Executives Get Performance Review -- at Home

You've probably had a performance review on the job. But did you ever imagine what it would be like to get rated on the job you're doing at home? What if your spouse and kids were giving the feedback?

Hundreds of executives are now finding out how they're performing on the home front by undergoing a Family 360. It's an extension of a familiar concept: the Management 360, in which executives get feedback from the boss, their peers and subordinates.

The idea is the brainchild of two human resources executives, Ben Porter and Perry Christensen, who offer Management and Family 360s through their firm, Leaderworks.

"We find that most people define success all around work and that most of their accomplishments are around things that they have achieved on the work front," says Porter. "One of the things that we try to do is get executives to redefine success to include meaningful family relationships as well."

Lee Bird recently got the results of his Family 360. The 42-year-old president of Nike spends 40 percent of his time on the road away from his family, and he worries about shortchanging them. He readily concedes that it was an emotional process.

"I was pretty nervous about how the results would come back," says Bird. "You get the people who matter so much to you telling you things that are a little hard to hear but are true."

Porter conducted Bird's feedback session and has done Family 360s for executives at IBM, Honeywell, GM, DuPont and other companies. He says one thing he hears a lot from spouses and children is "quit treating us like subordinates: we're not your employee."

"A lot of this is manifested when the individual comes home from work," Porter says. "They're used to having people jump through hoops for them … so they start barking out orders."

Wake-up Call

Porter says it can be a heart-wrenching experience for many executives.

"They've focused so much on their career and their work but at the expense of their family," Porter says. "For some of them it is a big eye opener."

Bird's reviews were prepared by his wife and seven children, ages 5 to 19.

They each answered a survey with dozens of questions, rating him on everything from how well he listens to how much time he dedicates to his family to how well he demonstrates love.

Wesley Bird, 15, told her father she was skeptical at first. "It was really weird because you want us to tell you what we really think about you?" she says. But after going through the process, she found it valuable. "I think it's really helpful both for the person and for yourself because then you start realizing what if somebody was filling this out about me?"

The Bird children gave their father high marks for planning great vacations, being a good provider and offering lots of compliments. The final report also laid out areas for improvement.

"We don't resolve our problems as quickly as we should," one daughter says.

Lee's wife, Linda, says both she and the children also talked about the need for more one-on-one time with Dad, especially in such a large family. "Each family member, whether it was a child or a spouse wants … to have some kind of individual time with dad," she says.

Linda also says she admires her husband for putting himself out there this way. Bird thinks every executive should do the same.

"I've heard so many stories about people, that suddenly their wife asks for a divorce and they had no idea it was coming. Or their children just suddenly explode and say 'you don't understand me, you never have,'" he says. "I'd rather know now. I'd rather know what the issue is so I can work on it."

He can be sure he'll hear about it if he doesn't.