How many times have you come out of your performance review and felt you had been “rolled”? Can you honestly say that you had invested in the best preparation you could have? How would you like the next one to be a “punch in the air” experience?
How can you take ownership of your performance review?
As I said in last week’s introduction to performance management, most large businesses have (sometimes very formal and system / process driven) monitoring and review systems where there is a risk of “going through the motions” without any real “heart”. And that on the opposite end of the scale many, many small businesses don’t have such systems at all, where often any form of measurement and management is “up to the boss”.
My emphasis in this week’s post is that I encourage you wholeheartedly to take ownership and to take control of your career. One part of that is your utilization of the performance management system to help you achieve that.
It doesn’t matter whether there is a system in your company or not and whether it’s a good one or average or even poor one. One of the biggest differences you will be able to make to how you are perceived and positioned in your organization (amongst your subordinates, your peers, your stakeholders and your boss(es)) is how well prepared you are. And how well you drive your performance review.
There are a few “rules” that we need to learn and then to play. None of them is “rocket science”, but they all add up to you influencing better outcomes for yourself and your career.
Do you have a performance review plan?
Like any other management science, you need to have a plan. If it isn’t created or imposed by the company performance management system, I urge you to develop one for yourself.
You will probably have a position description (PD) outlining your roles and responsibilities, and your authorities so as to be able to do your job. If you don’t (and I’m still amazed how many organizations don’t) then it is incumbent upon you to draw one up, even if it’s just the way you see it. You can always discuss it with the boss, and engage them to become accountable. Once that is done for your overall job, it’s time to look at bite-sized chunks, starting with the year ahead.
What do you need and want to achieve in the year ahead? What are the Key Result Areas (KRA’s) of your PD? What are the Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) that make up the most prominent areas in which (you and) your role is expected to deliver results and outcomes for the salary (or contract rate) you earn and often for the incentive or bonus you may earn?
Preparing, Measuring and Monitoring
How will you and your manager be able to measure whether you have achieved or exceeded your goals or objectives or underperformed in them? The more tangible or measurable you can make them, the less room there will be for “interpretation or negotiation”.
This is where good performance management starts – preparation. It is worth investing energy in this up front and forms the first part of the “negotiation” where the targets for the year are set and agreed. Use all the skills we have learned before so you don’t allow yourself to be “rolled” here.
Apart from actually delivering the results, it is also just as important for you to collect any form of artifact or supporting evidence of how you are tracking towards those goals. Not just at the end of the year, but throughout.
How to Use Facts, Anecdotes and Opinions
I like to differentiate three categories of measurement for performance management preparation:
- In any performance review there need to be measures that are represented as a collection of facts, for example where they are set numerically like KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators).
- “project deliverables implemented on time (date xyz) and within budget ($x)”
- Or: “number of severity one incidents”
- Or: “meet or exceed budgeted annual revenue of $9,500,000”.
The company reporting system should confirm that. If you can, avoid personal “boss spreadsheet numbers”. Be sure you can corroborate such to the “official numbers” leaving no scope for any argument.
- Anecdotal evidence is usually less factual. However, like a testimonial, it can be an important source of results related input that while not necessarily based on facts, it is the summation of a collection of (even personal) views that lends them similar weight to measurable facts. For example it could be a collection of survey results from a customer survey which may have intangible views or specific responses to specific questions. Whilst not scientific, the volume of “symptomatic feedback” can make it credible and usable. There is often still some room for interpretation here, which can work both ways.
- The last category is opinions where subjective and “unprovable” views are collected and/or expressed, usually by individuals, and often by bosses. They are often hard to argue or challenge. The credibility and the power of the opinion holder can colour and influence the value or the impact of the feedback.
I like to my clients assure the right ratio across the three. If say there were 10 attributes being reviewed overall, then:
- Opinions should have no more than 1 – 2
- Anecdotes should have about 2 – 3
- Facts should make up 5 – 7.
Not One, But Many Ongoing Performance Review Discussions
During the year it is advisable that interim discussions on performance take place, so it isn’t all left to one conversation at the end of the year. A little like having “tests” or assignments during a year at school or uni and it not all depending on one exam at the end. That way corrective action can be taken that helps with learning as well as keeping performance on track.
