LRN’s Experiment with an Open 360 Review of our CEO
LRN prides itself on striving to walk its own talk. Underlying our core values is a focus on transparency and vulnerability. Being vulnerable allows colleagues to seek assistance from others and truly listen – it is the foundation of teamwork and how we can find our shared humanity. But more than just paying lip-service, it is critical to demonstrate these principles in action, which is why our CEO recently choose to invite the whole company to participate in his performance review.
In a radical departure from most CEO evaluations, which occur behind closed doors and are inaccessible to the overwhelming majority of employees, LRN’s CEO, Dov Seidman, recently participated in a completely transparent, organization-wide 360-degree performance review. Everyone from interns to senior management from our offices around the world joined in giving feedback to the founder of our organization.
In my professional life, I have never been part of anything quite like it. But then again, I have never worked at an organization quite like LRN. Here, we believe behavior is the greatest source of competitive advantage. In our ongoing mission to inspire people and the companies they work for to do the next right thing, we fully understand that we must embrace and exemplify the values we hope to inspire in others. That is why truth, humility, passion, and integrity are at the core of our organization’s DNA.
Having worked in HR at various organizations for over a decade, it was refreshing to see a leader embrace this level of transparency and vulnerability. Dov relished the opportunity to hear from others and engage in candid conversations about his strengths, areas for improvement, and how he could do even better. At several points during the session he encouraged us to be blunt and to speak from the heart, showing the company that the best way to receive feedback is with an open mind and the willingness to receive, pause, reflect, and use it to grow both professionally and personally.
In addition to being a forum to speak with our CEO, the performance review allowed colleagues to get to know Dov in a completely unscripted setting. At times intense, the exercise also saw its share of light-hearted moments. When not discussing his thought-process or reflecting on his actions, Dov made jokes and shared personal stories – adding levity and proving that a performance review can be taken seriously and be fun.
LRN recently published a research report on the State of Moral Leadership in Business which said that leaders acting with humility are 22x more likely to be trusted by their colleagues. While I can’t prove the statistic in the context of Dov’s performance review, I can say that his vulnerability was infectious for me. As an HR professional who has been trained in the belief that a performance review is confidential and best conducted one-on-one, I was apprehensive to say the least about taking on the planning and execution of this ‘out of the ordinary’ review. I had my fair share of “what ifs” I had to work through. I had to extend trust to my colleagues that they would speak openly and be constructive. More importantly, I had to trust that, by Dov showing this level of vulnerability, others would be inspired to do the same during their own reviews. While I suppose only time will tell on the last piece, what I can say for sure is that the virtuous cycle in the extension of trust has helped me grasp a deeper understanding of what it means to bring our core values “off the wall” and into daily practice.
Danielle Schlar is the Global Head of People at LRN.
LRN seeks to inspire principled performance by advising and educating its partners on ethics, regulatory compliance, and corporate culture.