May 8, 2019

Performance Review Series – Step #1: Ground Yourself

Performance Reviews are one of the most important events of a professional’s yearly experience.  Are you preparing as much as you should be?

Quick survey! 

What’s the first word that comes to mind when I write the phrase “Performance Review?” Let me take a guess:

Ugh!  Yuck!  No!  Help!  Gross!  Anxiety!

Am I right??  In my 20+ years professional experience, rarely have I managed or coached professionals who are excited about this (often) yearly event.

And I was right up there too! I remember dreading the entire process, even if I felt I delivered a ton of impact to the organization.  The prep, the documentation, the conversation, the follow-up … no thanks!

Well, it’s time to finally squash that fear and dread around Performance Reviews.  With a shift in mindset and a little help from yours truly, we can turn that frown upside-down and make the Performance Review experience a good one.For the next several weeks, I’m focusing on the steps you’ll need to feel better (and more in control) about your upcoming Performance Review.  This series won’t guarantee a solid review (that’s up to you); however, it will help you feel more prepared and generally positive about the experience.

In this first week, I’m tackling the foundation – what I call “Grounding Yourself.”  Here are my best practices to make sure you nail this start of your (new) Performance Review Journey:

  • Know how you’re being measured.  I know, I know, you’re thinking, “Well, duh, Tom…” but I’m telling you, I’ve seen this time-and-time-again – when I ask clients how they’re being evaluated, I get a blank stare looking back at me.  This is CRUCIAL.  Get super clear with your manager on how s/he is evaluating you and what “good” is in their mind (use an “Avatar” employee if you have to).  And don’t forget to ask about the soft-skills too!
  • Use the right language.  Does your organization use terms like “impact” or “results”? Is “collaboration” better or “partnering”? Is there a methodology used throughout the process (STAR model, for example).  Knowing this prior is important to make sure you’re talking in the same way as your manager (and your manager’s manager).  You can get hints in your Job Description, Organizational Goal(s), Mission/Vision, and even previous Performance Reviews and/or Check-Ins with your manager.
  • Set your expectations.  This is important, especially if you’re thinking it’s time for a promotion.  If you’ve had a stellar year and you’re thinking a promotion of 20% is headed your way, make sure you’re setting yourself up for success.  Have you seen/heard of a 20% increase before? Are there promotion guidelines you can search (or ask about)?  Same with yearly merit increases – are you setting realistic expectations around these increases? If you have questions, it’s totally appropriate to ask your manager for guidelines – believe me!
  • Do your homework.  Make sure you know your sources of truth when it comes to the content of your Performance Review.  Need sales numbers? Need customer feedback? Need product usage information? Need adoption rates? Outline where, when, and how you’re going to get the information to tell your Performance Review story (more on this next week).
  • Give yourself time & check-in with those important to you.  This is one of the hardest pieces of this foundational stage – time!  Even if your manager traditionally gives you 24 hours to submit your Review, most organizations generally have the same time of year when they complete the Performance Review.  So, start prepping, even if you’re not told to!  Also, give yourself time to shop your initial thoughts around – to your peers, your Career Coach (shameless plug here), your manager, or your mentor.  Another set of eyes can make a big difference.
  • Relax!  Warning: Woo-Woo alert!!  But seriously, you’ll thank me later.  Start taking time to visualize what you want out of your upcoming Performance Review.  How do you want the prep to go for you? How do you envision the conversation with your manager? What’s next AFTER the Performance Review?  All great things to start thinking about (and meditating about if you’re into that like me)!  Promise it will help!

Your homework this week:  Get that foundation set!  Even if your Performance Review is several months away, you can still start to think about how you’re setting yourself up for success now. At the very least, make sure you’re super-clear with your manager on how you’re being measured – both the “what” and the “how.”

Coming up next time:  I’m moving onto the second phase of the Performance Review process – Telling Your Story.  I’ll outline tips/tricks to get your documentation in order and make sure you’re writing your results/impact in a compelling (and easy) way!

Here’s to your Engaged Pursuit!

Tom Perry's Signature

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