The Semco Style 5 Principles to transform the way we work

Assessment From The Bottom Up

One good question and one good answer are services to all. A sure sign of a troubled company is one where employees don’t care enough to ask and, if that’s the case, they’ll never care enough to fully deploy their talent. Just as curiosity is an antidote to boredom and indifference, the informed are more likely to remain interested, engaged, and alive with purpose. – Ricardo Semler


In organizations, employee performance is often assessed by a superior, but assessment in the opposite direction is less common. Surprising, since that type of feedback could actually be very valuable. Such feedback could be obtained by using a reversed system, in which employees can evaluate their managers.


By evaluating every person in an organization, you can prevent people from staying in managerial positions longer than preferable. After all, if a manager is never evaluated, you create room for them to start playing boss.

However, if a manager is also regularly evaluated and there are consequences attached to the result, you can prevent this behavior. By making the results of this evaluation transparent and by taking steps in case of recurring low scores, a self-managing mechanism can be created. Since managers stand to benefit from excellent scores, they will start considering such questions as: ‘What do my employees need? What do they like?’.

Reflecting on this and discussing each other’s interests makes it possible to increase mutual understanding. On the one hand, the feedback system motivates managers to keep their employees satisfied, while on the other hand preventing employees from only doing their job to keep their superiors satisfied.

People won’t have to wonder ‘what would my boss think of this?’ because their boss is actually also part of the discussion. That means that feedback can enable managers and employees to align their behavior more effectively.


The reverse feedback model discussed above revolves around the assessment of the performance of a superior. This can be arranged by having various colleagues fill out a questionnaire anonymously.

At Semco, the results of this survey are published generally. However, you could also opt not to release the results to the whole company at first.

If a manager gets a low score, they can talk to their team about it. This creates options to look for ways to improve. It is also important to offer that room for improvement. If someone repeatedly gets negative feedback, it’s time to consider whether this position is suitable for the person in question.

When you’ve just begun implementing this model in your company, it makes sense to have frequent evaluation sessions, which last 30 minutes or more than hour, depending on your need. Having a facilitator – someone who’s not directly involved with the team being evaluated- can help guide the session and keep discussions civil. But, we’ve come up with four questions that can really help direct the flow of the discussion, making sure it begins with a positive, appreciative inquiry that transitions into constructive criticism that leads to tangible action items.

During these sessions, it’s critical to create an atmosphere that’s respectful and conducive to learning. The idea is to seek clarification and offer constructive feedback – not to decimate coworkers by commenting on how terrible somebody’s working style is. It might be true that someone is really doing a bad job of it all, but it’s imperative to trust that the person is capable of doing the job to begin with.

The Semco Style Coaching Questions, which will guide these evaluation sessions, are deceptively simple. However, they were put together based on several neuropsychological insights and have been practically applied with great success for over 30 years. The questions are meant to be answered by both the manager and the team members.

Check the Download section at the end of this article for more content.

Level to implement



Have frequent sessions in the beginning

Have someone outside the team facilitate the session

Start with appreciative inquiry and trust


Use it as an opportunity to decimate coworkers

Make personal comments

Mix up the order of the four questions


Creates space for constructive criticism

Leads to tangible action

Managers and employees arrive at the same page


Needs time to be worked into the system

Involves the time and effort of someone outside the team

Things can get heated and personal




Expert avatar

Borges, Ian

Co-founder at LeadWise | Partner at Semco Style Institute | Entrepreneur | Lifestyle Strategist | Digital Nomad

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Portuguese, English, French, Spanish

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