Reasons to Drop Stupid Annual Appraisals

Key Point: Traditional human resource practices are subject to the staggering disruption and transformation trends that are squeezing the core business of most organizations today. Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) and their teams better be at the front end, and leading meaningful change rather than simply responding to the often “too late” insights of operating leaders. Why? Culture leads strategy, and if the culture isn’t agile enough to embrace the rapid changes demanded by the business, execution is impaired. So the leading and best CHROs are trend seekers and result drivers in their own businesses. That obviously means being in front of social, customer and technology waves. Having been directly responsible for profit/loss during much of my career, I understand how important it is that CEOs or head operating roles need CHROs to be “wing” leaders rather than the maintenance department of the “C” suite. Every part of the employee journey and culture is getting reshaped, and what happens at each step of the employee experience can and will actually shape what happens with customer experience and financial results. The annual performance review is an example of a leadership and people practice that is (finally and thankfully) being transformed in most organizations. 

A great article in the Harvard Business Review by Peter Cappelli and Anna Tavis outlines the evolution of annual performance reviews, and three reasons why they are currently being completely reshaped. The following is a summary:

  1. The return of people development:

“ Firms are doubling down on development, often by putting their employees (who are deeply motivated by the potential for learning and advancement) in charge of their own growth. This approach requires rich feedback from supervisors—a need that’s better met by frequent, informal check-ins than by annual reviews… Firms that scrap appraisals are also rethinking employee management much more broadly. Accenture CEO Pierre Nanterme estimates that his firm is changing about 90 percent of its talent practices.”

  1. The need for agility:

“When rapid innovation is a source of competitive advantage, as it is now in many companies and industries, that means future needs are continually changing. Because organizations won’t necessarily want employees to keep doing the same things, it doesn’t make sense to hang on to a system that’s built mainly to assess and hold people accountable for past or current practices. As Susan Peters, GE’s head of human resources, has pointed out, businesses no longer have clear annual cycles. Projects are short-term and tend to change along the way, so employees’ goals and tasks can’t be plotted out a year in advance with much accuracy.”

  1. The centrality of teamwork:

“Moving away from forced ranking and from appraisals’ focus on individual accountability makes it easier to foster teamwork… Sophisticated customer service now requires frontline and back-office employees to work together to manage customer flow, and traditional systems don’t enhance performance at the team level or help track collaboration.” 

Our organization has been quietly dismantling annual appraisals, eliminating demotivating and often useless subjective rankings, while ramping up leaders’ skills to better coach on the spot and give regular meaningful/timely feedback. When we formally replace the current annual review process, I doubt anyone will really notice. Why? Performance will be up and nonsense “paperwork” down. It will be a seamless and accepted evolution. Note: Widely visible and transparent leadership ratings from a broad internal and external audience are likely to ramp up. Think Trip Advisor aimed at leadership. This is not a contradiction, but rather a social supplement for leaders. 

Character Moves:

  1. Even if your organization insists on annual appraisals, make them rich, learning summaries of the “contribution conversations” ideally held often throughout the year. Make them a celebration of both milestones and misses. Ditch THE annual performance review, where for the first time in a year, you really review behavior and results. It’s way too late, and likely an administrative obligation. Host a quality investment in developing others instead.
  1. Insist on having regular meaningful feedback/coaching conversations with your boss. That doesn’t make you needy. Rather, it’s a statement that you value personally growing and improving.

Appraisals in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: I heard a relevant comment from a CEO recently that I loved. Ever heard (or used) terms like “social media ninja,” or “analytics expert” in a resume? Well… If you have, you’ve been fed a lie, because literally NO ONE is. These systems evolve too quickly, and too often. Google analytics and social media algorithms change so frequently that no one has truly mastered it at any time. The key is to keep up with it and stay learning as it changes, with the creative forefront to have ideas on how to make it work best for your organization. Operations update, evolve, change, and eventually become outdated. If we don’t give and receive feedback just as rapidly, then we’re out of touch and way behind.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Close the ‘Spin Room!’

Key Point: I think it’s time for almost (if not completely) full transparency in organizations. There may be some information that should be closely held, but I’m hard pressed to identify what may qualify as a legitimate “secret.” Perhaps a pending merger or acquisition in a publicly traded company? I guess an organization restructure where people’s jobs are impacted deserves confidentiality out of respect to those impacted? Even the sacred world of compensation could use more visibility. In public companies, the compensation of top executives must be disclosed. Why not for all of us internally? If it has to be kept a secret, I wonder why. 

