Most of us have experienced performance reviews delivered to us by our bosses. If that was done reasonably well, we walked away with constructive feedback that helped us grow professionally, or at least perform our jobs a little better.
In fact, without performance feedback, it’s pretty hard to improve.
In the book, Primal Leadership, psychologist Daniel Goleman and his colleagues describe a series of experiments that led them to conclude:
First, that people generally overestimate their own abilities.
Second, that CEOs of low-performing companies tend to rate themselves higher in leadership competencies than CEOs from high-performing companies.
And third, the higher leaders rank in an organization, the more they tend to inflate their leadership competencies. Those at the highest levels have the least accurate view of how they act with others.
So the bad news is, if you’re relatively high on the org chart, you’re probably not as good as you think you are, and you might not be getting any better.
The good news is, you can get that critical information you need in order to improve.
Why not start with the people who report to you? They’re the ones who see you most in your day-to-day behavior, and experience your decisions directly.
But it can be hazardous for someone to tell you, their boss, what you’re not doing very well. So you have to make it safe, and actively cultivate “loving critics” from among this group of subordinates.
We’ve developed an upward appraisal tool that can help you structure these discussions. You can contact us through our website if you’d like to know more about that.
But let’s suppose you want to keep this as simple and informal as possible. Start by pulling aside one of your constituents and ask, “What can I do to be a better leader, or a better boss?” You will likely get a puzzled look, followed by some benign response like, “It’s all good. You’re great to work with.” So be ready to respond to that by saying something like, “It’s good to know that you feel positive about working with me, but I know that like everybody else, I’ve got room to grow. So think a little harder. I’m sure you’ll come up with something.”
It may take some patience and persistence on your part, but tighten your questions and hang in there through some uncomfortable silences until you get a response. That conversation just might lead to the most useful performance appraisal you’ve had in a long time.