12 Classic Performance Review Fails

Marina Martinez

Posted by Marina Martinez
October 28, 2015

. . . and How to Avoid Them


Performance reviews are usually really terrible.

The annoyance of traditional employee reviews (or assessments, evaluations, appraisals, whatever you want to call them) is deeply familiar to most of us. These corporate staples don't fit the way we work today, especially in the creative economy:

Fortunately, it looks like we finally hit an inflection point in 2015, with many leading companies dismantling their outdated review processes. Feedback is getting more frequent and more relevant, and not a moment too soon. 

Let’s look at twelve classic flubs of performance reviews, and how you can correct them. Have you ever sat through—or given—one of these? 

1. The “So Good It’s No Good” review

In this review, the manager gives the employee a totally glowing evaluation, with no indication that the employee could improve in any manner. It feels like that scene in A Christmas Story where Ralphie's teacher gives him an “A plus plus plus plus!”

If you're doing a great job, you might agree with that assessment, but you probably have a sneaking suspicion that, if pressed, your manager could think of at least one thing you could do better.

And if you know you're not putting your all into the job and still get a 10/10, it'll be clearer than ever that the review is a farce—and you won't be motivated to step up your game.

The fix: Take a deep breath and give the employee honest feedback on how she can improve. Don’t make up problems (of course), but don’t gloss over a performance issue just to avoid awkwardness or confrontation.

Employees will appreciate the corrective feedback, as shown by research from Zenger Folkman:

A significantly larger number (57%) [of respondents] preferred corrective feedback; only 43% preferred praise/recognition.

In the same study, most employees also said corrective feedback would help them do better work:

When asked what was most helpful in their career, fully 72% said they thought their performance would improve if their managers would provide corrective feedback.


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New Feature: The Current Theme

Khorus Team

Posted by Khorus Team
October 22, 2015


Take organizational focus to the next level with a Current Theme.

When firefighters arrive at a burning house and get to work, there’s no infighting or busywork. No one fusses about who’s going to hold the hose. No one starts trimming a hedge in the neighboring yard. The firefighters have one shared priority—put out the fire—and it drives everything they do.

The focused collaboration of emergency responders led Patrick Lencioni to the idea of a “thematic goal” (a.k.a. the rallying cry), which in turn inspired our newest feature in Khorus: the Current Theme.

In his management classic, The Advantage, Lencioni describes the concept like this:

I wondered why all organizations couldn’t replicate the benefits of achieving that kind of focus (short of creating false crises, which is never a good idea). And I decided that there is no reason that every organization couldn’t have a rallying cry, even when it is not in crisis. I called this rallying cry “a thematic goal” because it needs to be understood within the context of the organization’s other goals, at the top of the list. And so, the thematic goal is the answer to our question, What is most important, right now?

We designed the Current Theme in Khorus to help leadership teams easily deploy a rallying cry—and keep it front and center throughout the quarter.

The benefits of having a rallying cry? Fewer turf wars. Focused meetings. A shared decision-making framework. And the kind of proactive, prioritized execution that helps the whole team win.

How the Current Theme Works

The Current Theme should be entered into Khorus each quarter, after the leadership team discusses the question: What is most important, right now?

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Convert Strategy to Execution by Communicating Well

Joel Trammell

Posted by Joel Trammell
October 15, 2015

To help your team get things done, answer these five questions consistently.


In their now-famous Fortune article, Why CEOs Fail,” Ram Charan and Geoffrey Colvin explain the factor that they estimate trips up 70 percent of chief executives:

It’s bad execution. As simple as that: not getting things done, being indecisive, not delivering on commitments.

The concept of execution—just doing it—sounds simple enough. The reality is much more complex for CEOs, because they do little actual executing themselves. Instead, they have to find a way to help other people execute.

How do they do that?

For many CEOs, developing a strategy is the easy part. The tough part is communicating that strategy to the team and helping each employee see him- or herself in it.

Back when I was a novice CEO, I was shocked every time I ran up against this challenge. I’d explain a new plan or initiative and employees would often go right back to what they’d been doing before. I soon learned I couldn’t just announce our strategy once or twice and expect it to sink in. I had learned the secret to getting strategy executed: I had to communicate about it almost constantly.

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Don't Shy Away from Accountability—Your Employees Actually Want It

Marina Martinez

Posted by Marina Martinez
October 8, 2015

(And your team's effectiveness depends on it.)

Picture this: You meet with one of your employees at the beginning of a year. He's full of fire and ready to crush some ambitious goals. He pitches a new initiative he wants to spearhead, and you both agree it has great potential. He leaves, excited to get to work. 

Six months later, you meet with the same employee for his review, and it’s like that earlier discussion never happened. The promising initiative seems to have fallen completely off his plate. You've heard nothing about it. Should you bring it up?

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Wise Crowds Still Need Strong Leaders

Angela Vasquez

Posted by Angela Vasquez
October 1, 2015

Today, we hear a lot about how the command-and-control model of leadership has eroded. 

Although there are still many holdouts in the world of management, we're steadily recognizing that bosses who play by the rules of the Machine Age are badly out of sync. When you treat employees like automatons who need to be told what to do and how to do it, you’re running on a long-outdated system.

At the recent Gathering of Games conference in St. Louis, I talked to many leaders who are deeply in tune with a nimbler and more collaborative style of leadership. As practitioners of open-book management, they don’t just hand down marching orders and then enforce them; they open up the business to employees and ask for their involvement and insight. They know that everyone on the org chart has a business-relevant perspective to contribute. They understand that being a manager doesn’t mean you’re smarter than the people you manage.

James Surowiecki, author of The Wisdom of Crowds, delivered the keynote at the Gathering of Games, sharing a message of how leaders can use the collective wisdom of their organizations as a competitive advantage. He showed how today’s visionary leaders aren’t trying to come up with all the brilliant answers on their own but are crowdsourcing solutions and insights from their teams. (At Khorus, we believe deeply in that process, and help leaders scale it within their companies.)

But here’s the question many are asking today: If the crowd is so smart, is the need for CEOs and executives and managers dwindling? Are “leaders” becoming irrelevant?

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