3 Ways to Prepare for a Better Performance Review

It had been an insane but productive year of game-changing projects and really long hours. I was proud, but exhausted. We had our final push just as the holidays were approaching, and I was more stressed then ever. My phone rang and Laura, my boss, told me she needed my accomplishments a week earlier than expected. I was beyond annoyed. Laura knew what we had done. I didn’t have time to write it all down.

But she was the boss so I slapped something together and sent it to her. Ten minutes later the phone rang again. “Karin this is crap. There is no way this is a good summary of what you’ve done this year. Here’s what I need…” Laura then gave me a long list of metrics, correlations, and ROI calculations to do.

Now I pushed back, “That’s going to take all night! What do want, my other deliverables or all this? I can’t do both.”

“Find a way.”

I did.

What I learned a month later was that she had submitted my name for a big award that came with an all expense paid trip for two (and a week’s extra vacation) to Puerto Rico. She knew I needed the rest. Boy was I glad she’d pushed me so hard. As I sat on the beach sipping my chardonnay, I vowed to never blow off preparing for a performance review again.

Here’s what I learned from Laura about showcasing your accomplishments. Give it a try as you prepare for your own performance review, or share with your team to help them prepare for their meeting with you.

3 Ways to Prepare For a Better Performance Review

1. Numbers, Numbers, Numbers

Don’t just say what you did, calculate the business impact. If possible calculate the ROI on your projects (of course this is a lot easier if you do it along the way versus pulling an all-nighter). If ROI is too much of a stretch calculate percent improvement in key metrics.

Even the soft stuff can be reported in terms of numbers. Don’t say you invested in developing your team; instead share that three of your team members were promoted. Don’t say you conducted three teambuilders; share that absenteeism went down 20% and that you have a 10% YOY improvement in the employee survey metrics.

As you plan for 2015, be sure you’re also planning which measurements and correlations you’d like to be using to showcase your performance this time next year.

2. Write Down Where You Need to Improve

Nothing impresses me more than when employees come to their review with a spot-on list of what they could have done better, areas for development, and how I can help. Approaching your review with such confident humility immediately puts your boss in helping mode. I guarantee the review will feel better and go more smoothly from both sides of the desk.

3. Gather Additional Perspectives

The end of the year is a great time for a Do It Yourself 360. Knowing where you stand with others will lead to richer discussion with your boss.

Often it’s the best performers who are too busy to “toot their own horn” and document their accomplishments well. It’s not bragging, it’s useful. Make life easier on your boss this performance management season, and invest the time to prepare properly.

Who's Really Writing Your Performance Appraisal?

The best leaders I know have one song stuck in their head as they enter performance appraisal season.

“I can’t get no satisfaction? Nope

“You can’t always get what you want?” I sure hope not.

I see them humming, that old Christmas classic, “Do you Hear What I Hear?”

Where The Input Begins

Great performance appraisals are not written in a vacuum.

Chances are your boss is looking from a good bit of input into your performance appraisal.

Great leaders know they only have one perspective.

They go for more, and ask around. Hopefully, that starts with you. Here’s your chance to influence the situation. There are at least four places your manager is looking to for input.

You

The tangible results are the most important part of the performance appraisal. You are in a position to highlight some of your key accomplishments. Hopefully you had a performance agreement, or list of goals and measures you agreed to near the beginning of the year. If not, take the lead and share tangible results with your boss. Position it carefully as helpful input to lighten the load.

Focus on outcomes. What is the % improvement over last year? What is the retention and success rate of the new hires you mentored? Avoid highlighting results that just measure activity. “I visited 25 locations.” “I trained 15 classes.” It’s also fine to share some of the behind-the-scenes work your boss may have missed– particularly work you did for other workgroups or special projects.

Your Peers

A recent study by TribeHR of 20,000 employees found 85% of the recognition employees receive throughout the year comes from peers, not bosses. And, the amount of recognition correlates to end-of-year raises. I don’t know the ins and outs of the study, but I believe the premise. While employees are not supposed to talk about ratings or pay, I always assume something will leak out. It’s important that the people rated at the top are viewed as key contributors, and their peers would smile and say, ‘well deserved, that makes sense.”

Other Key Stakeholders

This is important no matter what kind of role you are in. Are you in HR? You boss will likely ask those you support about your style and impact. Are you in a field job? Your boss may go to Finance and ask how you are to work with. No, it’s not time to go buy pumpkin cheesecakes for all your staff support. However, it is good to know that others may be asked for input and to consider that in your interactions throughout the year.

Their Peers

Not everyone does this. I always do. Before anyone submits a rating, I always meet with my direct reports as a group to go through anyone being rated on either end of the performance spectrum. It always leads to interesting dialogue about perceptions and hidden interactions. Ideally, you do it a few times a year, so nothing new surfaces this late in the game.

You want everyone in that meeting nodding enthusiastically when your boss submits you for a top rating.

Who’s Really Writing Your Performance Appraisal?

The best leaders I know have one song stuck in their head as they enter performance appraisal season.

“I can’t get no satisfaction? Nope

“You can’t always get what you want?” I sure hope not.

I see them humming, that old Christmas classic, “Do you Hear What I Hear?”

Where The Input Begins

Great performance appraisals are not written in a vacuum.

Chances are your boss is looking from a good bit of input into your performance appraisal.

Great leaders know they only have one perspective.

They go for more, and ask around. Hopefully, that starts with you. Here’s your chance to influence the situation. There are at least four places your manager is looking to for input.

You

The tangible results are the most important part of the performance appraisal. You are in a position to highlight some of your key accomplishments. Hopefully you had a performance agreement, or list of goals and measures you agreed to near the beginning of the year. If not, take the lead and share tangible results with your boss. Position it carefully as helpful input to lighten the load.

Focus on outcomes. What is the % improvement over last year? What is the retention and success rate of the new hires you mentored? Avoid highlighting results that just measure activity. “I visited 25 locations.” “I trained 15 classes.” It’s also fine to share some of the behind-the-scenes work your boss may have missed– particularly work you did for other workgroups or special projects.

Your Peers

A recent study by TribeHR of 20,000 employees found 85% of the recognition employees receive throughout the year comes from peers, not bosses. And, the amount of recognition correlates to end-of-year raises. I don’t know the ins and outs of the study, but I believe the premise. While employees are not supposed to talk about ratings or pay, I always assume something will leak out. It’s important that the people rated at the top are viewed as key contributors, and their peers would smile and say, ‘well deserved, that makes sense.”

Other Key Stakeholders

This is important no matter what kind of role you are in. Are you in HR? You boss will likely ask those you support about your style and impact. Are you in a field job? Your boss may go to Finance and ask how you are to work with. No, it’s not time to go buy pumpkin cheesecakes for all your staff support. However, it is good to know that others may be asked for input and to consider that in your interactions throughout the year.

Their Peers

Not everyone does this. I always do. Before anyone submits a rating, I always meet with my direct reports as a group to go through anyone being rated on either end of the performance spectrum. It always leads to interesting dialogue about perceptions and hidden interactions. Ideally, you do it a few times a year, so nothing new surfaces this late in the game.

You want everyone in that meeting nodding enthusiastically when your boss submits you for a top rating.