I recently published a guest article on DamnGoodManager.com about doing performance reviews as a manager for your direct reports. I suspect I have a lot more readers here who are not managers but do need to prepare for their own performance reviews often. This post is about some tips on how to do that and also useful since its from a manager’s perspective (yours truly). I encourage you to read through both posts since you will see some points from the manager’s perspective that are looked for and can also then better prepare for your next performance review.
So, this article is about the things I highly recommend you do in your job to ensure you get great performance reviews, year after year! Unfortunately there is no quick answer or magic potion to brew up that will guarantee you a great review as every workplace is difference and some things simply depend on your manager. Even still, there are some specific things that if consistently practiced, will make a big difference to improve your reviews every year. Here they are:
Focus on your Main Objectives
Confirm these with your boss. Ask to meet and discuss them, so you can understand your job description and ask all the questions required so you will clearly understand what your priorities should be according to YOUR boss. If they are going to be evaluating you, you better know what they are expecting from you! If you have regular meetings or one-on-ones with your boss, that is the best time to ask and help understand these. If you don’t have one-on-ones or regular meetings with your boss, ask for some time to review this and ALSO ask to start meeting on a regular basis with your boss so you have a chance to discuss your performance and priorities and to get more regular feedback from them. Take the responsibility to make this happen if it is not already. You simply can’t afford NOT to and if you are not meeting with your boss, you cannot possible know exactly what they are expecting from you.
Make Commitments and Tell Your Boss
The only way to impress your boss and get a great review is to not only do what is expected, but to do AT LEAST what is expected. If you can make a commitment to go above and beyond that and then deliver on that, you will be highly regarded. Decide on some area that you are willing to work to excel at and tell your boss exactly what you intend to do. Delivering on something that YOU set out to do will impress. This is far more valuable than over-delivering on something asked of you. That initiative you show and desire to excel will be extremely helpful towards earning a great review.
Know Your Boss’ Job
If you know your boss’ job and can see areas that you are able to help with, you should do so. Any responsibilities you can take on that specifically free up time for your boss, is going to be the most valuable time you can spend at work, especially in their eyes. Offer to help every chance you get and ALWAYS be willing to take on new work asked of you. This may mean juggling other priorities, delegating your own tasks or simply eliminating low priority work. The things that fall through the cracks are often completely overlooked anyway.
Be Reliable and Consistent
Work consistent hours at your workplace as much as possible. Top medical animation workers are a great example. Even if you have flex time, changing your hours often and having gaps in your availability even if its the same amount of hours, never looks as good to a boss so consistency is very useful. I recommend starting earlier than most as early rising statistically get more done and are more likely to complete their goalsand achievements. Assume your boss knows this statistic as well, so starting early is a good thing. A side note when it comes to consistency; don’t EVER complain about or use traffic as an excuse for being late and try not to drastically changing your work schedule from day to day or week to week. Even if you change how you get to work from day to day, do what you can do on your own time, to adjust things so you arrive at the same time consistently. Don’t give the impression that you sacrifice your work time when you arrive later than usual because of personal travel arrangements.
Being consistent and reliably on time will build confidence in you as a loyal, dependable worker. This is important. Being consistent also means leaving at a consistent time. A lot of people feel that working late hours looks good but it doesn’t! Delivering results looks good, not how many hours it takes to do that. If you can leave consistently and still deliver, you show character and balance with your home life. Its great to be willing to work late when asked or when needed to get a deliverable completed, but a consistent worker who gets there job done well and on time is always better than someone who is having to put in extra time to deliver the same thing. Often people who work very extended hours are seen as people who waste much time during the day and so have to work late to catch up each day. This is not a good impression to give. A consistent schedule and work ethic shows dedication and trust in your ability.
When At Work, Work!
Keep all your personal activities away from your work. Don’t surf personal sites, personal email, social networking sites or any other “home” activity at the office / workplace. Oh, and turn your personal cell phone off or at least to silent mode. Personally, I recommend this even for breaks and at lunch as much as possible. Do some reading, online research (work related) or socializing and relationship building during down time at work, not personal stuff. This looks FAR more productive to your boss and peers and builds the confidence in your work ethic and productivity. Oh, and if you don’t think your boss notices the time you spend on facebook or checking the latest sports stats, you’re wrong! They do notice and it affects their impression of you.
You do Have to Talk to Your Boss
Talk to your boss regularly. Daily if at all possible. Keep him / her informed of any concerns (and indicate your reasons why), significant progress, and even setbacks or delays. If you are sharing news about a problem or setback, always provide some kind of plan to help resolve the problem and get things back on track.
You boss is looking for results, so keep this in mind when you share anything with them. Always offer some solution or suggestion for any problem and NEVER just dump the problem on them. Ask them to help YOU resolve it and make sure you offer to resolve it yourself with their suggestions or advice on how to proceed. This VERY often opens new opportunities that seem tough like new responsibilities but it is exactly these things that will impress your boss. Being willing to deliver bad news to a customer, dealing with a personal conflict with another person, or even approaching a peer about poor performance, will definitely impress your boss. NEVER expect them to deal with a problem you bring to their attention unless they say it is theirs to handle and don’t want you involved. Still offer, even if they first offer to take it on themselves.
These types of examples are great things to learn if you are not yet doing them and all helpful for you to deal with and not dump on your boss. The more chances you give your boss to see that you can handle things that they have to normally do themselves, the more impressed they will be.
Review Your Own Performance
Review your own performance regularly, work on your goals weekly and inform your boss in writing with a monthly status report. Don’t ask if you can send it to them or it they want it, just do it no matter what. They will read it and they will find it informative and helpful even if its just a summary of what they already know. That is unlikely, its much more likely a monthly status report is the best window into your job that your boss has and they will really appreciate it and the initiative you take by sending it to them every single month. Start them off by explaining to your boss that you do them as part of your weekly and monthly planning to ensure you are on track with your priorities and goals and that you also want to make sure that they (your boss) are well informed on your progress, what you are working on and what to expect of you.
You really should be evaluating your own performance in your career anyway since you are the only one responsible for it, not your boss or anyone else. I recently wrote another article specifically about taking control and manage your own career . So, schedule yourself time each week to work on your yearly goals and the activities from any previous performance reviews you want to reinforce and improve on. Put those details and others in a monthly status report. Other elements to include are:
- Project updates you are involved on or leading
- Completed deliverables this month
- Summary of new things that you have learned or studied that month (doesn’t have to be strictly work related)
- Progress and actions taken toward any goals set
- Review of any existing responsibilities with your job
- Any major hurdles in progress or that your surpassed
- Next Month Forecast: Your main one or two activities planned for the next month, what would you like to accomplish
All of this should fit on a single page of paper or so. It should be kept brief and to the point. Send it on the same day every month (by email is fine), keep the subject line consistent each month and include the date. You need to do this because your boss WILL come back to these when they prepare your performance review and it will make their job much easier if its all easy to find. That is yet another great reason to do this monthly. Other things it provides you is a plan for the month of what to focus on and to focus on results as well as a clear indication of what you are working on so that your boss has a chance to correct or change any priorities LONG before your next review. This ensures you work on the right stuff and your boss knows it every single month.
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