At Google, TGIF stands for a weekly meeting with ALL 70,000 full-time Google employees. It’s hosted by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the co-founders of Google. The meeting now happens on Thursday to accommodate the Googlers in Asia. According to Google people, it’s usually the best 45 minutes of the week. Larry and Sergey NEVER miss a meeting and using Google tools, Googlers anywhere are encouraged to ask any question on any topic. According to insiders, it is always an authentic, unvarnished, open conversation. In fact it is so transparent, ALL Google employees are considered insiders and can only trade stock in restrictive periods based on the rules applied to what constitutes inside trading. Another example of this transparency is that any engineer has access to Google source code. (Of course if someone tried to download it to an unsecured non-Google device, Google security would likely unleash some serious consequences). Being open doesn’t mean being naïve, or weak in the matter of protecting intellectual intelligence. It does mean trusting people to navigate through and sort through what’s important to them.

At the company I work for, we are really opening information up. As an example, non-execs are given an opportunity to attend our top management meetings, board committee sessions and even full board meetings. Every Monday and Tuesday we share what’s going on in the company by having our top execs available for a virtual, company wide town hall. The social platform tools are now robust enough to share information in real time and to trust people translating and interpreting the key messages. The idea of top management going into the “spin room” to manage a company wide message is becoming very old school. In fact, if one of our execs sends an email or even a video, we are often surprised by the low “open rate.” We just haven’t got time for “spin,” regardless of how well intended it may be. We want it real, open and straight up so we can make up our own minds.

This week 100 million people are likely to tune in and watch the U.S. Presidential debate. Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook will give us instant, real time evaluations on the event. The pundits in the back room trying to “spin” the outcome after the debate are likely too little, too late and probably irrelevant. Millions of viewers will decide and trend the outcome. The “spin room” is losing it’s luster everywhere, and rightly so.

Character Moves:

  1. Confront old ideas and “truisms” regarding information. If information is power, why not empower everyone? The “need to know” guideline may be an outdated idea? Most of the time, we are far from having real “state secrets.” The more people know and understand context, the better can they contribute.
  1. Being open and transparent doesn’t mean all of us running around sharing our most personal matters. The last thing I want to know is the “dark web” in most people lives. Please keep that locked in your mind where it safely belongs. However, in organizational life, I deeply believe a company gets more done by sharing openly on all the initiatives. It builds trust, and treats team members with respect.

Transparency in The Triangle


One Millennial View: I completely agree. I know my company is trying to be more transparent, and it’s helpful… If I can better understand how my actions can further the goal of another department as well, then that’s only going to help strengthen the success of the entire company as a whole. Isn’t that what we’re all ultimately trying to do? Trouble is, if we don’t communicate or inquire, we’re all just on separate islands… It’s time to build some bridges, not sink ships.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

We’re All Chickens in the Coop!

Key Point: I believe the next important advancement in organization cultures will be the harnessing of the social capital related to unleashing peer-to-peer power. When I say that, people give me that fuzzy look: “What the heck is he talking about now?” This is a concept that has evolved and is more expansive than simply “good teamwork.”

Yes, the current leadership research underscores our need to be part of organizations that have a “true north” because a compelling “purpose” really matters. However, one of the big, and I believe under appreciated reasons, most of us love coming (or not) to work, is to connect and achieve with our teammates. We love the value we feel when our “brothers or sisters” on either side of us appreciate what we do. Having a beer or other beverage with a teammate after some small or big accomplishment and exchanging some version of, “I love you, man” is the best feeling. On the other hand, having peers we respect tell us we are underperforming is the worst. It is much more disappointing than getting reamed out by one’s boss. Why? You can’t usually B.S. your teammates. They know what we do and whether we really contribute, and most of us hate to let them down. The best teams are ones where people deeply respect, cooperate and HELP each other achieve an exponentially better outcome. 

Margaret Heffernan, a highly regarded CEO, author and thought leader, has a TEDTalk with over 1.8 million views.

In her best storytelling manner, she relates a scientific study conducted at University of Purdue, which proved that over six generations, a flock of ordinary chickens totally thrashed a flock of “super chickens” when it came to egg-laying productivity. Why? The “super chickens” pecked each other to death until there were only three left. The key to success? Social capital: People helping each other. In the talk she exclaims:

“Helpfulness sounds really anemic, but it’s absolutely core to successful teams, and it routinely outperforms individual intelligence. Helpfulness means I don’t have to know everything, I just have to work among people who are good at getting and giving help. For the past 50 years, we’ve run most organizations and some societies along the super chicken model. We’ve thought that success is achieved by picking the superstars, the brightest men, or occasionally women, in the room, and giving them all the resources and all the power. And the result has been just the same as in William Muir’s experiment: aggression, dysfunction and waste. If the only way the most productive can be successful is by suppressing the productivity of the rest, then we badly need to find a better way to work and a richer way to live.”

