As the end of the year arrives, all of us are thinking about performance reviews; ours and those of the people who work with us. I thought this was a great time to update this post from last year and get the conversation going.

Performance reviews can be a big source of anxiety for team members and leaders alike, causing stress and sleepless nights. It does not have to be that way. Here is how you can make performance reviews a tool that really helps to improve and celebrate performance for everyone on your team!

  1. A Performance Rating should never be a surprise. This is where I have seen many leaders fail. Just because you sit down and give a review and someone signs it does not mean you’ve done the right thing. In fact, I would argue that you would have been better off not giving the review. Someone’s annual review is not where they should learn how you view them and their contributions.
  2. Schedule quarterly updates with everyone on your team for a 30 minute update on progress made towards goals and objectives. This is such a great time for you and them. It allows several things. One, it allows you to check in face to face and review progress, but more importantly it gives them confidence that the direction they are heading is the right one. Two, it gives them a chance to course correct if needed and actually be able to make real adjustments to improve results versus waiting until the end of the year and both of you wishing things were different. Lastly this face to face interaction goes a long way in removing any apprehension about a performance review because in essence they are writing their review as they go throughout the year so that by the time the official review time comes around, it is already written, and most importantly everyone feels great about the results and the direction.
  3. Encourage everyone on your team to write a self review. This is important because when someone writes their own review they take ownership for their results and believe me they will be much harder on themselves then you will be, and this takes the pressure off of you as a leader while at the same time giving you the chance to offer objective, constructive feedback on opportunities and recognize accomplishments that they might have missed. Your comments go on the same review form they used to write their self review. Most importantly it allows the team member to pull together measurements, documentation, and information that help them construct a detailed review that will help them in their future role as a leader. Remember, the performance review process really should be driven by the team member, not you as the leader. You will write a review and measure results against the desired goals and objectives but the team member should provide the details.
  4. Help your team understand how to write goals that matter. They should stretch their abilities but adhere to the SMART goal system; Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timebound. When goals are written using this format there is a lot of excitement throughout the year about the results being achieved, but also about the opportunities that present themselves because they know WHAT they are focusing on versus just flailing about hoping they are focusing on the right things. Having good goals helps to set your team up for success and also teaches them how to make adjustments to their action steps as needed throughout the year.
  5. This is about the conversation, not a piece of paper. One of the biggest sources of anxiety is the official review document. Make this a non-event by having great conversations surrounding performance. Don’t read off of the form. Look your team member in the eye and have a conversation. What they’ve written you have already read, and what you are saying is what you’ve written down and they will read that later. Focus on the conversation. The piece of paper used to write the review is just extra texture for the conversation, which is the most important part of the review process. It is helpful to have an ability to look back at feedback when measuring performance but it should NOT be the focal point of a performance review.

Following these principles has helped me to create many top performing teams over the years, and in hundreds of performance reviews I have NEVER had someone disagree with their rating. This helped to facilitate a high performance culture with clear understanding about the direction we needed to go as an organization. Not surprisingly this also created a deep bench of strength in our people pipelines for succession planning, and we had leaders who knew exactly how to duplicate this process within their own teams. This is sustainable leadership and performance management at its best.

Slow Down

December 5, 2014 — Leave a comment

Slow Down Sign

We move fast in today’s world. We make decisions quickly, manage from our gut, and more often than not, we are right in the final analysis. But did we get there the right way?

I coach my team that how we get a result is as important as getting it, so there needs to be intentional and deliberate thought in how we make our decisions. The long term impact of the decisions we make can be felt for weeks, months, and sometimes years after the fact. Sometimes we have to go slow to go fast.

The same applies to our lives professionally. If we take the time to slow it down and think about the long term impact of our decisions, we’ll make better choices because we are being thoughtful and strategic. It doesn’t mean that every decision we make will work out for us, but we will certainly have the right platform to achieve the highest possible rate of success.

We live in a fast paced world and decisions have to be made quickly, and that’s not going to change. But we can change the way we approach decision making to improve the results we get by being more intentional.

Here are a few things that have helped me slow down my decision making and improve my results:

  1. Evaluate the consequences of the decisions we make. What does it look like immediately, in the short term, and long term? 3 years ago, best-selling author Suzy Welch was speaking at a Leadercast event in Atlanta and she gave a talk on 10-10-10. Here’s how it works. Every time she found herself in a situation where there appeared to be no solution that would make everyone happy, she asked herself three questions:

    What are the consequences of the decision in 10 minutes? In 10 months? And in 10 years?

