Thursday, December 16, 2010

How to impress Goldman Sachs

One of my former Accelerator students told me about one of her college professors who brought in someone from Goldman Sachs to speak to her class. The topic of the presentation was the 360 degree performance evaluation at Goldman Sachs. Apparently, he was telling the class about how great it is and how open people are to feedback from their colleagues and how it has really improved productivity and allowed the firm to retain only the best people.

My student thought it sounded phony, so she asked him whether people's bonuses were tied to their performance evaluations. He said yes. She then asked why employees wouldn't just collude and give each other really high marks so that everyone could get a great bonus.

Some of her classmates reacted negatively, and later told her that they couldn't believe she would asked a question like that, and that it was "completely inappropriate."

But after the class ended. the speaker took her aside and told her that he has given that presentation numerous times, and she was the only student the was smart enough to look past the surface and ask such a hard question. Despite his initial enthusiasm, he conceded that she was probably right.


  1. Nice post! I would add "courageous" to "smart" in describing the student who spoke up. I'm sure most of the students in the class were very smart but there are usually only a few brave souls who will speak up at risk to their reputations/standing in situations like these. This is one of the reasons why our current market system is so lopsided and broken but that is a whole other discussion...

  2. In my opinion, (and Jack Welch), the biggest problem with business today is lack of candor. Too many people are interested in the politics of their job and will sacrifice better performance in order to be more moderate. I applaud this woman for speaking up to get to the real truth. We are all human and prone to mistakes. There is no way to continuously improve without acknowledging that there is room for improvement. No one is above reproach.