I am a huge fan of routine, standard operating procedures, process development/management, and ritual.
I am also a big fan of regular, rigorous Performance Appraisal and, in particular, Boards of Directors appraising the performance of their CEOs, and CEOs demanding an in-depth appraisal by the Board (subset of the Board is fine, try to get someone who has CEO experience on the committee).
Lazy, cowardly Boards of Directors ignore this critical professional development duty. Shame on you.
Pro tip: The methodology, timing, process of CEO Performance Appraisal belongs in any competent Employment Agreement and professional boards/CEOs have Employment Agreements.
I am not a fan of trendy things like 360 Degree Performance Appraisals — I like bare knuckled, in your face, straightforward performance appraisal.
One of the things I practiced in 33 years of CEO-ing public and private companies, and I preach to CEOs is self appraisal. Nobody judges us as tough as we do ourselves. Think about that for a second.
I counsel CEOs to do the following:
1. Make a list of everything accomplished in the last 12 months; break it down by month.
List the triumphs, the disasters. Treat those two imposters just the same (channeling a bit of Kipling this morning, are we, BRC?)
2. Compare your performance versus plan and try to identify a single qualitative judgment — Did you do BETTER or WORSE than plan? Just a coloration, no detail.
3. Reflect upon other CEOs and try to compare yourself to peers — BETTER, WORSE, EQUAL to peer performance? I know, this is a tough one.
4. Conduct a personal SWOT analysis and compare it to the prior year with attention to what changed in the last year.
5. Go through any external appraisals and decide whether you agree, disagree, or are in the dark.
When you do all of this, take an Arnold Palmer, go for a walk, get a piece of fruit at Whole Foods, end up in a park, sit in the sunshine and ask yourself, “Would I hire this person to be CEO of this company?”
Give yourself a good talking to as to why or why not. Stop for a lobster roll on the way home (only if lobster is in season, othewise BBQ which is always in season).
The next day, sit down and lay out what you hope to improve upon in the next year — in writing.
Do this once or twice a year.
In life, what we measure, we manage; what we manage, we improve upon.
Want to become a better CEO? Conduct a rigorous self-appraisal.
Want to drift along, avoid being an adult, and eat bon bons? Don’t conduct a rigorous self-appraisal. Your choice.
But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Be well. Don’t beat yourself up, but do take measure.