    That’s pretty powerful. When I think about this concept it applies to both our personal and professional lives. Looking at the consequences of our decisions through the lens of 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years can save all of us a lot of heartache, frustration, and disappointment.

  2. Ask great questions. I talk about this a lot but it becomes more true every day. When faced with a challenge every leader wants to solve it. Now. But many times what we should do as leaders is ask some great questions to gain clarity around the issue at hand. Doing so not only gives you the right information but it buys you time to properly assess the situation before making a decision.
  3. Get the right people involved. Not every decision is a consensus, but every decision is an opportunity to educate someone on your team. Bringing people in under the tent allows you as a leader to coach someone, and develop them to be a stronger leader themselves. They learn that being inclusive as a leader is the best way to get things done in a way that gets the best result and how to get the result in the right way.

If we all slow down as leaders and ask the right questions, involve the right people, and think about the long term impact of our decisions we will find that the results we achieve will improve and we will be proud of the way we achieved them.


We know you are. I know who you are. Because I’ve been one. I am one. This post isn’t meant to be negative about hard work. I am a big believer that hard work pays off. The fact I can write this post after being in the restaurant business for 30 years is testament to that. Having a strong work ethic is critical to driving change, building culture, and making a lasting impact. I don’t think anyone taking the time to read this post would argue with that.

But like any good thing, too much of it can be bad. Again I write about this subject from an experts point of view. For 7 long years I covered 11 states, hundreds of restaurants, and spent countless nights away from home and from my family. Oh, I tried to convince myself it was for the good of my family and our long term future. It sounded good. Hey, my wife even believed it for the first couple of years. But then I got tired. Really tired. And even with a high performing team around me, it was not a pace I wanted to continue. Burning out is no fun, and that is exactly what happens to workaholics, even when they say they love what they’re doing. And believe me, we say we love it. But secretly, way down deep inside in the place no one likes to talk about, we hate it, and eventually begin to hate who we’re becoming.

If that sounds like a strong statement and I’m being a little over the top, well, I’ll accept that. Sometimes the truth hurts. For me the truth hit home standing in a parking lot in Little Rock, Arkansas when I realized I was on a path that wasn’t sustainable. Sure I could have stayed. I could have figured it out. I could have maybe given 6 more months…at an unrecoverable impact to my family. No thanks.

After an extended sabbatical and recovery, someone proudly said to me “I only sleep in my bed 3-4 nights a month! I travel ALL the time.” I looked straight at this person and said “That is not a badge of honor. Stop doing that. You can’t keep doing that.” It really caught them off guard. Previously they had been recognized for all their hard work, industry accolades, and results. But at what cost? A marriage? Missing all of their kids’ activities? Losing touch with friends? And for what? More money? A bigger house? A new car?

It’s important to realized I am not throwing stones here. I am, and will always be a workaholic. It’s a disease. One that I will always battle. But I have put things in place to help me stay grounded and to not get to far gone again. I have a great support system at home to help me and a mirror in the form of my wife to keep me honest. I am apart of a great organization that values family and balance, which I am incredibly thankful for.

So go work hard. Get great results. Change people’s lives. Make a difference. Working hard is important. The work we all do is important. But it’s not the most important thing we do.

Finishing Well

November 30, 2014 — 1 Comment

leaving-jobA few years ago I chose to leave an executive position at Chipotle Mexican Grill. It’s never easy to leave a job you love, but doing it on your own terms is very empowering. Change is inevitable and it will happen, but doing it the right way is important for many reasons. Even though I did not leave Chipotle for another position, the way in which I left gave me endless options when I was ready to take on another challenge.

Freebirds World Burrito is the amazing organization I have had the privilege of serving in as Senior VP of Operations for just over a year, but I can tell you that how I left Chipotle was key in me being able to take on this exciting role.

