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Chapter 7
United States


Mike Luckenbaugh
Chameleon Technologies
Technical staffing and professional services
42 employees, founded in 2000

When I sat down with Mike Luckenbaugh, co-founder of Chameleon Technologies (“Chameleon”), he struck me as someone who is very likable and easygoing, which helps explains the success of his company. Chameleon provides consulting services, temporary staffing, and recruiting for some of the largest companies in the Puget Sound region, including Microsoft, HTC, and REI.

Chameleon undertakes strategic planning once a year in December and then reviews the goals quarterly to see how they’re tracking. Mike shares the outcome of the strategic planning in a company-wide “State of the Union” address with the troops to get them rallied and on board. Mike discussed the following approaches to keeping his forty-two employees happy and committed to continued growth.

Leverage Employee Feedback in Review Process

Employees complete a form prior to their annual review. They document their successes, areas for improvement, and wins. Then management completes a similar form. During the meeting, they match the feedback from both sides and really dig in, especially in areas with discrepancies. The meetings usually take about an hour.

Quantitative Scale for Raise

Managers grade reviewees on a scale, then tally all the points. An employee must hit at least forty-five out of fifty points to warrant a pay increase. The qualitative feedback in the process is quantified for easier comparison and performance tracking.

Share the Spreadsheet Love

Mike is a self-admitted spreadsheet wonk. He tracks performance and productivity all via spreadsheets. And he leverages a corporate shared drive to share reviews and progress internally with other key members of his team.

Praise (a Lot) in Public

During their standup meetings, Mike often praises people in public. He’s a big believer in giving people recognition and respect in front of their peers and the entire company.

Giving public recognition is so simple. But how many times in the past week have you given public recognition, especially to more than one person? Or given public praise to someone who is not a direct report?

I know that whenever I provide public recognition, it sends a wave of positive peer-to-peer recognition throughout the company. As leaders, we should always aim to give recognition on a consistent basis to our direct reports and to those who aren’t our direct reports. Give to get.

— David Niu

More is Better

Mike employs a monthly 1-on-1 meeting rhythm because he’s able to resolve any issue quickly before it gets out of hand. For the 1-on-1, the reviewee fills out a form with eight different sections one hour before the meeting and sends it to Mike. They’ll then sit down for about an hour—the duration of the review—to discuss all 8 sections together.


They say that companies embody the personality of the founders. If this is true, I can only imagine how much clients enjoy working with Mike and his team, given his amiable personality. But even with a friendly founder and work environment, there’s bound to be anxiety and issues during annual reviews, especially when expectations don’t line up. Therefore, I understand why one of the reasons Chameleon boils the qualitative feedback down into a quantitative points system is to depolarize potential conflicts.