The idea of people helping each other and embracing active cooperation is not about being mushy headed, passive aggressive and accepting mediocrity. In fact my experience is the opposite: Great teams “fight well,” embrace constructive conflict, confront each other when needed, and most importantly HELP and encourage one another to contribute their best. And when that’s the culture, peer-to-peer power positively explodes. Team members do not wait for the hierarchy to direct or even coach, and generally are not dependent on getting their boss’ approval for much if anything. They act and prefer to get s&% done!! If necessary, they seek forgiveness after. Making the organization’s purpose come true, living the values and defining the true brand through employee behavior is priceless. When that comes from peer-to-peer power, the top executive and leadership system can focus their attention towards the future. And the organization stops just looking for “super chickens with super egos,” that will undoubtedly peck each other to death.

Character Moves: 

  1. While great leadership and some top-down leading is appropriate (at times even necessary), it is nowhere near sufficient. Really advancing the culture comes from the peer community connecting to drive the business forward. Helpfulness, cooperation, and trust amongst teammates creates a powerful movement. Everyone wins. Super egos and super chickens are left behind. Every day “chickens” work together as a system to make things exponentially better. Where is your organization relative to unleashing peer-to-peer power? 
  1. Watch Heffernan’s video (15 very useful minutes) to get a real inspiration on this topic. If information, decision-making, knowledge, and insight move mostly vertical and hierarchal in your group or company, then I believe your organization will soon be left behind. We need transparency, authenticity, feedback, coaching, cooperation, helpfulness, and the care that comes from empathetic and, yes, “loving” cooperative peers and teammates who are a collection of all kinds of “chickens.” It leads to super results, not just super stars.

Unleashing peer-to-peer power in the triangle,


One Millennial View: This is ideal. I think we’re all in search of, and envious of great teams. But it’s important for people like me to recognize that awesome peer-to-peer power comes with a social contract, and a special commitment within the “pen.” It’s not just given to you. It requires us “chickens” to “fight well, embrace constructive conflict, confront each other when needed, and most importantly HELP and encourage one another to contribute their best.” That’s not too much to ask and it doesn’t require “super chicken” qualifications, but you still have to be a pretty great chicken to take on these responsibilities. Are you willing to? Great. If not, you might as well be just another lone chicken running around with its head cut off.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

The Stretch Limo Lesson!

Key Point: I’ve come to learn that there is usually more to the story. I also know that as a leader, you have to be decisive in the moment and make a call on principle, even if you don’t have all the facts. That is the real life practice of leadership, not what the text book or HBR article suggests, but what one does when called upon to act as events unfold, coming at you full speed. Frankly, the big strategic decisions are normally easier for smart leaders, even if more momentous. We usually have the time and resources to apply lots of critical thinking before we arrive at that decisive moment. However our unvarnished, “who we really are” leadership is a culmination of many daily “moments of truth,” where what we do, think and say shows us up big time.

There it was as I was ambling down to the hotel lobby, a sparkling white stretch limousine parked in the reception drive, waiting for its pampered passengers. My team had arranged for the transportation of our top 10 executive to the facility where we were participating in a regional leadership conference with local leaders and team members. We thought we were going to be picked up in a small “ordinary” bus. No one expected a limousine equipped with a classically attired chauffeur. But here he was, white gloved, red carpet out, smiling and ready to gallantly ferry us forward.

“Is that limo for us? Because if it is, we are NOT taking it!” I exclaimed.

“You’re kidding?” replied the person from my team who made the arrangement.

“No, I’m not kidding.” I fired back. “Please pay him for his services, give him a nice tip, and POLITELY tell him that we won’t be using his services today.”

And so the executive team car-pooled and used the local cab service to get to the leadership conference. (No Uber in this town).

The reason I made the decision I did, was because I did not want our executive to get there in a limousine at the same time our conference team members were arriving. Alberta is going through a rough time economically, and I felt it would be in bad taste and insensitive to show up that way. It smacks of status differential, elitism and underscores the stereotype of “out of touch” executives. How does one explain the symbolism? Even if no one could see us arriving, I would not have allowed this to happen because it is not who we are as a culture. We are more than a bank, and committed to make banking work for people. Showing up in a limo feels like stuffy bankers working for themselves and their big, fat egos.

