Who has Your Back?

Categories leadership

I am constantly amazed by the number of leaders who feel they work out on a limb, doing what needs to be done, without the confidence that someone has their back.

It shows up in the anxiety surrounding performance reviews. It shows up when people are gun-shy although bold innovation is called for. It shows up when people silo the way they work, uncertain how others will evaluate their contribution.

What about you? And, what about the people who report to you?

The easiest solution and one of the easiest ways to honor the work people do is to regularly review the qualitative and quantitative impact of their work. A healthy review process should be developmental. It should also be more than once a year. If no one pays close enough attention to the work you do to review it with you, it’s easy to think that your organization doesn’t value that work.

This is post #5 of six on “How to create an empowering environment.” So, pause for a second to think about the environment you are creating for other leaders.

Regular review is one of the simplest and strongest ways to create an environment where people thrive. Where people know that someone is paying attention. That someone has their back. Unfortunately, the broad experience of performance reviews feels like a club held over their heads.

What if a personal review could be a regular two-way dialogue? What it gave you a chance to support and problem solve with your people. What if a developmental review became a platform where leaders you oversee could speak back into the organization with fresh learning and insight? Regular review is a far cry from hard-nosed or heavy handed accountability. Done well, this kind of review should accelerate individual and corporate growth.

If the mission of your organization matters, then the contribution of your people and an environment that helps them grow the effectiveness of that contribution should matter, too.

The Price You Pay, Without Effective Review:

  • People can feel undervalued. That no one is paying attention.
  • Innovation wanes when people feel exposed rather than supported.
  • Problems become forest fires before they are dealt with.  And, by the way,  forest fires take a huge toll in terms of damage and manpower they consume.
  • People lose perspective…the “dots become disconnected: eg. “Remind me again how does the thing I am doing make a difference?”
  • Training opportunities you offer become disconnected from real needs. They can feel arbitrary and institutional rather than essential and of immediate value.


What have you learned about turning the personnel review process into a empowering conversation?

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