"I keep your 55 Great Icebreaker Questions in my Jeep and review
them before every event!"
Jim Higgins, ProForma Branding Excellence

Name: Email:
FacebookTwitterLinkedInPinterestSubscribe to RSS Feed

Why Old-School Performance Reviews Turn Talent Off : Reinvent Them & Retain Talent

hate performance reviews


Kim, a supervisor-level CPA at a mid-sized firm made an SOS call to me recently. She left a message telling me she had just had a surprisingly disappointing semi-annual performance review and she didn’t know what to do.

Andrew, a senior executive at a Fortune 1000 corporation was bewildered after his last performance discussion with his boss. He didn’t know why his overall performance had been downgraded since his last performance evaluation a year ago. It caught him completely blindsided.

In both of these cases, the immediate reaction for these highly talented professionals, one in the public accounting arena, the other in corporate America, was to start looking for his/her next position in a new firm!.

That’s how easy it was to turn these talented professionals off to their company.

When I explored further with these two individuals to find out what had occurred during these performance discussions, I completely understood why they would each feel the need to look elsewhere for career opportunity. The performance evaluation forms and their processes were a hot mess.

As this article’s corresponding image expresses, these two professionals are not unusual in employees finding performance reviews mostly a big downer, and often unsettling and confusing.

Why is this so? Firms spend so much valuable time, money, and resources on developing performance criteria and competency measures.

What’s so different today about this whole feedback process that feels like the Berlin Wall is about to come crashing down?

First, we have a dearth of talent, so it’s a giant war out there for good talent. No one wants to lose a great potential employee or current one.

Second, younger employees’ mentality about feedback is way different than the more senior leaders in companies and firms.

Younger employees are used to immediate feedback, and thrive on it.

Finally, as a business advisor and coach to accounting, law, and executive professionals, I am stunned and disheartened by how little attention, training, and continuity in feedback delivery is exhibited by managers and reviewers.

It’s little wonder that employees find the whole darn experience a total turn off.

This is exactly why firms and companies should, yes, even must reinvent the entire process, and now.

Let’s look at what cutting edge corporations such as Accenture, Microsoft, The Gap, Google, Yahoo, and now Deloitte are doing. Essentially, they are either eliminating or entirely transforming the standard performance review system .

Accenture has done away with old-school evaluations because as CEO Pierre Nanterme said in an interview in The Week , “the outcome is not great.

And in the same article, a 2013 study was referenced, “reflecting that even employees motivated by a desire to learn on the job were often blindsided and despondent over “constructive criticism” they’d received”. (Source:

This is why the majority of annual or semi-annual reviews wind up as anxiety-producing  and annoying for both deliverer and recipient rather than a source of inspiration and SPECIFIC information for how the employee can advance and improve.

Yet, I would not endorse ditching performance reviews. Why?

1. Younger, and even more senior employees, thrive on being understood and valued. They crave recognition and feedback. It’s the kind of feedback and the way feedback is currently disseminated that is so destructive.

2. Professionals yearn and work best/achieve more when there is good structure and clarity in career advancement.

3. Almost everyone struggles with how to take in criticism and advice for improvement. The performance discussion, done right, can be a powerful tool in helping an employee go from ho-hum to dynamo, from grinder to great leadership.

The challenges and weaknesses of old-school reviews are pretty extensive:

  • They are too time-intensive in regard to both preparation and delivery
  • Too much time elapses between the behavior/performance and the feedback
  • There is a great deal of bias and not enough quality and specificity in the feedback process (The 360 degree feedback process generally hasn’t solved this)
  • Too often difficult or awkward conversations are avoided or delivered poorly.
  • There is a lack of specificity and case examples to help the employee clearly understand how the behavior was effective or ineffective
  • The feedback process is too complicated
  • There is a lack of specificity in planning for goal achievement improvement
  • Feedback is too infrequent/not documented so it’s coming from memory, and lessens the impact and value to the employee and ultimately the company or firm.
  • Feedback is usually delivered without real training in how to motivate staff members and simultaneously encourage needed performance repair
  • Feedback often comes as a shock or surprise for the employee.

So if the  old-school review system is broken and irrelevant for today’s world, what new feedback techniques and models should be developed to more deeply engage, motivate, and optimize talent?

The Road To Reinvention: It All Starts With Buy-In At The Top

The most important first step starts with the leadership of your company or firm.

Without the commitment and belief of the Managing Partner, CEO, President, or whomever is in the top leadership role, a reinvention can’t succeed. Once buy in is established at the top, it can be filtered and generated throughout the organization.

The second key ingredient is education. Feedback deliverers- mentors, managers, leaders – must learn  how to effectively communicate feedback. Just because someone is a manager or partner or VP doesn’t mean he or she has the kind of  communication skills needed to impart regular, motivating, yet honest feedback.

And if they can’t learn to say it right, they shouldn’t be in the feedback process.

Once buy-in in a firm is established, the key solutions to a transformed feedback model are centered in 3 main areas:

1. Speed & Simplicity– Quicker Creation/Delivery (Think feedback in smaller sound bites)

2. Continual Flow of Feedback (Greater frequency)

3. Specificity/Clarity (think: “here’s a specific example of how you….”)

If these 3 areas are transformed, employees will not ever need to be, nor should they be, blindsided or confused during a performance review meeting.

