A small news story hit this past week and you might have missed it. It was about Facebook hiring a pollster to follow Mark Zuckerburg around to measure what people (all people) thought of him, not Facebook. Here’s a bit from The Verge:
“It was a very unusual role,” McGinn says. “It was my job to do surveys and focus groups globally to understand why people like Mark Zuckerberg, whether they think they can trust him, and whether they’ve even heard of him. That’s especially important outside of the United States.”
McGinn tracked a wide range of questions related to Zuckerberg’s public perception. “Not just him in the abstract, but do people like Mark’s speeches? Do they like his interviews with the press? Do people like his posts on Facebook? It’s a bit like a political campaign, in the sense that you’re constantly measuring how every piece of communication lands. If Mark’s doing a barbecue in his backyard and he hops on Facebook Live, how do people respond to that?”
Facebook worked to develop an understanding of Zuckerberg’s perception that went beyond simple “thumbs-up” or “thumbs-down” metrics, McGinn says. “If Mark gives a speech and he’s talking about immigration and universal health care and access to equal education, it’s looking at all the different topics that Mark mentions and seeing what resonates with different audiences in the United States,” he says. “It’s very advanced research.”
Facebook also conducted similar research on behalf of the company’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg. Surveys measured awareness about Sandberg, whether people liked and trusted her, and how they felt about her speeches, interviews, and Facebook posts…The company further measured how Sandberg’s public image compared with Zuckerberg’s. The results were shared directly with Zuckerberg and Sandberg”
Most Executives of very large companies don’t really get performance reviews. The board of directors will do something formally, but it’s all wink, wink, fairly surface level stuff, we’re all in this together, how much of a raise should we give ourselves this year kind of thing.
Can you imagine how your C-suite would respond to having themselves polled at every turn on an ongoing basis kind of performance feedback! I’ll tell you, most would lose their minds!
When I first read this, I thought, oh, this is just Mark looking into Presidency options, but when Sheryl was also put into the mix, and they were compared, that changes the dynamic. If you think about the impact of the C-suite in the largest companies in the world in terms of performance of stock price, earnings, revenue, etc., you’re talking billions of dollars to the positive or negative.
Look at what Uber’s CEO did to their brand! Can you imagine how that might have played out differently from the start if he was constantly being polled on his behaviors? Can you imagine how most executives would be if they knew they were constantly being polled on their behaviors!?
I’m not sure we need or want constant polling of executives. Bad things can happen with that as well. They become politicians bowing to the whims of the masses, and that might not be what’s right for the organization. But I do believe this Facebook experiment gives us some foreshadowing of how we might start tracking and measuring the performance of our most senior executives in the future.
Internal 360 feedback has always been a great tool to use to get feedback on our senior leaders. This kind of surveying takes it one step further in taking it outside of the organization as well.
If you want to see how this kind of constant feedback loop could go really wrong, check out Netflix’s Black Mirror Season 3, Episode 1 – Nosedive, that looks at our constant need for social reinforcement with “likes”! (Reader alert – Black Mirror as a series is super Alfred Hitchcock meets 2050 weird – don’t judge me for watching!).