Evaluating leadership through structured team feedback

Creative Commons licensed from Michael Porter - https://www.flickr.com/photos/libraryman/As the year draws rapidly to a close, the thoughts of many a manager turn to that most dreaded of annual tasks – the performance review. Often ignored, frequently monolithic, a good idea that has been lost in translation to some awful Word document template. Dislike them or loathe them, they are out there. Sadly, this kind of prescriptive process can often discourage what should be a worthwhile activity, that of providing some sort of formal feedback to staff on their year in review, hopefully as a supplement to the regular feedback they have been getting throughout the year (wishful thinking, I know).

But what about feedback going the other way from staff given to their managers, particularly in the case of senior level managers?

In my fifteen years of reporting to senior managers or executives, not once have I been asked for formal feedback on their performance throughout the year. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some really good managers (and some bloody awful ones), but not once has any of them given me a formal opportunity to provide structured feedback. This year, to show that I’m willing to lead by example, I’ve set up a formal feedback process to give my senior leaders the chance to share their thoughts on my 2016.

Read more

#censusfail – a case study in how not to manage peak load

CensusFailWell, I think its safe to call the result of this year’s Australian census, making it a much quicker call than our Federal election last month – the results are in, and the ABS lost. Lost to the point that makes the Australian cricket team’s recent performance against Sri Lanka look not all that bad in comparison.

It was, on pretty much all fronts, a train wreck.

Read more

Student retention – not how, but why

For the last two days I’ve been in attendance at the Strategies for Student Retention conference in Melbourne. The conference was an interesting mix of background information on retention stats in Australian higher education, strategies to improve these retention rates, arguments around the concept of students as customers, and plenty of discussion about the challenges that lay ahead for higher education. To summarise the themes of the conference in five points:

  • attrition at universities is a thing;
  • some of it is largely unavoidable, and relates to external factors in the lives of students;
  • some of it correlates to student demographics, but to varying degrees;
  • sometimes behavioural indicators can predict it;
  • sometimes intervention strategies can help students stay on if the challenges they are facing can be worked around.

I’m not going to spend time going into more detail on the above though – there are plenty of fine scholars already doing that far more justice than I can here. I will however demonstrate the variation of opinions on the matter by sharing some responses to the following question I posted on Twitter:

If I had a dollar to spend on increasing student retention, where would it be most effectively spent, and why?

Here are some of the responses I got…

Read more