14 September 2009,
 6

It’s great armchair sport, grading the president’s first 200 days or 300 days—or in the case of President Obama his first major political gamble, health care reform. Grades land all over the board depending on one’s ideology or access to facts. Although objective observation generates the most accurate grades. All this got me to wondering how small business leaders could objectively observe and grade ourselves—our pluses, our developmental needs. It’s important to know those grades.

When is the last time you evaluated your own performance? How did it look? What did you do about it? It sure ain’t easy to get good evaluations. We beat up on ourselves too much or ignore faults altogether because that’s less painful. Denial and rationalization can rush in when we turn inward.

Here’s a quick primer on self-evaluation. I found many angles on this when I was Head Coach (aka, CEO) of Tires Plus, the 150-store retail chain I cofounded and sold to Bridgestone. I did an annual performance review of myself and added that to feedback from people who reported to me, submitted anonymously to our HR director. 

I still chuckle about the reaction this got from people a few years ago at the American Management Association’s CEO Conference in Quebec. When I mentioned feedback I got from an employee review other CEO’s were appalled that I had allowed my employees to talk about me like that. Ignorance is not bliss, I told them. I’d rather know what employees are thinking and saying and make corrections based on valid criticism. That’s how you avoid the Emperor-has-no-clothes syndrome.

Another evaluation tool I’ve always used is coaching myself on the run. “Nice job, Tom, on your helpful interaction with and advice to Charles,” I’d say to myself. Or: ‘‘Uh-oh, Tom. You got defensive again when John gave you feedback.” It’s healthy to talk yourself via objective self-observation.

You can also fix on how you’re doing by candidly asking people around you, “What do you like about what I’m doing? How can I improve?” Sure, at first they’ll hesitate to tell “the boss” what she’s doing wrong. But if you lead with the pluses, and keep repeating, you’ll pan some gold.

Indeed, it’s fine to grade presidents and employees but not to the exclusion of grading yourself. No one knows you better.

6 responses on “Grading the Boss

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