Harold Jarche's weekend post relates a story from Harvard Business Review. It's about a sort of star candidate who was groomed to lead an overseas division of a company. All the boxes for him were set up to be checked off, but as his leadership began and things progressed early on, outcomes didn't go to plan. The status quo was followed too closely, and increasingly the operation of the business and the division suffered. How could this be?
So someone else - more or less the diametric opposite, as far as the details of the story let on - was put in place to lead the overseas division. Success resulted soon after. The moral of this particular story is that the status quo and the leaders working within it may not generate the expected level of success. But this wasn't what I took from the story.
My takeaway is the underlining of the importance of self awareness, and using external feedback to obtain that perspective. John from the story appears to have been someone who felt the system would handle whatever difficulties came up. He delegated his leadership role to the system he was supposed to be guiding. His replacement, Alex, took an active role. John didn't bother learning; Alex did. But beyond that, it didn't appear that John did much work in the way of checking his performance with his superiors. Alex, on the other hand, bucked the status quo while making begrudging admirers out of them.
Something I've done at various points in the positions I've held is to initiate off-the-cuff performance reviews. The reason I've done this is to address any concerns I may not be aware of, before someone prepares to address them with me. I've also felt that it shows some initiative and struggle to maintain a learning and improving ethic in my profession.
What about you? Do you initiate informal reviews of your performance? What ways have you sought out feedback not directly related to a training or major process change event?