Money For Lunch – Every Time You Sit Down You Better Know Where You Stand

Every Time You Sit Down You Better Know Where You Stand

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If you’re serious about winning your career, it’s important you begin to acknowledge the importance of “markers” that will track your progress. In most of the business and corporate world, one of the most significant marker is the end of year performance evaluations.

Each company approaches employee assessment differently.  In some, it’s formal, highly systemized, and sometimes driven by policy or company guidelines more focused on legally defensible feedback than truly differentiating top talent and motivating employees to perform.

A fair and equitable Performance Evaluation process is not easy to build or to administer. I’ve personally been involved in constructing review systems and communication plans and I can safely say I learned that no matter how much time and attention is devoted to their design, there is no perfect approach to assessing people’s skills and overall contributions.

One of the reasons extends far beyond the company obligations though. It falls back on the employee and how much that individual embraces their responsibilities.

The insight/learning I would offer every career survivor – your Performance Review is not something done to you. It’s something you should be prepared to lead through.

Here’s a list of inalienable rights and responsibilities you should consider if you are going to maximize your job – and ultimately, your career. I call what follows the Employee Performance Review Ten Commandments and they include the following imperatives:

  • Thou shalt make certain you know the expectations for your job. Sounds stupid, doesn’t it? That should be fairly intuitive. Don’t kid yourself; your interpretation of what your role is and your manager’s will likely be different, sometimes radically different. It’s been my experience that there is usually a lot of misinterpretation. You can’t afford that. Sit down and discuss what is expected. Ask questions. Make sure you have a clear vision of what great looks like. The number one reason people fail – they don’t know what it is they are supposed to do. And the other reasons are far behind.
  • Thou shalt make sure you understand how you will be trained. And if your answers to the bulleted point above don’t align with the training that will be provided, ask how the gaps will be addressed. Companies are sometimes very clear in saying what they expect but much more ambiguous in providing the hands-on training needed to help you do the job. Without the training you are being set up for failure.
  • Thou shalt take ownership in soliciting and in receiving feedback and do it as early and as often as possible. Challenge your manager to offer it even if they are uncomfortable in providing it. It’s your career. You either drive it or you are a passive reactor. Take the steering wheel.
  • Thou shalt ask for as many examples of excellence as you can handle – either through your manager or via your peers. It’s hard to demonstrate outstanding performance if you don’t know what it looks like to begin with.
  • Thou shalt take notes when the subject of performance arises. Too many people fly by the seat of their pants. Don’t be one of them.
  • Thou shalt determine your performance evaluation is something you can heavily influence if you choose. But to do that requires your taking an active role in your own development. Unfortunately most are passive recipients. Wrong approach. Every formal meeting with your manager/supervisor/leader should include some degree of discussion around how you’re tracking on performance. Someone told me once, “Every time you sit down, you should know where you stand.” Pretty sage advice.
  • Thou shalt call out early on that you expect to be a top performer. Engage your manager in that undertaking. Challenge them (and yes, you will hear that term repeatedly when we talk about performance evaluations) to help you get there. Let them know you hold them just as accountable for an outstanding review as they hold you. Bold? Yes, but I will guarantee you those few who set the bar high for themselves and do the same thing with their managers set a tone that will serve them well later.
  • Thou shalt document your successes. Make that a dynamic record that you can, at a moment’s notice, provide to your manager. Use it to populate the self-assessment portion of your Mid and End of Year review. The alternative is Creative Writing 101—the mindless search to justify your greatness and to meet the time line for your review.
  • Thou shalt never pass on the opportunity to comment in writing on your review. That electronic summary is a legal document. It can dictate your next promotion, your salary increase, and yes, your job security. It is a lot more than a simple letter. Treat it as such.
  • Thou shalt retain every Performance Review you receive and plan to reference those documents as a potential Free Agent for the rest of your professional life. Again – no proof of performance equals no performance in the eyes of a prospective employer.

Straight Talk – Far too many assume employees their performance evaluation is intended to be a one-way dialogue where they sit and listen to their manager pass judgment on their contributions.  Those who truly win their career begin with optimizing their current job experience. One of the best ways is to play a leadership role in your performance discussions. Career survivors embrace their end of the bargain and they understand the power of the Ten Commandments. Remember, every time you sit down you should know where you stand.

And that begins with standing up for yourself.

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