April 24, 2014
Breaking New Ground on Transparency
I’ve written a lot over time about our Live 360 process for senior leaders in the business. (This post is a good one, and it links to a couple earlier ones that are good, as well.) We take a lot of pride in feedback and in transparency at Return Path, and after 15 years, even for an innovative business, it’s unusual that we do something big for the first time around people. But we did today.
This image is of something never seen before at our company. It’s my own handwritten notes about my own Live 360.
It’s never been seen before, because no one has ever been physically present for his or her own review before. In previous reviews, my Board, my exec team, and a few skip-levels gather in a room for 90 minutes with a facilitator to discuss my performance and behaviors. Then the facilitator would go away and write up notes, and discuss them with me, then I’d produce a development plan.
Today, we decided to experiment with having me sit in my own review to add to the transparency and directness of the feedback. My only role was to listen, ask (non-judgmental) clarifying questions, and take notes. I left the room at the end in case someone wanted to say something without me hearing it directly, but although the conversation about the business continued, it didn’t sound like there was anything material about me that surfaced.
It was a little awkward at first, and it was interesting that some people addressed me directly while others spoke of me in the third person. But once we got past that, the experience was incredibly powerful for me. The first part — the “what do you appreciate about Matt” part — was humbling and embarrassing and gratifying all at the same time.
The meat of the review, though — the “how can we coach Matt on areas where he needs development” — was amazing. I got great insights into a couple of major areas of work that I need to do, and that we need to do as a business. I’m guessing I would have gotten them out of reading a summary of the review conversation, but hearing the texture of the conversation was much, much richer than reading a sanitized version of it on paper. As always with reviews, there was the odd comment or two that annoyed me, but I felt like I handled them well without any defensive body language or facial expressions.
I will, as I’ve always done, post my development plan to my blog after I formulate it over the course of the next few weeks. But for now, I just want to thank my Board and team for their awesomely constructive feedback and for helping us usher in a new era of increased transparency here.