Not only will a reinvention of your performance review program newly inspire and motivate your employees, you will surely prevent seeing that revolving door swinging closed on some of your most treasured talent.

(For more detailed information on “SNAPFormance” performance review reinvention, contact Nancy Fox,

6 Brilliant Ways @Nina4Airbnb Didn’t Take No For An Answer- And Got Her Dream Job

determination - little engine that could

Back in April, a young transplant from the Middle East who had been living in San Francisco for a year had tried everything to get a job at her favorite company, Airbnb.

She had fallen in love with the company both as a visitor and as a host. She loved the concept of the company and it’s culture.

To land a job at the company, she had tried numerous standard search techniques including networking and submitting her resume through channels to various people within the company. She eventually did manage to meet with the company, but to no avail.

Family members tried to convince her that she should move on because she had tried everything.

But then she had a life-changing thought:

“I haven’t done everything I can.  I’ve done the same thing multiple times, but I haven’t tried new approaches.”


This “aha moment” led her to a breakthrough approach to capturing the attention and interest of the right people at Airbnb.

Her ground-breaking resume resulted in:

  • 455,000 hits to her website
  • Millions of impressions with $0 advertising
  • Featured interviews in Business Insider, Fortune Magazine, and invitations for speaking gigs.
  • Multiple company invitations to interview – at Airbnb and others.
  • The job offer of her dreams (but not at Airbnb).

Nina’s need and “big why” for getting the job at her dream company pushed her way, way past typical thinking and actions. It cancelled out all the negative voices around her.


Would you, could you, have created the brilliant innovative web site Nina did, one that mirrored Airbnb’s look and branding feel, and helped her make a compelling case for desirability as a major asset to the company?

(see her brilliant solution here: Nina4Airbnb)

Would you have done whatever it took to get the attention of the right people at Airbnb in order to generate breakthrough results?

For most people, the answer would have to be no – because they stop at the first, slightest hint of rejection, or worse, buy into the notion that if something is “hard” they should try something much easier and quicker.

That is the approach we most often teach (unknowingly) our staff, our colleagues, and what we most endorse in our day-in, day-out business dealings. I see this and hear this every single day in my conversations with clients and colleagues.

Determined, creative Nina, however, couldn’t and wouldn’t allow average thinking to prevent her from prevailing.

Necessity forced her to prevail.

And prevail she did.

While she didn’t get the job at Airbnb (her interviewer said her experience couldn’t be “contextualized” for their business !!!), she did get a job at a wonderful company, Upwork, formerly Odesk.

But more importantly, how she problem-solved, used unstoppable initiative, and overcame the negativity all around her, will serve her throughout her sure-to-be-successful career.

So what were the 6 brilliant ways she wouldn’t take no for an answer, and generated the breakthrough “resume” that earned her the ‘yes’ of her dreams?:

1. Realizing that she had been doing the same ineffective thing over and over to get a different result, and that an entirely unique approach was the solution.

2. In her first 2 succinct sentences at Nina4Airbnb she states what she wants and specifically what’s in it for Airbnb to read on. She states her personal value and brand – right off the bat.

3. She creates a look and feel that mirrors her ideal company’s on-line image, demonstrating she “gets” their brand.

4. She reflects the opportunity gap, and demonstrates she understands how to use data to make a strong case. 

5. She powerfully states why she’s the right candidate for the company over all the other people who equally want to work for the company. She goes way beyond the typical and gets very specific.

6. Finally, she clearly communicates her unique personal brand by focusing on a cross-cultural component, which has been a key theme guiding her career.

Nina’s determination and ingenuity earned massive attention across the web, and particularly from Airbnb and other wonderful companies.

And it taught her to never be satisfied by listening to nay-sayers.

The bigger question is:

What can you learn for yourself from Nina’s breakthroughs, and what will you do to generate new levels of determination, creativity, and opportunity within yourself, your team-mates, colleagues, and staff?

Business Lessons Learned By Being A Klutz


As we kick off 2015, I decided to share with you the most powerful life and business lessons I learned in 2014. I must say these business lessons were learned in the most unexpected place and from the most surprising people. Perhaps one (or more?) of these “aha’s” will resonate with you and help you […]

Continue reading...

Have You Been Naughty Or Nice… To Your Vendors?


  Robert sat in the reception area of his top prospective client, and took another look at his watch. His prospect was 20 minutes late for their meeting. They had set up the meeting to review the engagement letter Robert had submitted to him 3 weeks ago. Mr. Prospect had been largely unavailable and had […]

Continue reading...

Got Doubt?

   Allison is about to land the client of her dreams when the last question asked by the prospect brings up a huge wave of DOUBT. Doubt seeps into her answer, and she loses the job to another candidate. A client decides he wants to upgrade his business and signs off on your agreement on […]

Continue reading...

