Questions for Your Personal Annual Review

December 10, 2023




In this 8020Info Water Cooler we look at questions to assess your personal performance, getting rid of “barnacles”, choosing a few key goals for action in 2024, reimagining marketing with AI in the mix, avoiding pitfalls in one-on-one meetings, success factors behind outperforming family-owned businesses, and our year-end shout-out. Enjoy!


1. Questions for Your Personal Annual Review

As we move towards a new year, you may find it helpful to conduct the personal annual review that consultant Stephen Lynch shares on his blog:

  • What were my wins? Make a list of all your wins for the last year, and the key lessons you took away from each.
  • What were my losses or failures? List all your losses or failures, and the key lessons.
  • What did I change my mind about? He says you should think of updating your beliefs and operating assumptions as “software updates” for your brain. If you can’t think of a time when you changed your mind on something, that is potentially a bad sign.
  • What activities, people, or projects energized my life? Review your calendar and list all the things that energized you (work-related and personal). Can you increase those types of experiences in 2024?
  • What activities, people, or projects drained my life? What specific changes will you make in how you allocate your time to reduce such drains?
  • Who (or what) are the ‘barnacles” in my life? Barnacles are crab-like creatures that cling to boat hulls. How can you reduce or eliminate them from your life?
  • What issues do I regret not taking action on? What benefits did you miss out on? What courageous actions will you commit to in 2024?
  • What do I need to say NO to? Famed investor Warren Buffett says “the difference between successful people and very successful people, is that very successful people say NO to almost everything.”


2. Developing Goals for Next Year

Buried within your answers to that personal annual review lie some goals for next year. Others will crop up as 2024 nears and you ponder that turn of the calendar, hopefully during some holidays.

Write those goals down. Research has shown you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals if they are written down, consultant Allison Walsh notes in her book She Believed She Could.

But not too many goals.  “Instead, carve out dedicated time and space to go after one at a time. For example, if you have four goals you want to achieve during a year, try tackling one every 90 days, instead of all four at once. Chances are you will make more progress, be less overwhelmed, and gain confidence as you go,” she writes.

Schedule check-ins on your calendar.  “And I do mean put them in your calendar now,” she stresses, recommending quarterly reviews but also monthly “pulse checks”.

Commit to daily action.  You don’t want to leave everything for the end. She recommends 90-day sprints, with 90 opportunities to make it happen.

Deal with or diminish your fear.  She notes fear plays a major role in even getting started. Write down what is getting in your way, so you can face up to that fear. Ask why you are feeling that way and what evidence you have to justify why you expect negative outcomes.

Finally, get an accountability partner.  Find a friend, someone in an online group, or a coach to help make it happen.

3. Reimagining Marketing and Sales with AI

If you work in marketing, promotion and sales, you need to change your job description and mindset. You now work in AI marketing, promotion and sales.

As consultant Jeremy Korst and Wharton School marketing professor Stefano Puntoni write in Harvard Business Review, a key role of marketing is to facilitate the transfer of information and insights from the outside environment (customers, competition) to the inside of the company and vice versa.

“AI has been — and increasingly will be — transformational in this area because it enables the processing of vast amounts of information and affords a degree of flexibility, analysis, targeting, and personalization (for example, in advertising) that human beings simply can’t manage on their own,” they say.

If that sounds a bit abstract, consider a practical report they share — Wharton professor Ethan Mollick’s experiment with how much AI could do for him on a single project in 30 minutes.

He reported it “did market research, created a positioning document, wrote an email campaign, created a website, created a logo and a ‘hero shot’ graphic, made a social media campaign for multiple platforms, and scripted and created a video.”

It’s time to incorporate AI in the way we think of marketing, promotion and sales.


4. How to Have Lousy One-on-Ones

Executive coach Dan Rockwell says there are four ways to have lousy one-on-one meetings with your staff:

  • Don’t prepare.
  • Talk exclusively about work.
  • Be formal.
  • Hog the time.

Consider those dangers before your next one-on-one with a subordinate.

On his blog he recommends considering what the person might want to feel about themselves, and about you, after the meeting. Also, of course, what do you want the person to do and how can you encourage their personal development?

