.Performance conversations often don’t feel like a level playing field; your manager holds all the cards as she/he imparts to you how your performance was perceived over the past review period. Truthfully (and I can attest to this from both sides of the desk), no one really looks forward to these conversations (management or employees). From a necessary pain in the neck to a more hopeful and aspirational intention, performance conversations are hard for everyone. There are inherent flaws in performance management that cannot seem to be “designed out”. The first is that it is nearly impossible to “summarize” someone’s performance (in a quarter or a year) in a few succinct statements or paragraphs, never mind qualifying it with a word, or a number, on a pre-set scale. Human beings are vast and complex and there is (to date) no measurement scale that will do anyone’s hard work justice.
So, what is the point of all the performance management systems and rating scales? The point of all of it is to have real, clear, useful conversations where everyone leaves with the same understanding. Ultimately it is to support the effectiveness and development of employees (and by extension, their managers) …but it sure doesn’t feel like that is the point. From determining compensation through to promotion possibilities, there is a lot riding on performance conversations.
Don’t be a passenger in this process. You are the expert on you, and the only one who was right there, with a front row seat, on every aspect of your performance. Prepare for this conversation. You may have already done some of this if your organization uses a self-review process. Go over your calendar, write down two things; your results over the review period and the impact of those results. Completed all work assignments on time? Great, that is what they hired you for, what was the impact? Impact is a rich place to find what differentiates you from your job description, helping you to showcase how you went above and beyond and why that was beneficial to your team/organization (as the saying goes, it’s not what you have, it’s what you do with it that counts). Do this not in an attempt to defend yourself from something, but in an open, honest and objective way that will help to remind both you and your manager of what you accomplished in the period.
Be ready to receive constructive, as well as positive, feedback. If your manager gives you a glowing review, with no opportunities to improve or to grow, he or she lacks skill in this process. You are an abundance of potential, and because of that a good manager will challenge you to up your game (in a healthy and constructive way). In so doing she or he will also provide support to give you what you need to do so (mentorship, training, education, time, etc.).
Performance reviews are excruciating. We come up against our greatest fears and vulnerabilities and go into this process with gritted teeth, waiting for it to be over (and that is on both sides of the desk). What if you set an intention to make this process work for you? To come prepared with your results, impacts and opportunities for development. Go into this conversation with an open mind that is ready to discuss differences in perceptions, to arrive at common understanding that strengthens this relationship and allows you to be more effective moving forward. What if you took on ownership of this (and every) performance conversation? What would it do for your potential?
“The highest levels of performance come to people who are centered, intuitive, creative, and reflective - people who know to see a problem as an opportunity.”