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CIO Unplugged – 1/15/09

January 15, 2009 Ed Marx No Comments

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally, and are not necessarily representative of Texas Health Resources or its subsidiaries.

Employee Annual Reviews
By Ed Marx

I admit it. I don’t like doing annual reviews. Few people enjoy them. Even fewer are good at them. I wish I were the anomaly, the freak. Sure, I’ve read all the theories and attended requisite training classes on how to make a review a non-event and make it productive. But this is supposed to be CIO Unplugged, right? Not CIO Fantasyland.

Most believe they are a star and, whatever your rating scheme, they should qualify as the poster child for the “top box.” Many of us desire to be number one in all our endeavors. Though I do appreciate the self-esteem and confidence this attitude exhibits, can everyone be “top box”? Should they?


It’s easy to cave into temptation and give overly optimistic reviews to avoid discomfort. I’ve done it; I’m tempted every year. Then I kick myself for giving in because ultimately I’ve benefited no one. In fact, I end up undermining my employee and my organization. Worse yet, if I’m not modeling appropriate and accountable reviews, my subordinates will follow my poor example. (Ouch, I feel the pain as I write.)

Therefore, this post is as much encouragement to me as it is to you. Since it’s that time of year again, we the leaders are going to invest the time and energy to make the review honest and meaningful. You with me?

Here are 3 tips:

1) Spandex—man’s brutally, honest friend. If you want to know where you stand with weight management, pull on a pair. I can try to fool others in terms of fitness, but the single best test I have is spandex. Someone can tell me I’m fit, but when I see the rolls of fat hanging over the spandex… This sort of accountability keeps me on the right path. We need spandex attitudes in our careers to ensure our performance is in check. Give honest feedback even when it’s uncomfortable. You’re employee deserves to know the truth no matter how brutal. Nobody likes flab.

2) Satiate the hunger. While I did say we tend to believe we are top dog, deep down most of us long to improve. If I can give my subordinates one tangible thing to improve, most will clutch it like a pit bull clenching a bone. Imagine if your boss gave you one strength to focus on every year to help you move to the next level, and you really did something with it. You might become CEO! That annual performance review might start to look pretty admirable.

3) Break it down. Two years ago, I switched to doing performance reviews quarterly. This helped make the annual review less dreadful. When you’re tracking progress, evaluating, and encouraging throughout the year, there are no surprises to contend with. In fact, I leverage this same format with my manager monthly! I desire constant feedback. My recent annual review ended up uneventful, and I got a nice big bone to chew on.

My final reminder to myself and a word of encouragement to you. Not only is it our responsibility to our organizations to give accurate and meaningful reviews, but aren’t our people worth the effort, despite potential discomfort?

Ed Marx is senior vice president and CIO at Texas Health Resources in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. (Use the “add a comment” function at the bottom of each post.) You can also connect with him directly through his profile pages on social networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook, and you can follow him via Twitter – User Name “marxists.”

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