Growth Insights for CEOs

Goodbye Annual Review. Hello Feedback.

Posted by The Chief Outsider

evolution-conferenceMany leaders have grown up in the command- and-control leadership culture that originated with the military. Employees in this culture are expected to show up on time, work hard, be engaged, and exhibit great loyalty for the company.

Millennials are responding negatively to this command-and-control environment. Many choose to abruptly leave their jobs rather than work in this type of culture for an autocratic boss. They want a different kind of experience, one that is more collaborative, respects their need for work/life balance, and understands their priorities. I grew up in a culture where I lived to work. A millennial recently told me that she worked to live- quite a contrast.

One key element missing in today's workplace is honest feedback. Everyone craves feedback. People want to know how they're doing, and how to grow and learn. Without candid, regular feedback where employees and leaders have "real" conversations, growth and engagement are virtually impossible. When I talk employees about their work performance, I ask them, "How do you know you're doing a good job?" Their answer most times is, "The absence of being yelled at!" This is a sad commentary on the way people communicate in the workplace regarding performance.

The key roadblock to good feedback in most organizations is the annual review. Managers and employees find the annual review process unfulfilling and an unsavory company requirement that they have to complete together. This process has to change.

One company that gets feedback is Google. Look what happens when an organization takes feedback seriously. Ranked #1 for the 6th year in a row by's Best Places to Work, Google strives to create an environment of open, honest communication. It's no surprise that in the Best Places to Work survey, over 95% of Google employees feel their supervisors trust them and that they are not micromanaged. No wonder Google is an innovative company! Additionally, over 94% of surveyed employees feel they receive excellent communication as well as the proper development and career education to perform their roles.

Employees deserve to have leaders who care enough about them to offer clear, regular, candid feedback. The new paradigm is a "Coaching Manager". Coaching managers meet with team members monthly or bi-monthly in a one-on-one session. The sessions last about 30 minutes and focus on three areas:

  1. Performance- Prior to attending the coaching session the employee should understand with absolute clarity the job requirements. In the coaching session she should report whether or not she is performing according to expectations. Immediate adjustments can be made if she is not meeting expectations. No waiting for an annual review. Remember, this is her coaching session. The coaching manager should only take about 1/3 of the time.
  2. Low hanging fire-fighting issues- She should ask for help relating to urgent issues. This includes asking the coaching manager for ideas, support or additional resources. Remember, the coaching manager is there to eliminate roadblocks to performance not to take on the employees problems. 
  3. What's next?- What are her aspirations? Can the coaching manager help her come up with a plan to get there? The coaching manager needs to know her as a person and really care about helping her improve every day. Help her be the best she can be. She wants to grow and learn. 

New leaders need to become great coaches instead of remaining old fashioned command and control managers. It all starts by eliminating the annual review process and replacing it with a regular coaching session.


john-dameBy John Dame

JD received a B.S. in marketing from Pennsylvania State University in 1973. He pursued a career in radio broadcasting for 32 years. His time spent in broadcasting was leveraged as a rich learning platform for his evolution as a business strategist. JD’s reputation for insightful evaluation, planning, and a passion for driving results have grown his involvement with companies and organizations internationally. He has a fine-tuned understanding of the risks, challenges, and opportunities facing both seasoned and emerging CEOs. More recently his focus has turned toward the role of purpose in the business environment and the new challenge of transitioning to a millennial-based workforce. In 2015 he will introduce an annual business conference—EVOLUTION—a gathering of business leaders interested in exploring and developing a template for implementing purpose-driven leadership. This first international conference will occur in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, September 30 through October 2, 2015.


Topics: CEO Perspectives, Culture