My 2015 Performance Review

As I mentioned in a previous post, in June Riot Games kicked off a very different performance review process compared to most companies. Our goal is self awareness and development, with no ratings, 360 feedback from peers and direct reports, and full transparency (meaning, you know who said what about your performance). It’s our annual time of year to go deep on the impact you’re having at Riot, looking for themes and exploring what development you need to be even better. The whole process this year has been branded with a tagline: “Better Feedback. Better You. Better Riot.”

When I wrote that earlier post, it occurred to me that if the goal is self awareness with a focus on transparency, I should post my performance review here once I received it. Don’t worry: I’m not going to cut-and-paste the whole nineteen-page document. Instead, I’m going to highlight themes and say what I’m taking from this year’s review.

Two caveats here: First, my review this year was pretty positive. I would have posted it even if it wasn’t, but I get the sense that Riot and I are still very much in our honeymoon phase. Second–and related–I pretty much hate talking about my strengths and results. I don’t mind talking about my experiences (obviously, he says, pointing to the blog), but dissecting what I’ve done and what I bring to my role feels icky and way too self-important. As a result, this post more than any other feels a little torturous to write. Let’s all acknowledge that I’m uncomfortable, shall we?

Without further adieu…

Culture

Well, good news here. Our two co-founders, my peers, and my direct reports all give me high marks in terms of being aligned to Riot’s culture and values. Whew. People seem particularly happy with my gamer empathy (meaning, I am a total gaming nerd), integrity, communication skills, my positive attitude, my curiosity and orientation towards growth, and humility. People see me as a harmonizer, someone who is actively trying to get rid of toxicity and focus on team health. They give me credit for being a good listener. To be honest, I feel very at ease and at home at Riot, and it’s nice to see that reflected back at me.

That said, I’m stretched way too thin and so a general theme is that people don’t see me as much as they’d like (it’s not much use being a good communicator if I never get the message out). I’m a good listener, but sometimes listen too much and need to be more ruthless with my priorities and time. So yes, the message here is that I both need to spend more and less time with people. I take this as a sign that in general I’m not using my time well, so need to think about my weekly priorities and calendar.

Also, I’m direct and not conflict averse, but I do wait quite awhile to give people tough feedback, because when I sense something wrong my instinct is to go gather more information instead of send a flare up. As a result, people can flounder unnecessarily long on my watch. In a heavy feedback culture like Riot’s, I probably need to put my thoughts on broadcast more often.

All in all, though, thumbs up.

Craft

More good news: people at Riot see me as a deep “HR craftsman.” They describe me as “T-shaped,” meaning that my expertise is both broad and deep. In general, it seems that people are comfortable that I know what good likes like in Talent and keep a high bar on quality. On the specific attributes we’ve identified as important to being in Talent–things like approachability, interpersonal savvy, and business acumen–I get high marks. I’m a good people manager, and that too is a craft where I can (and do) apprentice others.

As one reviewer said after extolling my craft expertise: “Huzzah!”

Results

And then there’s results, the bottom line impact.

On one hand, I’ve spent my time onboarding, learning Riot and the games industry, and building relationships across the company, which are all start-up costs in a new company. I’ve made several changes to the Talent team–some offboarding, some restructuring, and some hiring–and all of these changes have been seen as positive. We’ve shipped some sweet products (including performance reviews!) that are largely seen as wins across Riot. Pretty much everyone sees the trajectory for Talent as a good one, with us building momentum and credibility month in and month out.

That said, here is what I said in my self review:

Sadly, I think at best I met expectations for my first nine months here. Partly this is because the expectations for me coming into Riot were high, so it was going to be difficult to exceed them.

That said, I’m pretty critical of my impact so far. I’ve been spread too thin, and often focused on the urgent rather than important. I think in a month I will have filled three of my six open direct report roles, but that’s taken nine months to accomplish. Without those roles filled, I’ve been playing sub-discipline leader and product lead across Talent constantly, and moving a lot of work slowly forward. Several projects are in the same place as when I arrived. The one complaint I know is constant about me so far at Riot: No one feels they get enough time with me.

The Talent team is in a better place than when I got here, but not dramatically so. The products have been good, not great (and several sub-par). There is a good foundation there, but I hope this next year will be significantly more impressive than this first one.

That may sound harsh, but I also see it reflected in the comments from those around me. People see me as an awesome culture fit, as a T-shaped craftsman, and are truly happy that I’m here at Riot. But do they think the needle has moved in significant ways at Riot around Talent? Has there been a sea change? Have we done anything that has blown Rioters’ minds?

Nope. Not yet.

My confidence is high that the next nine months will deliver a heck of a lot more results than the first nine months. But from a purely scoreboard kind of way, I still have a lot of room to improve.

That’s what I took from my first performance review at Riot. Again, I’m posting it here for transparency (many of the people who read my blog are Rioters), and also because writing all of this down continues the depth of my reflection on the themes so far. As advertised, this process has been ripe for self awareness and learning, and an important moment in time to pause and look around. Also as advertised… sheesh, uncomfortable.

Here’s hoping your own annual performance review has brought similar insights, and that you’re sharing those insights with others!

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