Performance Reviews and Leadership: Questions for Raters

As I spent most of the past week preparing performance reviews, it struck me that this is the very thing I was taking a break from doing 5 years ago when I decided to start up this blog and write my first post, It's So Hard.

Let's talk about hard. It's all relative. It's not the mechanics of reviews that are hard; it's the leadership reflection that can come with it. Writing a review is much more than crafting words for a page. At times <for me> it is nothing less than a review of my leadership.

What does that look?

Not really. Nor is it a crazy-haired psycho reliving each and every exchange or complete calm sitting cross-legged on a pillow with incense in the background.

It's more often me, with a cup of coffee and something Panera, asking a bunch of questions, questions I'd ask myself regardless of whether or not performance reviews live or die:

  • Did I set clear expectations or did I expect others to read my mind?
  • Did I address performance issues at the right time or did I get to them much too late? Was my response appropriate or did it bear the weight of a compilation of small indiscretions that no one was holding on to but me?
  • What issues did I avoid? Why? Did I mistake warning signs for nothing more than the drama of the moment?
  • Was I too focused on issues external to the department, expecting the department to run on   autopilot and surprised when it ran aground? Do I have enough checks, balances and internal controls to protect all of us?
  • Did I recognize achievement during the year? Did I provide the resources, guidance and room for others to excel? Did I hold others accountable for their own performance?

There are always things each year that, if given the chance, I'd do very differently. Sometimes I suck, sometimes not. Honestly, you'd think I'd have it down to a science by now. But I don't.

But that's the thing.

Leadership is not a science. It's not a laundry list of leadership courses, a degree from a prestigious college, the right car or anything wrapped in an ego. No hubris allowed.

Leadership is not knowing all the answers, it's asking the right questions and listening to the answers. Hint: that means not defending or denying what you are hearing and, above all, not attacking the messenger.

What questions would you add to the list?

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