Now for the rest of the story… After a few of us jumped in a cab, a couple of my colleagues noticed the embarrassment of the limo driver, and were gracious enough to go over and listen to him. They found out that he has been a customer with us for 17 years. We helped him start the limo business out of personal bankruptcy! Oh, Geez! He was so proud of the successful company he built and was delighted to drive us. That morning, he even got up early to do last minute repairs on the stretch limo; his pride and joy. He was very disappointed and confused with my decision. He refused payment. We insisted and he finally agreed to donate it to one of our charities in his name. He is a classy guy.

Later that morning, I shared the whole story with all the 100 plus conference delegates. I explained why I made the decision and also asked if they would mind the execs taking a ride back to the hotel with him. And of course they didn’t, applauded that gesture and fully appreciated the context. We also encouraged team members to thank him for his business as they left the convention.

Character Moves:

  1. When you make a “values based” decision, it is usually the right one. Even knowing what I know now, I would have made the same decision. A “limo” and all it represents is not who we are. And I think my team learned something about being clear and understanding that the “medium is the message.”
  1. The other part of the lesson is to always get the whole story. If my teammates had not stopped to listen to the driver/owner, I might have not learned that he was a customer and would have missed an opportunity to recover and repair our relationship.
  1. Making an “in the moment” decision involves confidently and rapidly applying all your senses against a value based framework or filter to help you determine the “right thing” to do. At the same time, one had to be humble enough to complete the picture, and if necessary, amend or supplement. That also requires leadership; to appreciate that most things are not black and white. Being “right” often involves tradeoffs and just plain judgment as well as the courage to make a call. As one becomes a little more experienced and wiser, we appreciate that there is usually more to a situation that makes black and white more like the real shades of gray.

Gray Limo in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: In my opinion, it’s too bad that an executive team showing up in a limo to a convention would be frowned upon. It’s the executive team. Limos are nice, but they’re not helicopters made of gold. That said, I completely understand the decision, and due to today’s social climate, it was the best choice to make a more modest entrance. But as a low-level Millennial, I think it’s on us to have the responsibility to have the abundance to appreciate that if someone takes a limo, it’s not because they’re trying to shove excess in our faces. I’d say, “good for you guys! Can’t wait to ride in a limo one day myself!” If your first reaction is “they’re doing this to show me up,” I think that’s a negative and scarce state of mind, but that’s just my perspective.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Lorne Rubis

Lorne Rubis

The constant in Lorne’s diverse career is his ability to successfully lead organizations through significant change. At US West, where he served as a Vice President / Company Officer, Lorne was one of only seven direct reports ...
Read more about Lorne Rubis


Revolutionizing Relationships - with Trevor Crow radio host, 3/27/2012

Mind Your Own Business Radio - with Debi Davis, WLOB 1310 AM, 3/10/12

Paul Miller Morning Show, WPHM-AM, 12/5/11

Dr. Alvin Jones Show, WHFS-AM, 12/1/11

Kathryn Zox Show, VoiceAmerica Network interview


The Character Triangle Companion


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The Character Triangle

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Character Triangle

Our character is exclusively ours. We define it by how we think and what we do. I believe that acting with Character is driven by what I call the Character Triangle.

What, exactly, is the Character Triangle (CT)?

The CT describes and emphasizes three distinct but interdependent values:

Be Accountable: first person action to make things better, avoiding blame.
Be Respectful: being present, listening, looking again, focusing on the process.
Be Abundant: generous in spirit, moving forward, minimizing the lack of.

Read more about the Character Triangle


Be Accountable

Be Respectful

Be Abundant

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Revolutionizing Relationships – with Trevor Crow radio host, 3/27/2012

Mind Your Own Business Radio – with Debi Davis, WLOB 1310 AM, 3/10/12 radio interview of Lorne Rubis

Paul Miller Morning Show, WPHM-AM, 12/5/11 radio interview of Lorne Rubis

Dr. Alvin Jones Show, WHFS-AM, 12/1/11 radio interview of Lorne Rubis

Kathryn Zox Show, VoiceAmerica Network interview of Lorne Rubis



Take Responsibility For Yourself; Others Will Follow

Use the Character Triangle to inspire your team

Leadership Excellence articlein the January 2012 issue

Mercer Island author inspires others with ‘Character Triangle’

Problem Solving STP Model – click to download (304KB pdf) 



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