If you’re like most bosses, you review your employees with some regularity to assess and improve their performance. But who does the same for you? After all, even the boss can always be improving, and often feedback from your employees can be the most valuable kind.
In any business, “the CEO must continually review her or himself with the same metrics” as everyone else, says business coach Vicki Donlan. Yet it can be tricky getting honest feedback in a small business environment, where relationships are tighter and roles may overlap. And Donlan advises against relying solely on customer reviews, since they tend to respond to severe problems, offer empty praise or not respond at all.
A multi-pronged review process may be the best way to obtain helpful tips that will help you develop most as a leader and help build a stronger business.
Consider these six ways to review the boss:
- Anonymous employee reviews. “Employees are already skeptical, and most won’t give you the cold, hard truth without anonymity,” says Jeff Gordon, who owns InterActive99, an online marketing agency for retailers in Temple City, Calif. Gordon adds, “Don’t distribute a review unless you are serious about discussing the top points and making changes.”
- External feedback. Look outside your business walls for tips to help you improve. Solicit feedback from CPAs, vendors, contractors, clients and anyone else familiar with your work.
- Online peer reviews. Sometimes your peers are better equipped to provide objective criticism and possible solutions. Jacqueline Gikow, a jeweler in New York City, says bloggers with large followings have set up a process for reviewing others in their industry, requiring owners to create an online profile and schedule regular review dates. Gikow says she’s implemented many of the strategies that resulted from her reviews.
- Local peer groups. Seek out a small business peer group that meets regularly in your area. It can serve as an informal board of directors that provides feedback on your performance, goals, strategy, financials and standard business practices.
- Third-party reviews. Small businesses lack resources that larger corporations use to measure to organizational performance and develop leaders. If you do internal reviews of your performance, consider having the results analyzed by a consultant, networking group or colleague. An unbiased perspective can help translate what a business owner views as personal criticism into reasonable goals, both for leadership and the organization as a whole.
- Board of advisors. Some small business owners meet with a board of advisors annually to review their accomplishments and establish future goals. Darlene Tenes, who owns CasaQ, a Hispanic lifestyle company based in San Jose, Calif., says her board consists of people with varied experience who can review different aspects of her business. “[Answering to a board] forces me to write down and present my business objectives,” she says. “This has been very helpful in holding me accountable.”