What’s Your Exit Strategy

My friend Brent told me once that many professionals lack an exit strategy.  I agree.  If you think what you’re doing today will last forever you’re…well…crazy.  This comes from a man who has had more than one balloon popped by change.  It took me a number of years, but now I see change as a friend and not an enemy.  Your next chapter is inevitably held up by hanging on when you should let go, and man is it tough to let go.

Disclaimer here; if you’re called to see it through to the end, even when the odds are against you, then you should do it.  That’s destiny at work.  When I was ceremoniously escorted out of corporate America all of my exit doors were shut before I could do anything…or so I thought.  Don’t mean to make you wince, but I was supposed to lose.  I was supposed have things turned upside down.  Without those events, I’m confident I wouldn’t be the man I am today. 

In many ways and exit strategy can be a win masked as a loss.

See this piece from the The Washington Post on the record industry.  What a last gasp for air. Do you think the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) needs an exit strategy?  Can any individual or organization afford to not have one?

Another Year, Another Annual Performance Review, Another Yawn

I know its early, but annual performance reviews/appraisals are just around the corner.  What fond memories I have of these dances-not!

I heard once that Steve Jobs had a habit of going around to Apple employees and asking them to justify their existence in the organization.  I don’t know if this is true or not, but I think there are a number of managers that would benefit from an interaction like that one. 

What value does the employee gain from the experience of annual performance reviews?  Not much if they work for an organization that allows managers to do it only once a year.  In fairness to a number of managers, they’re so overwhelmed with meetings, reports and power point presentations, that effectively leading their people is nothing more than an afterthought.  Sort of like our physical and mental health; we don’t have time to strengthen our bodies because we’ve got a career to manage. 

Annual performance reviews should be reinforcement of what has been discussed and inspired over the previous year.  A former business partner (direct report in corporatese) and I had some of the quickest annual conversations you could imagine.  Since we communicated on a regular basis (at least three times per week), we knew what the state of the State was.  Some may ask how I had the time to do this.  It was hard and yet simple; know what’s important and be allegiant to that person, event, project, etc.  That meant that all the other stuff would have to wait.

Here’s how to make your annual performance review effective and inspiring:

  • Do your annual reviews every week.  This makes the final one clear on your part and the person you’re leading.
  • Don’t insult the intelligence of your people by pretending your interested, if you haven’t been all year. 
  • Inject some humility into your management/leadership blood if the second bullet describes you.
  • If you’re on the receiving end of an unprepared or a never-spoke-much-in-the-previous-year type review, then start asking yourself some hard questions about your employer and/or boss.
  • The review should add fuel to the fire of the organization’s and the employee’s vision.  It should not be a dance-for-bonus charade.

If you’re the employee who received a poorly executed review, just remember that IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.  Trust me, it is not your fault.  Corporate America has some serious issues here and you may be like a former colleague I saw over the holidays; he fired his boss.