5. Zingers

  • Don’t Make Them Guess:? Tell people what you need if you are to say yes to a proposal. Consultant Robyn Bolton says it’s a management cop-out to take the position “I’ll know it when I see it.” Don’t waste money and time requiring your team to be mind readers.  (Source:
  • Critical Ignoring: In a world of abundant information, critical thinking is not enough. We need critical ignoring — the ability to choose what to ignore and where to invest one’s limited attentional capacities. “Critical ignoring is more than just not paying attention – it’s about practising mindful and healthy habits in the face of information overabundance,” a team of scientists and academics write in The Conversation. (Source: The Conversation).
  • Reactions to Bragging: We tend to love bosses who brag about their accomplishments at work but loathe colleagues who do the same, new research from INSEAD suggests. Probable cause: We feel people above us in the organization have earned their success but view peers who brag as a threat to our ego. (Source: Fortune).
  • Speed Up Interview Scheduling: You can improve your hiring immediately by using a scheduling app for interviews. Recruiting specialist John Sullivan says that the lengthy back-and-forth of most interview scheduling is the longest delay factor in hiring and sends bad signals about your company to top candidates, who may be receiving offers from other organizations during the delay.  (Source:
  • Don’t Settle for Less: You won’t always get what you strive for, says author James Clear, but you will definitely get what you settle for. You won’t magically outperform your standards. (Source:

6. The List:  

Success Factors Behind Outperforming Family-Owned Businesses

In a piece on Our Insights, the management consulting firm McKinsey and Company notes that resilient, high-performing family-owned businesses combine four critical mindsets and five strategic actions.

Four critical mindsets of outperforming family-owned businesses:

  • They focus on purpose beyond profits.
  • They take a long-term perspective and reinvest in their business.
  • They are financially conservative and cautious about debt and high-risk investments.
  • Their internal processes allow for efficient decision-making.

Five strategic actions that set them apart:

  • They actively diversify their portfolios.
  • They dynamically reallocate resources.
  • They are efficient investors and operators.
  • They maintain a relentless focus on attracting, developing and retaining talent.
  • They continually review their governance mechanisms to ensure strong corporate performance across generations.

These are factors worth reviewing whether you manage a family-owned business or not!


7.  Around Our Water Cooler


What We’re Reading:

  • Harvey’s Pick: In Strategic, consultant Rich Horwath provides a thoughtful look at strategic planning that can serve as a guide for newcomers or relative newcomers. But it also has many helpful templates and tips for veterans to add to their approach. From a strategic perspective he also looks at allied issues like leadership, organization and communication.
  • Rob’s Pick: Leonard Mlodinow (author of Subliminal and The Drunkard’s Walk) is intrigued by how we use elastic thinking to adapt to novelty and embrace change. What keeps us tied to old ideas? How do we create new concepts and paradigms?  In Elastic, he shares research on how the bottom-up mind works, taking us through how we think and confront change, where new ideas come from, and how to liberate your brain from mental blocks and idea filters.


Our 2023 Year-End Shout-Out

At 8020Info, it’s been another year full of meaningful opportunities to advise hard-working boards, senior management and leadership teams across many different sectors. We’d like to say thanks to all those special people we collaborate with and serve — our clients.

Best wishes of the season from our team to:

  • AllSteps Child Care
  • Addiction & Mental Health Services (KFL&A)
  • Brockville District Hospital Foundation
  • Carebridge Community Support & Community Living Lanark Alliance
  • City of Kingston
  • FLA-OHT (Ontario Health Team)
  • Kingston Symphony Association
  • Limestone District School Board
  • Museum of Health Care
  • Ongwanada (Developmental Services Centre)
  • Outreach St. George’s Kingston
  • Oshawa Power & Utilities Corporation (OPUC)
  • Providence Village Inc.
  • Union Park Kingston (Siderius Developments)
  • United Way KFLA
  • University Hospitals Kingston Foundation, KHSC and Providence Care
  • Upper Canada Family Health Team
  • Well Suited Kington

We also salute the good works of those worthy community organizations in our hometown where we contributed this year as supporters and volunteers:

  • Community Check-In Calls with Mayor Bryan Paterson (Kingston)
  • Community Foundation for Kingston & Area
  • Community Safety & Wellbeing Committee
  • Hospice Kingston (Residential Hospice Campaign)
  • Queen’s Family Health Team Advisory Board
  • Queen’s CPCSSN Data Access Selection Committee (healthcare research)
  • SPEAKingston (community smart growth group)
  • United Way Leadership Development Series (strategy workshops)
  • University Hospitals Kingston Foundation (campaign cabinet)

May the coming year bring you a fascinating quest, great teammates for the journey and surprising new things to learn in 2024.


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8020Info helps senior leadership teams and boards develop, clarify and build consensus behind strategic priorities. Our services support strategic planning and change processes, marketing communications and research / stakeholder consultations. We would be pleased to discuss your needs and welcome enquiries.

8.  Closing Thought

“Priorities are like arms. If you think you have more than a couple, you’re either lying or crazy.”

Merlin Mann, writer and blogger