by : Richard Rosenblatt
…to better understand an executive’s overall performance, make sure to get feedback from the people who work with and for them.
This rule is especially important during this time of year as you begin (or complete) your annual performance reviews. However, it’s a practice you need to implement throughout the year.
Most executives rise to senior levels in a company because they have learned how to manage many different things – how to manage cross-functional initiatives, how to manage employees, how to manage budgets, how to manage a business plan AND how to manage a boss. Each of these management tasks are different (and important), and understanding how to work well with superiors is critical. Yet, it takes a very different skill set than interacting successfully with colleagues or subordinates.
In fact, conversations with your direct reports are rarely candid, spontaneous or completely open and transparent; unless, however, you specifically create that kind of environment. As such, expect them to tell you “mostly the truth,” and recognize they are experienced enough to filter and repackage the raw information into what you truly want to hear. You will likely be pleased with their response and leave the conversation impressed with their grasp of the situation and whatever solution, recommendation or course of action they propose. However, are they REALLY doing a good job? Did they actually complete the task in the way that they reported? What did they miss? What didn’t they tell you? I can guarantee that you do NOT have all the details on what really happened, because every situation can be interpreted differently based on a person’s vantage point – and theirs is an elevated one.
….If you’re at the top of the chain, sometimes people won’t give you honest feedback because they’re afraid. In this case, disguise yourself, or get feedback from other sources. ~ Steve Jobs
So, how do you get a more multi-dimensional perspective on how your direct reports are doing? It’s easy. Spend time with their peers and direct reports. Not only will you receive a treasure trove of information, but you’ll experience other indirect benefits. First, your direct reports will be much more candid because they KNOW you have broader information. You’ll also find that the people you meet with will feel empowered.
However, there are a couple of things to watch out for as you try this approach. Be aware that your team will not like it initially. You also don’t want to take the approach of asking specific questions about how someone’s boss is doing. In fact the main goal should be to better understand the inner workings of the business from their ground level perspective. It’s through that process that you will be able to evaluate how your executives are performing.
People at every level get fired up when they know they can have honest conversations about the business.
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