The year and the decade are coming to an end (three cheers for that!), which means that many people are now contemplating their New Year’s resolutions. If you’re among those folks, there’s one resolution I hope you’ll consider for your office: Radically revamping performance reviews.

3054811_thumbnailNew Year’s resolutions and performance reviews actually have a lot in common. They’re good ideas in theory, but rarely yield much in practice. They happen too infrequently to have a big impact. And in the end, they always make us slightly uncomfortable.

So here’s a better approach for 2010: Let’s give ourselves our own performance reviews.

Yes, DIY performance reviews. Here’s how they would work.

At the beginning of the month, figure out your goals — mostly learning goals, but also a few performance goals. Then, at the end of the month, call yourself to your office and give yourself an appraisal. How are you faring? Where are you falling short? What tools, information, or support might you need to do better?

This systematic, self-directed approach will help you far more than those awkward and painful biannual office encounters.

Some other hints:

— Set both smaller and larger goals so that when it comes time to evaluate yourself you’ve already accomplished some whole tasks.

— Make sure you understand how every aspect of your work relates to your larger purpose.

— Be brutally honest. If you rationalize failures or gloss over your mistakes instead of learning from them, you’re wasting your time.

And if doing this solo seems too freaky, gather a small group of colleagues for regular peer-based do-it-yourself performance reviews. If your comrades really care — and most do, believe it or not — they will tell you the truth and hold you accountable.


P.S. My new book, Drive, comes out today. Get it from your favorite online bookseller. Or take that holiday gift card into your local bookstore and buy it there.

10 Responses to “A Simple Idea for 2010”

  1. Carlos says:

    I love this, thank you. It’s a great addition to any kind of goal driven life map, people are always game to start and to try new things and fill their white boards with catchy motivational phrases –these have their place, but a month end self evaluation! It’s the perfect capper. I’m going to do it…and I’m going to be afraid of it.

  2. George says:

    Hi Dan,

    As usual, great ideas. I don’t have an office or performance reviews, but I think it is a great idea to set and revisit goals on a monthly basis. Figuring out what we want to happen during a month and making it happen is a great strategy for success. A month is a good time period because it is small enough to achieve quite a bit, but short enough to keep things small.

    You know what would be cool? Writing a prequel to Johnny Bunko where the main character is the guy in accounting with cobwebs. That would be neat.

  3. Jo Cooper says:

    Dan, this is great! I have a small group of colleagues I supervise at The Center for Mind-Body Medicine, and have done a lot to create a team that is supportive and rewarding for us all. How did you know I was just thinking of performance reviews, and how to do them better? This is it! I’m going to add one component: sharing our DIY reviews. I’ll bet we can help each other achieve our goals.

    And good luck with Drive! See you at Politics & Prose next week.

  4. Great post Dan! Indeed when people interalize the things they need to do to improve their commitment to them increases dramatically. You’re also bang on about asking the people around you for advice on exactly how to bring about that change. Short, focused questions and continuous follow-up not only gets you the key insights you need. It also engages those around you and enhancs their perception of your improvement (Marshall Goldsmith talks a lot about this in his work). In fact, as a result of the discontent with the anual review process, my team and I have developed a personal development and coaching service called Rypple that specifically adresses this need. Keep up the great work!

  5. Tom says:

    Great advice. Investing and evalauting yourself is key in living your life the way you want.
    Every year about this time I do a recap and evaluation of the past year and see how it compares the one last year.
    After a few years of doing this, I find that things that are great do take time and may not be exactly what you first envisioned but somehow relate to that thought. However, if you don’t painstakingly follow and monitor things get off track.
    I.E. A new prouct line will launch this week in which I collaborated in designing and assisted in marketing. That thought entered my goal chart over 10 years ago. It has not only made me a better designer but has contributed to the larger purpose you were speaking of.

    Best in the New Year and looking forward to your webcast JAN 1


  6. Dan,

    Best New Years’ Resolution/Performance review post of the decade. Great observations of the overlay of two “tools” that can use a 2010 conceptual reboot.

    I dig fresh thinking that is grounded by theory and shared experience.(the DRiVE samples served up a fresh brew -Thnx!)

    I am excited about your DRiVE and my DRiVE –It is thoughtful of you to release the new book on my daughters’ birthday. (Harper is eight and a book lover with a name to match.)– take this as the Yorka’s good mojo for your blast off. Enjoy!

  7. Cheryl Bruemmer says:

    Great post. I agree annual performance reviews are uncomfortable for everyone, leaders and staff alike. Leaders that are in continuous conversation with their people do not need an annual performance review. They know the tools and support their people need. They also know the obstacles or challenges that exist in accomplishing the goals and work to remove those. This is an ongoing conversation and cannot be accomplished on a once a year basis.

    DIY performance reviews, terrific. I have what I call an accountability buddy. I articulate the goals or projects develop a plan and schedule it. When we talk I must be ruthless in admitting successes and failures. The successes are just as important to acknowledge as the mistakes. They hold me over while I repair the mistakes. Ruthless honesty is required on both sides.

    For an added bonus “call an audible”. I declared a goal in front of a roomful of people (mostly strangers). It haunted me right into completion of that goal. I never saw any of the people but, I kept hearing my own voice in my head making the declaration and I didn’t want to be out of integrity with myself. I literally rearranged my schedule for the last quarter of 2009 to complete that project, and I did.

    Looking forward to the webcast JAN 1 and seeing you when your DRIVE book tour hits Seattle.

  8. Dan – I am SOOO with you when you talk about needing a fundamental rethink on performance reviews. This is also something – like extrinsic and intrinsic motivation – that science has been telling us one thing and businesses are doing something else.

    I recently spoke to a group of 100 HR execs and they did not want to hear it! I don’t think it is because they don’t know it or believe it but because they don’t want to fight that battle. But they are the ones that need to lead that battle.

    I hope you speak at all the big HR conferences as a keynote and make this point BIG – big so that it is hard to ignore it. Big so that the pain of doing nothing is intolerable.

    I will carry the torch with ya.

    If you asked any group of execs: What would you do if you had a business process that no one liked, was very expensive, and that extensive research has failed to show makes any difference in improving results (and might even get in the way)? They would all say get rid of it.

  9. I have always felt that the best educators (all professionals) are their toughest critics. It would save a lot of wasted hours if we employed this as am organizational strategy. Unfortunately, we cannot mandate self-reflection under the current contract.

    That’s OK, we’ll start with the administrators and go from there! Looking forward to Drive!

    Thanks for a great idea to help get 2010 off to a productive start.

  10. Paul Cornies says:

    Self-evaluation is an important strategy in performance reviews,school projects, one’s trek through life.

    Your chances of success in any undertaking can always be measured by your belief in yourself. ~ Robert Collier

    Happy new year, Dan.