Your performance review only comes around once a year. Make it count.
Have you ever considered quitting your job after a particularly disappointing performance review?
You're not alone.
Annual performance reviews, when conducted properly, can be a valuable feedback loop and a key driver for one's professional growth. However, when a performance evaluation is poorly handled by either the manager or the employee, it can result in damaged professional relationships, decreased productivity, and low morale in the workplace.
Don't let this happen to you. Below are eight tips to help you prepare for your next performance review and make the most of this important conversation with your boss.
Document your goals.
Begin by understanding what is expected of you. Most positions have formal job descriptions, which are a great place to start. Having a goal-focused conversation with your supervisor or manager can help as well. Make every goal time-sensitive and measurable.
Regularly check in with your boss.
Most professionals set their annual goals, then place the document in their desk drawer. There it sits all but ignored for a year. Then, a couple of weeks before performance review time, they scramble to dig it out from under a pile of urgent priorities, just to discover that life overcame their formal goals.
If you want to step out of that loop, make the time to speak with your supervisor about your progress towards formal goals at least quarterly. This will allow you to course-correct while there is still time!
In addition, use every opportunity to have regular check-ins with your supervisor throughout the year. Real-time feedback allows you to correct your course and generate positive results well before the official year-end review. Better yet, when you regularly ask your boss for feedback on your performance, you're less likely to be surprised with the results of your formal performance review.
Track your work accomplishments.
We tend to get diligent about tracking our wins when it's time to ask for a raise. Unfortunately, few professionals take a disciplined approach to writing down their career accomplishments throughout the year. Start a list — a Word document, a notepad or Evernote will work equally well — and jot down things that you do well right as they happen. Be specific: Did you successfully pitch to a prospect, deliver an important analysis three days before the deadline, offer a helping hand when a co-worker was swamped, or lead a new employee orientation? Write it down now, so that you don't have to scramble later when it's time for your performance review.
Related: How to Successfully Track Your Work Wins Throughout the Year
Understand the ways in which you add value.
This point goes beyond your formal job description. Your actions and attitudes must support your company's mission and objectives in order to be seen as valuable. Focus on what adds value to every reporting relationship you have, and be sure to do those things consistently. This makes you a team member that is tough to lose or replace!
Look for opportunities to augment your impact.
Along the lines of Pareto's 80/20 rule, 20 percent of your actions typically generate 80 percent of your impact at work. Think about the parts of your job that have the greatest potential to positively impact your company's bottom line, and then consider how you could optimize the time you spend working. For some people, spending a few minutes with their manager every morning brings focus and momentum to the rest of their day. Others might find that coming in 30 minutes earlier allows them uninterrupted time to catch up and meet deadlines with less stress.
Ask for support.
Sure, your goal sheet belongs to you. That does not mean that you must accomplish all those goals on your own! We all grow and develop in contact with (and with the help of) other professionals, so speak up when you need support. The right mentor or coach can help you shorten the learning curve or find a different way to approach a tough puzzle. This is particularly important if you find that your daily tasks bear no resemblance to the formal performance review goals you chose at the start of the year. Set yourself up for success by getting realigned sooner rather than later.
Related: How to Get the Most out of a Mentor at Work
Become a model for constructive feedback.
Some of us have the benefit of working with supervisors and managers who are great at providing timely and actionable feedback with a pretty bow on top. Others must deal with feedback delivery that is less than optimal. Regardless, it is within your power to step up and model the way. Begin by asking your boss simple questions during your performance review. What is working? What is not working? What can be done? Then, step back and listen.
Thank your boss for providing feedback — positive or negative.
An immediate emotional reaction to a critical piece of feedback is perfectly normal, but expressing it may not serve you. The next time someone offers you feedback, resist the temptation to explain yourself or get defensive — simply say “thank you” for the input instead. This is not as easy as it sounds, but it has the potential to change your professional life. Every piece if feedback is valuable. Some pieces just take longer to process.
Professional growth does not just happen in the annual performance review. Sure, the meeting is a great checkpoint and opportunity to measure progress, but the best way to ace your performance review is to ask for and receive feedback frequently.
Finally, don't let your supervisor get away with some lazy take on “Just keep doing what you are doing!” or vague feedback. You should never have to guess what your supervisor thinks about your work performance. Insist on clarity because that is the only path to consistent professional growth.
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