It’s Not Just Food: Jon Favreau’s Movie “Chef” – An 8 Step Lesson In Social Media Success

To me, the best movies are ones that entertain as well as teach. That’s how I felt about Jon Favreau’s new movie Chef. Jon Favreau is a successful character actor and is probably most well-known as director of super hits Ironman 1 & 2, and Cowboys & Aliens. Now, in his new movie Chef, he […]

Continue reading...

Why They Won’t Open Your E-Newsletter (And Why They’re Right)

How many newsletters do you get a day? 5, 10, more? How many of them do you open and read? If you’re like most business people, you are opening only 5-10% of the electronic newsletters you receive, if that. The rest wind up in the cyber dumpster. You or your firm have probably sent email […]

Continue reading...

Can You Really Motivate Young Professionals To Become Rainmakers?

Alex, a director in a rapidly growing regional accounting firm was in the Managing Partner’s office.  He had been participating in a 6 month business development/rainmaking coaching and training program with disappointing results. The Managing Partner decided to find out what the problem was. MP: Is the problem the coach? Is the problem the cost? […]

Continue reading...

How To Turn Boring Small Talk Into Big Results

Few would argue that networking is an essential practice for business success. Why, then, are so many people turned off by the process? I’ve interviewed hundreds of professionals, business people, and executives about this very issue. Can you guess what the top 3 networking turnoffs were? The top 3 turnoffs were:  Starting up a conversation […]

Continue reading...

10-Min Way To Stay In Touch & Pump Up Sales

It’s that time of year when we naturally stay in touch – with family, friends, clients and colleagues. It feels so wonderful to be in connection with the people in our lives. So, why don’t we do this year round in our business when it would maximize our results? Case in point: My client, Eric […]

Continue reading...

How To Become A Book Author & An Authority Fast

ING conference with book

Many of you know that I published my book on networking this year, Network Like A Fox: A Targeted Approach To Building Successful Business Relationships In Person & Online . Was it spectacular – setting a goal, working toward accomplishing that goal, seeing it come to fruition? You bet. But the fruits of these labors […]

Continue reading...

How David Geffen’s Hobby Changed His Circle Of Influence & The World

david geffen young

I recently watched the American Masters special on David Geffen. Of course, I had heard of David Geffen, knew he was some kind of music mogul,  and that there is a hospital with his name on it here in Los Angeles. What I didn’t realize was that DG turned his hobby into a life of […]

Continue reading...

7 Cool Ways To Break The Ice And Warm Up Profitable New Business Relationships


Edward walked into the networking event filled with new faces. People were clustered in small groups of 2 or 3 or 4, chatting, laughing, exchanging business cards. He’d been in this situation hundreds of times before. So why, after all these times, was he still nervous when entering a room full of strangers, uncomfortable with […]

Continue reading...

How To Make Your Body Language Say The Right Things In Business

body language

I  have always been fascinated by the topic of body language, the messages our bodies transmit in non-verbal ways. Years ago, I had the opportunity to interview one of the top CEO’s of a major publishing company. We had a great conversation: he was smart, warm, charming, and…..nervous. How did I know this? He couldn’t […]

Continue reading...

Why Depending On Getting Referrals Is Wrong For Your Business


Who doesn’t love getting referrals? There aren’t too many things that feel better than  when someone refers business to you and you land a juicy new client without doing anything more than lifting the phone receiver. (Well, giving referrals feels pretty awesome too!) Many professionals depend almost 100% on getting referrals as their business development […]

Continue reading...

The Perfect Linked In Profile: 7 Ways To Make It Pay Off For Your Business

When was the last time you took a good look at your Linked In profile? A little background to this question. I love Linked In. But it wasn’t always that way. In 2006, I received a Linked In invitation to connect – from a client of mine, a high level executive at a major corporation. […]

Continue reading...

The Art (And Advantages) Of The Ting

text message

Happy New Year. I love New Years. It’s the season of the blank canvas. Have you received lots of emails about resolutions and goals? Yes, it is pretty common. But what’s really thrilling to me about the New Year is the feeling of that fresh start, that clean palette on which to paint new results […]

Continue reading...

Your Business Card Is Bad…But Here Are 5 Ways To Make It Great

stacks of business cards

So you handed out a dozen business cards at that networking event last night…… …..and so did 50 other professionals and business owners – including 4 others who do precisely what you do in your business or practice. I know– you hope that those nice people you had conversations with will remember you if a […]

Continue reading...

Networking Gone Bad: How Paula Broadwell & Jill Kelley Were Connection Abusers & 5 Good Ways To Connect


Paula Broadwell and Jill Kelley, the two women who networked (I use that term lightly) with two of the most respected military leaders of our time, former General David Patreus and General John Allen, took “networking up” – making high level connections – to repugnant lengths. Paula Broadwell & Jill Kelley: The “Bad” Connectors Paula […]

Continue reading...

Why Networking Doesn’t Work, But Niche-Networking Brings Home The Bacon

niche networking photo for blog

Alice got the job of her dreams as business development director in a new up and coming business valuations firm. She was raring to go. And go she did – to every networking event recommended to her. She went to 4-5 events a week and set up breakfasts, lunches, and after hours drinks 5 days […]

Continue reading...