Missing the point, so you don’t have to
Posted by Meg Bear on May 20, 2009
Now, I’ve mentioned before about the need to think about what a performance review means for you. What I left off was a good story about what can happen when you get it wrong.
There was a point in my life, when I worked in consulting. As can happen in that profession, the person responsible for writing my performance review was not the person who observed my work.
Being young, idealistic and very new to the concept of formal performance reviews, I managed to make a series of rookie mistakes that taught me some life lessons about managing my career. Thank goodness this firm had bi-annual reviews, so the results of my lameness, only set me back for six months. For, while I was clueless, I am a fast learner and am inclined to put a lot of energy into fixing things that aren’t working.
To be fair, I did not receive a bad performance review, it would better be described as a lackluster. The problem was that, being a typical over-achiever, I was not at all happy with getting mediocre recognition for hard work.
So what did I do wrong?
- I assumed doing a good job was sufficient. I knew I needed to be billing at a certain rate, complete my projects on time and keep my customers happy. I did that. What I did not do, was get any proof points that showed I was doing that better than average. I did not think it was my job to prove my worth, I thought that was SEP.
- I assumed the person writing my review would have an interest in adding information to my self-review, vs. just using the material I supplied. This was particularly clueless on my part since I also didn’t ever attempt to provide my boss with status or progress. He never asked and I never offered. I decided that no news was good news and left it at that.
- I left off the other things I had been doing that were unwritten and critical, to my success with the firm. This included networking events, community work, etc. I decided that those other things were small and unimportant (of course my peers did not take this narrow view).
- I failed to calibrate with my boss, using his thoughts as input to my self-review to make sure I was exceeding expectations.
In summary, I thought it was all about doing the work, and not about the process. And as a result I got what I deserved in my review. I made no attempt to distinguish myself.
Since then, I have a whole different attitude about performance reviews. I take them very seriously and I consider them my job. I now see the performance process as an ongoing focus not a once-a-year drudgery.
Things I do today as a direct result of this experience.
- I keep a performance journal. I regularly jot down things I have done that might be worth noting when I write my self-review. I don’t always use them, but I am never lacking in material as a result. I do not consider any accomplishment too small to note in my journal, since often it’s the sum of several small accomplishments that become meaningful.
- I regularly ask for feedback of others, in writing. I use this to support my case when appropriate.
- I set quarterly goals for myself, trying to make sure I have a variety of things I’m attempting to do, across different perspectives and sizes (short term, personal, professional,etc).
I firmly believe that the bonus I lost with my lackluster review, has been made up from over the years as I learned a much more valuable career lesson as a result. What about you? What hard lessons have you learned about the performance process (and yourself) that others could benefit from?