7 Forward-Facing Questions to Evaluate the Past

Past tense leaders don’t clarify results or methods, before you take action. But, when it’s over, they critique and tweak what you did.


Lousy leaders are wise after the fact.

Correcting the past:

Short-sighted leaders insult, belittle, and demoralize teammates when they explain what should have been done. But, what they really mean is, you should have done it the way I would have done it. They weren’t smart enough to tell you before you stepped out.

Small leaders think you’re an idiot if you didn’t do it their way and brilliant if you did.

Lousy leaders say:

  1. You should have.
  2. They could have.
  3. Why didn’t you?
  4. It would have been better if….

But, if you can’t critique the past, how can you improve?

7 questions for evaluating past performance:

  1. What were you trying to accomplish? Always explore this question before any evaluation. Leaders who give advice or criticism before clarifying your goals are pressuring you to be like them.
  2. How do you know you succeeded or failed? (Observable behaviors and results)
  3. What did you do to achieve your desired end?
  4. What worked?
  5. What didn’t work?
  6. What will you do differently next time. (Not, what do you wish you would have done.)
  7. How can I help?

6 questions when performance falls short:

  1. How important, on a scale of 1 to 10, is improving your performance in this area, to you? Once a performance issue is identified, always ask a form of this question, first.
  2. What does improvement look like in behavioral terms?
  3. Who do you want to be, while performing this activity?
  4. How do you want to be perceived by others, with this situation in mind? (Yes, perceptions matter.)
  5. What will you do, in behavior terms, to achieve your goals? Or, you could say, “Let’s try …”
  6. How can I help?

How can leaders improve past performance in forward-facing ways?