Here are 5 benefits to leaving a position well:

  1. You can look your prospective new employer in the eye and be honest. You aren’t couching what you want to say in a different way to say it, trying to avoid hard subjects. No, you are able to say “I left XYZ organization, on my own terms, and I left it in great shape. Here is how I communicated my departure, and transitioned out of the role.” That is huge.
  2. It gives you the right platform for your new position. It’s hard to garner the right trust & respect if your new team knows you bailed on your last gig and left the team hanging.
  3. You earn the right to share learnings from your last position. If your leaving is all above board, the great ideas you had can be great once again. They just can’t be proprietary and confidential.
  4. You can leverage relationships with vendors, suppliers, and in some cases, even people you worked with in your former job to help you in your new position. If you develop a relationship for treating people well and investing them, that becomes the gift that keeps on giving.
  5. You leave a legacy. Every good thing you did, every program you implemented, and every person you invested in will matter long after you are gone. Unless you leave abruptly and there is destruction in your wake. Then all of those things are erased.

Keep these points in mind when it’s time to move on. When you finish well and the door closes, you will find many other open doors waiting for you. It sounds like a good idea to burn your bridges, until it’s not. The problem with burning bridges is you’ve left no way to get back home to the people that love you and to the relationships will define you long after you leave your current position.

Corporate America, or the Non-Profit Sector, are small worlds people. Leave an organization well, and instead of having a past that you worry about haunting you, there will be a legacy you leave behind that follows you.

War of Words

May 26, 2014 — Leave a comment


More words are spoken in today’s society than in any other time in history. The information age has ushered in an era where there is constant communication all day, every day. 24 hour news, the internet, and social media have made it all but impossible to escape the fever pitch of being in touch. The words being spoken online, in text messages, phone calls, and in person are all competing for our time and attention. Many of those words aren’t needed and much of what is communicated gets lost in translation and the result is frustration on the part of the communicator and the person the communication is intended for.

While we can’t control the amount of information being shared through technology and CNN we can take some steps to improve the way we communicate personally.

Here is how to help improve communication without over-communicating and make the world a better place in the process:

  • Choose your words carefully for maximum impact.
  • Use fewer words.
  • Allow for silence. Quit trying to fill the gaps in conversations with more words.
  • Listen more. Speak less.
  • Ask great questions but ask them clearly.

Now more than ever less really is more.


Failure is going to happen, no matter how hard we may work to prevent it or how great our plans may be, we will fail. The question isn’t so much whether or not you are going to fail, but rather how we respond to that failure.

Over the years as I have encountered perceived failures they often have been blessings in disguise. They have challenged me to look at things differently and make tough decisions about the priorities I had and what was important and what wasn’t.

My advice to you is give yourself permission to fail. Use your failures as learning opportunities and an opportunity to reset. To right size. To change course.

Go and fail big so that you might experience true success.

The Sweet Spot

October 14, 2013 — Leave a comment


How do you find the sweet spot between micro management and empowerment as a leader? The reality is no one wants to be labeled as a micromanager and everyone wants to be known as someone who empowers their team. The problem is that falling on the extreme of either side of these two styles can get you into trouble as a leader.

  • If you micromanage someone who is a top performer you will frustrate them.
  • If you micromanage a low performer you enable them to be mediocre at best.
  • If you empower someone who does not embrace the vision you’ve set for your organization, or doesn’t buy into the high standards, you lose complete control in your organization.

So how can you manage the tension between these two styles?

  1. Hire the very best people you can, even if it costs you more up front. Hiring less than the very best will cost you more on the back end then your up front investment does. Trust me on this.
  2. Make sure your team knows the standards you want to achieve. Don’t assume that everyone knows what you expect. Show them what you expect, model those behaviors, and be the leader.
  3. Establish a crystal clear vision for your organization. Without a vision and laser focus communication surrounding it you will have a group of people doing what they hope is right and hoping you approve of the results. Not exactly a high performing culture to be working in.
  4. Ask powerful questions. By asking powerful questions you give your team an opportunity to talk about what’s working for them and what’s not, as well as open a fantastic channel of dialogue about what they might do differently, or celebrate what’s working well. As a leader this is imperative because it can help you see opportunities to help them grow in a way that is very respectful, thoughtful, and non-threatening. Celebrating successes by understanding what is really working for someone gives you the ability to leverage their experiences and knowledge and gives them an opportunity to help someone else on the team who might be struggling.

The best way to find the sweet spot between micromanagement and empowerment is to create an organizational culture that provides an opportunity to become a top performer; someone who knows and is empowered to achieve the high standards for your organization, and has the ability to make the people around them better.