how to help your team reflect on their accomplishments

How to Help Your Team Reflect on Their Accomplishments

Last week we talked about mistakes managers make when delivering performance feedback. So, today let’s flip the conversation around. Let’s talk about how to make these conversations extraordinary. Start by giving your employees a structured way to reflect on their accomplishments. And, prepare them to be a partner in the conversation.

8 Reflection Questions to Help Your Team Reflect on Their Accomplishments

I’m offering eight questions to help your employees reflect on their accomplishments. Every business is different, so pick the ones that are right for your team, and send them out in advance with the expectation that they will come prepared for the conversation. If it’s too late for this year, no worries. Tee this up in your first one-on-one or staff meeting of the year as a structured approach for next year’s review.

If they know you’re going to be asking these questions, they may be even more inspired to look for ways to make a more strategic contribution to the business.

1. What are you most proud of?

This is always a good starter question. It’s great to see eyes light up as people share their proudest accomplishments. And the answers may surprise you.

2. How would you describe your contribution in terms of ROI?

Probes: How would you quantify your contribution to the business in terms of business outcomes? What metrics have improved and why? Which KPIs are not where you would have hoped? Why? What behaviors or activities had the biggest impact on these results? What behaviors or activities were a distraction to accomplishing these outcomes?

Even “softer” accomplishments can be reported in terms of numbers. For example, instead of saying you conducted leadership training, think in terms of outcomes (e.g two team members were promoted; absenteeism improved 20%, 10% improvement in year-over-year employee engagement results.)

3. Which project was the most impactful to the business?

This is another way to talk about how the work they are doing contributes to strategic business priorities, and recognize the important work they are doing.

This works well, even for frontline employees who may not be involved in projects with a capital “P,” to give them an opportunity to talk about ways they have contributed to improving the business. If they don’t have any examples, this is a great opportunity to explore how they might find a more strategic way to contribute next year.

4. How have you grown professionally?

Probes: In what areas have you developed? What new skills did you learn? Which areas of your performance have most improved?

5. Who did you help the most this year and how?

This could be an employee they developed, a peer they’ve cross-trained, or the work they did with a customer or supplier.

6, And, who was most helpful to you and how?

The bonus for you on this one is that you can see which of your team member’s names keep coming up as most helpful, and recognize them for going out of their way to help others.

7. What’s your biggest lesson learned?

What did you learn and how?  How will you apply that learning in the future?

8. What got in the way?

Probes: And how can I help?

How about you. What would you add? What questions would you offer to prepare your employees to reflect on their accomplishments and have a more meaningful performance conversation?

See Also: Behavioral Interview Questions: What is Your Greatest Accomplishment

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.