Thursday, October 23, 2014

How to Help Yourself and Your Fellow Colleagues with the Year-End Performance Review Process

October is the golden month. Most fiscal calendars come to an end and many organizations enter or conclude a “strategic planning” phase. This “strategic planning” phase often ends with budgeting and the dreaded performance review process. We all know that performance reviews are directly tied to our earning potentials and overall future with our respective organizations. Personally, this time of year has always been a breeze and I usually come out in January with a final review that mirrors my own thoughts on my performance. However, this year was one for the record books. A lot of tears, stress and sleepless nights could sum up my preparation process, for my impending review on November 1st. All the drama was mostly because I was in a new job and in a new department working amongst a group of very serious and cutthroat individuals. However, I think that there is a better way to handle this process without putting yourself through the nonsense that I just went through. Here are a few tips that can help you and your colleagues in preparation for and during the year-end performance review process, at your respective organizations.

1.)    Identify Your Peers, Get to Know Them, Learn from Them

Make it your duty to know who your direct (same title/level) peers are within your group, business unit, shift, etc. I am a huge fan of coffee chats and networking lunches. Extend invites to all of your peers for 15-30 minute coffee chats. During this conversation, find out their background, what projects they are working on, and what are their short and long term career goals. Are they seeking a promotion next year? Do they covet a certain project? Are they looking to build a certain skills set or experience? Are they looking to change careers or further their education? Be transparent and willing to share with this person as well. Don’t just conduct an interview with them, go deep and share the same things with them. Once you’ve both shared, ask them what you can do to help and how they can help you. Be willing to share, this will help you further down the line.

2.)    Setup 1:1/Updates with your Direct Manager or Supervisor

This can be tricky, but you need to push for something. If your Manager can’t meet with you weekly, try for something bi-weekly, monthly or quarterly. You don’t want the end of the year to come and that final discussion to be the first discussion you are having with your manager. Once you get your manager to agree to have updates with you, come to each update prepared and serious about the discussion. Prepare an agenda and send it to them ahead of time.  In that agenda be sure to discuss current projects you are working on (including your thoughts on it), your upcoming projects and pick one related business case to share. The business case can be something a competitor is doing, a news story you recently read or something that you know your manger is fond of. Also be sure to solicit feedback on your performance to date. You can pick a certain project and say “I’d love your thoughts on my work with client X.” Always be respectful of the person’s time and stick to the designated time frame.  

If your manager pushes back and refuses to meet with you, make sure you present this as constructive feedback during that final conversation. Let them know that your performance is very important to you and meeting with them a few times a year for feedback and touch points would be helpful. They might budge, if not, you might need to consider looking for a job with another organization that will respect your development.

3.)  Keep a Detailed Calendar, Folders for All Projects, and/or Separate Notebook of Tasks and Action Items

I am a proponent of detailed calendar entries in outlook and labeled folders for each project I am working on. I keep folders on my hard drive to store related documents, as well as folders in my inbox to separate emails pertaining to each project. I used to additionally keep a running word document on one of my screens with tasks and action items.  In your calendar entries be sure to list out who you meet with, their company and titles, and action items. Put as many details as possible. At the end of the year when you need to craft your story on the value and contributions you made, you can easily reference the calendar and paint a clear picture.

4.)    Reward Your Colleagues for Good Work, without Them Asking You

If Jason saved your ass on something, give him recognition. If your company has a reward system in place then utilize it. If not, send Jason’s manager a note letting he or she know what the problem was and how Jason helped you solve it. Jason’s manager will save this and use it at the end of the year for his performance review. You might help Jason get the promotion he was praying for. Sometimes it may not be beneficial to send Jason’s manager a note in that particular moment.  This is where a “list of business partners” comes into play. Keep a running list of folks you worked with throughout the year. Doesn’t matter if they are a peer in your business unit, group, etc or in another area of your organization. When the performance review process begins, look at that list and let all of those people know that you are happy to provide feedback on their work to their manager if they need you to.

5.)    Help a Skip Level

               This is just a good karma practice. Find a way to help a Skip Level (someone two levels or more below you). Bring that person into a project or leverage their expertise for something you are working on. This is great for you more seasoned professionals. A younger person in the organization may know more than you on things that are more relevant to their age group. Find a way to tap into that talent pool. Let’s say you have a project that you are working on for a client in California and your behind (like me) has never left the east coast. Find a skip level with knowledge of that region and pluck their brain on it. When the end of the year comes, draft a note to their manager letting them know how you were able to leverage their expertise on that particular project and highlight the end result. For a skip level it will help if you list numbers and results. For example:
Jean was very instrumental in helping my team understand the west coast fast-casual dining market during our negotiations with California Pizza. This resulted in a 5-Year, $15M contract where we expect to see 8-12% in incremental growth on their product line by 2017.”

That’s a golden ticket endorsement for a skip level and will help them a long way in their evaluation. In my organization you never know when you might end up reporting into someone who was skip level to you at some point. It’s very important to forge relationship up, down and across.

These things will ultimately help you craft a story that will lay the groundwork for you to move forward within your chosen organization or industry.

May you all be blessed with perfect ratings and high raises!

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