reports to step up and have autonomy so I can focus on the bigger, longer-term opportunities for the business.
- Book quiet time with myself: Rich has been giving me this same advice since I became CEO in 2010; I need to find quiet time--time to think--when I'm not in meetings. I find it incredibly difficult to keep any unscheduled time on my calendar. There's always a meeting to go to, a phone call to make. But scheduling the entire day leaves no time for creative thinking, no time to plot the longer-term path. To address this, my idea is to keep a list of five things that matter most to the business, so if I find myself not focusing on those things I can quickly correct by delegating more.
- Watch the whipsaw in decision-making: When you're the CEO, everything you say has more weight. Christa Quarles - the CEO of Open Table - talked about this when I interviewed her for my podcast last season. Frequently someone will say, "We should do this," and because I entertain it they take my openness to it as a green light. Other times, people will misinterpret an errant question as an order. I need to make sure I clarify when something is a question, a comment or a directive so people interpret my feedback, opinions and decisions as I intended.
Notably, there were no real surprises in my review - which means that Rich and Lloyd are doing a good job giving me real-time feedback during the year, and it means that the lines of communication are open. Overall, my review was really positive and I'm grateful to have a career with some of the most visionary founders in technology at a company that attracts the brightest individuals to do important and meaningful work.