News at Smith

Leadership Malpractice on Performance Reviews

Sep 27, 2017

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BB&T CEO Kelly King

SMITH BRAIN TRUST — The worst performance review you ever had was the one where your boss told you that you’re doing great and don’t need to improve, BB&T Chairman and CEO Kelly S. King said Sept. 26, 2017, at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

“The best thing you can do to help people grow and be successful and happy is to tell them the truth about how they can improve,” King told faculty, staff and students at the BB&T Colloquium on Capitalism, Ethics and Leadership. “Most leaders don’t like to be really honest because they’re insecure. They’re afraid to speak the hard truths because they worry that people won’t like them.”

King said he often hears team leaders complain in private about certain employees. But when it comes time for performance reviews, nothing gets documented. He said that’s the worst thing a leader can do — like a golf coach who charges $100 per hour and then says nothing when students consistently slice their shots into the rough. “It’s classical leadership malpractice,” King said.

Effective leaders, in contrast, evaluate character and provide honest feedback. King said the best way to do that is to observe behavior close up. “Watch what people do, not what they say,” he said. “If what they do is consistent with what they say, and if what they say is consistent with what we’re trying to do in the company, then that’s a good fit.”

Smith School professor Rajshree Agarwal, director of the school’s Ed Snider Center for Enterprise and Markets, moderated the discussion. The annual colloquium is supported by a $1.5 million gift from BB&T in 2010.

Other topics covered by King:

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.