I’ve posted a lot over the years about feedback in all forms, but in particular how much I benefit from my 360 reviews and any form of “upward” feedback. I’ve also posted about running a 360 process for/with your Board, modeled on Bill Campbell’s formula from Intuit.
I have a lot of institutional investors in our cap table at Return Path. I was struck this week by two emails that landed in my inbox literally adjacent to each other. One was from one of our institutional investors, sharing guidelines and timetables for doing CEO reviews across its portfolio. The other was from one of our other institutional investors, and it invited me to participate in a feedback process to evaluate how well our investor performs for us as a Board member and strategic advisor. It even had the Net Promoter Score question of would I recommend this investor to another entrepreneur!
The juxtaposition gave me a minute to reflect on the fact that over the 18 years of Return Path’s life, I’ve been asked to participate in feedback processes for Board members a few times, but not often. Then I went to the thought that all of my reviews over the years have been self-initiated as well. Just as it can be easy for a CEO to skip his or her review even when the rest of the company is going through a review cycle, it can be easy for investors to never even think about getting a review unless they get one internally at their firms. I suspect many CEOs are reviewed by their Board, if not formally, then informally at every quarterly Board meeting.
It’s unfortunately a rare best practice for a venture capitalist or any other institutional investor to ask for CEO feedback. I bet the ones who ask for it are probably the best ones in the first place, even though they probably still benefit from the feedback. But regardless, it is good to set the tone for a portfolio that feedback is a gift, in all directions.