How You Can Leverage The 80/20 Rule
When it comes to preparing for the review I like to suggest you do a self-assessment and concentrate on gathering facts, evidence and anecdotes for things you did really well. If you take the Pareto Principle you should have say 80% in the good performance area and perhaps 20% in the areas you need to do some work on, whatever that ratio is.
Make sure you have sufficient information to support the 80% positive results, and I would urge you to analyze the 20% and break it down further into parts:
a) Things you could influence, but didn’t.
b) Things outside of your control.
and then pro-actively work out a range of approaches and measures that:
c) You will do to remedy them.
d) What you expect the company to do to help you remedy them.
Who is Driving The Dates?
If there isn’t an automatic and formal date set by the system, I suggest you seek and make the appointments during the year and for your final review. You are ready and prepared. Go for it.
Ensuring The Right Location
I like to suggest that this meeting isn’t held in the boss’ office. I would urge you to suggest “neutral ground”, so any “territorial office influence” is negated. It is after all a negotiation and any odds you can “stack in your favour” should be sought.
Taking Control – First The Solid Performance
If you recall from previous blogs, Who is driving your bus? you should try and take control of this conversation. It is your performance you are talking about. Come out on the front foot and drive the conversation first on the areas you did well on and covered by facts, where there can’t be any doubt or interpretation. Then moving into areas further up the triangle, but on the positive side, nonetheless. Ask for confirmation to establish where and what you are in agreement with.
Taking Control – Then The Weaker Performance
Then move the discussion on to the weaker performance areas and pro-actively highlight the areas a) to d) above that you prepared. Don’t be afraid to discuss these. Be upfront, not defensive. I am not suggesting you are “cocky”, but take the energy and attitude from the confidence you derived from your preparation.
Remember if you aren’t that confident, then this is a good time to “choose to act with certainty” as I described in Confidence, Certainty and Doubt.
What Can You Add, Boss?
Don’t be afraid to ask the boss what he or she would suggest you can do in addition to your suggestions to improve your performance in the next period. This is a good area to “fetch” what development you want.
(By the way, it is these “gaps” in performance that many more people are now engaging coaches to help them assure the outcomes they seek in much shorter time frames.)
Past, Present And Future
This conversation shouldn’t just look back at your performance. It should also do justice to looking forward where you can discuss “where you want to go”. And hear the boss’ view on “where the company thinks you could or should go”.
However, this is where you also need to be prepared. It is your career and you should be willing and able to “fetch” what you want. Don’t passively wait for the boss to “bring” ideas and opportunities for you and your career. If you allow the latter, then you are giving away that control to the company and they will place or develop you where it suits them best.
I would suggest that at this stage of the conversation you would have built a strong rapport with the boss, so that you can maximize what it is that you want to achieve from the discussion.
In your preparatory planning for this review, make sure you leave enough time for this aspect of the discussion. Don’t allow time management to rob you of the opportunity to really drive what you want going forward.
How To See The Performance Review As A Negotiation Strategy
Also, like in any negotiation, know what you need to and want to achieve in your “big picture”, perhaps in the longer term. What is imperative that you need to achieve and if necessary to “fight for” in this review (right up to having defined a “walk away” point)? And what may prove to be more expedient to leave for “next time” or use as a “trade off”. If you choose the latter, remember to flag that you are doing so, and if possible ensure it is recorded.
So What Next?
So what do I consider the most important aspect of any such performance review? Like what I consider most important for every negotiation – Preparation.
It is those that have done their homework that will drive the best outcomes. My experience is that most people “wing it”, including the bosses; often through Complacency and for the bosses it’s often the “busyness level”.
In my experience, if you are well prepared and confidently in control of “driving your bus” you will achieve a significantly better outcome than if you go in passively. Good managers will appreciate and respect your preparation and your “at cause” attitude and behaviour. Most would prefer a healthy discussion on an outcome than if they have to do all the driving.
And if you really want to be sure of a “punch in the air” outcome, why not engage yourself a coach? We can help you drive such an outcome, in the preparation, in the delivery and in the negotiation.
What if you could?
Click here for the other 2 blogs in this trilogy: