‘The great accomplishments of man have resulted from the transmission of ideas of enthusiasm.’ –Thomas J Watson
If you work in a corporate environment then you are no stranger to mid-year and annual reviews. Typically, you’re asked to review your performance and contributions over the course of a specific time period as well as reflect on your areas of opportunity and strengths. These sometimes anxiety-inducing conversations with your boss/leader or even your skip level can be a little overwhelming but they don’t have to be. Not anymore, I’m going to walk you through a few steps to bring down your stress level around these conversations, so you can go in confident and prepared. My overall standpoint on these conversations is that for the most part they should never be a complete surprise. Especially if you are having periodic conversations with your leadership. But I get it, sometimes they can blindside you out of nowhere so I’ll include some tips around that as well.
So let’s start with your periodic one on ones. If you are having any kind of regular meetings with your manager and they are not sharing feedback with you that you can use or act on, YOU have to take ownership of the situation and ASK. While growth and development in your role does involve your leadership, it actually isn’t their responsibility to be driving this for you. Can they support it? Yes. Can they help uncover opportunities and possibly make connections for you? Yes. Would it be great if they championed you and the career moves that you would like to make? Absolutely! But those scenarios aren’t always the case, so to ensure that you are continuously moving in the direction you would like, it is up to you to help drive those conversations.
Now back to the reviews!
Getting Prepped Before Your Reviews:
- These conversations provide a great opportunities to circle back on your professional goals and where you want to see your career. Make sure you have revisited your focus beforehand and have that clarity before your meeting. If you want to expand in your current role, say that. If you want to eventually learn a new role then say THAT. Just remember that performance in your CURRENT role is key so make sure you keep that in mind. Know your direction and be confident in sharing. Go in with the mindset to advocate for yourself.
- Something that may already be built into the process your company has outlined is to gather feedback from others that are familiar with your role and your work. If it is, great. Your manager may not be closely aligned to the phenomenal work you are doing so getting this feedback is helpful to highlight your contributions, collaboration, support and ideas in front of your manager. If it isn’t a part of your review process. Take hold of the reins and seek this information for yourself. This can go a long way with strengthening work relationships/partnerships. It also doesn’t have to be one sided, if you feel comfortable doing so create an opportunity for 360 degree feedback. Let your colleague know why you are seeking out this information and how the benefits of receiving this feedback around both strengths AND areas of opportunity can be mutually beneficial. Open lines of communication can make all the difference!
- Go back and review your last review (if you have one) to see where you have grown or developed. This is also a good way to pull examples to support how you have contributed and made an impact.
During the Conversation:
- Be open and honest (as open as you are comfortable with) and be willing to listen and receive the feedback that may come from the conversation. Resist the urge to be defensive if you hear something you don’t love or agree with. If it is something that could be cleared up with your examples, then this could be your opportunity to talk through it. But also keep in mind that if your review has already been completed, it may not change what has been submitted via your specific system of record but every company is different. It would depend on the company and the conclusion of the conversation with your leader.
- If there are specific skills or types of work that you want exposure to, be prepared to talk through them and how they can support your growth and even better performance in your current role. An example of this would be various training or certifications or even conferences that would be relevant.
- Create a space for collaboration with your leader that supports YOUR career goals. An example would be outlining the growth or opportunities that you want to see by the next review cycle. If you haven’t done this or haven’t been including it in your regular one on ones then you could use this to nail down some specific actions on your part as well as on your manager’s part. This becomes your “Development Action Plan”.
After the Conversation and Follow Up:
- Going forward, I know you’ll be keeping track of your contributions and feedback from your manager. Make a note of specific examples that you want to highlight in the future: Kudos/compliments for teammates or collaborators. Outcomes from projects/assignments: improvements or positive changes to processes, increased efficiencies or sales, smoother lines of communication with clients, etc. Some of what you track will depend on your specific line of work or function. I always kept everything in a spreadsheet but then again I like spreadsheets more than most, so an email folder or folder on your computer works just the same. It just needs to be somewhere you can access it.
- If you are given specific feedback that needs attention or action, make sure to keep track of what things you are doing to make any changes or improvements. You can keep this on your spreadsheet or in your folders.
- Don’t let your “Development Action Plan” from the conversation die. Review it before your one on one meetings with your manager. If you are hitting goals and milestones, update it and even add to it if it will continue to contribute to your growth and development. It likely will be just your notes from your meeting but if you want to take it a step further you can clean it up, add milestone markers and share it with your leader. (Not to mention it could be helpful when you are networking because you have a plan laid out already!)
With these tips you are armed and ready for a fruitful conversation. Not a sensitive conversation based on how you feel you are performing but one that is rooted in facts that will stupor the you in taking the necessary steps to move your career forward!
Wishing you all the success with your reviews, less stress and as always,
Onward and Upward!