June 6, 2019

Performance Review Series – Step #2: Telling Your Story

You’ve grounded yourself and now you’re ready for the second phase of the Performance Review process – Telling Your Story in a compelling, confident and concise way.

The out-of-office messages have begun. “The Bachelorette” is in full-swing. Katy Perry’s new song “Never Really Over” is on repeat (and repeat and repeat and repeat).

This can only mean one thing – summer is officially here! 

In addition to (horrible) reality TV and (amazing) summer anthems, summer also means the start of Performance Review season for many professionals.  I remember the anxiety, excitement and fear around this time of year – the potential to dip into disengagement was high! One piece of negative feedback or less-than-expected bonus and … BAM – not feeling great headed into the next 12 months.

As I highlighted last time, I’m writing about how to stay engaged before, during, and after the Performance Review process – even if the review (or money) isn’t great.  Last time, I talked about the start of the process: Grounding Yourself.

This week, I’m writing about the second (and probably most important) phase – Telling Your Story.

Because there’s often a ton of paperwork associated with Performance Reviews, it’s important to tell your story in a crisp, compelling, and confident way.  The documents will be used in a variety of ways and might be reviewed by a number of people – it’s important to get it right.

Here’s my best practices for telling your Performance Review story:

  • Get all your ducks-in-a-row. Nowadays, results are more important than ever, so getting all your data sources in order is crucial, even before you start writing your story. Are sales numbers important? Product usage? Customer retention? Positive partner feedback? Give yourself plenty of time to know where to look for this foundational element.  And also make sure the results/impact match how your manager is evaluating your performance (don’t include stuff that doesn’t).
  • Don’t forget the “How.” In addition to the “What” highlighted above, don’t forget to include elements from the softer-side:  HOW you do the work.  Feedback from customers and/or key internal partners is important. Reach-out to as many partners as possible and get well-rounded feedback.  Not getting what you want – tell folks what you’re looking for in their perspective.  Managers LOVE feedback and it often makes-or-breaks Performance Reviews (in my experience).
  • Don’t let templates hold you back. Many organizations have (boring) templates to complete as part of the Performance Review process.  I get it – there’s a certain look/feel that organizations need to get through the process in a timely fashion.  But don’t let the template hold back your story!  Think an “Executive Summary” at the beginning would help? What about a “Cheat Sheet One-Pager” that your manager could use in his/her Leadership discussions? Are there ways to highlight/bold/underline key results?  Get creative here!
  • Get perspective. I’m always so grateful when clients share their Performance Reviews prior to submitting in the tool or to their manager.  It’s such a great opportunity to get another set of eyes on the document and confirm that the key themes (and results) are coming through loud-and-clear.  Give yourself time to talk to your mentor, maybe your spouse, or your Career Coach (shameless plug here).
  • Talk to manager prior. Heck, in addition to your mentor, spouse, or Career Coach (me), why not talk to your manager directly prior to submitting? Have a quick 1:1 to make sure you’re “on the right track” and “thinking about the right results.”  Take a look at body language while having this discussion – is your manager excited about your initial thoughts? Areas of concern? This is a great time to smash any reservations prior to making it official. Believe me, this is worth any potential anxiety you might feel about doing this!

Your homework this week:  Get your story in order!  Make sure you know where you’re getting your data (both the “what” and the “how”), understand the template you’re working with, and get your community in order for review (including yours truly). This phase takes the longest, so put “The Bachelorette” on pause and give yourself plenty of time!

Coming up next time:  The third phase is up next – actually HAVING THE PERFORMANCE REVIEW DISCUSSION (gulp!!!!).  I’ll highlight my best practices to make sure the actual conversation keeps you engaged, confident, and (hopefully) relaxed.

Here’s to your Engaged Pursuit!

Tom Perry's Signature

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