Master the annual performance review

Welcome to the new year!

While you’re still recovering from that amazing holiday vacation and desperately trying to hold onto your new year’s resolution, your company wants you to reflect on the past year and tell them all about how you think you did.

It’s called the annual performance review. It’s the report card your company uses to evaluate you. Some companies take this process really seriously. Some don’t.

You, however, should take the performance review process very seriously. It’s the one opportunity the company gives you to actively toot your horn and not feel guilty about it. And the best part is that it becomes part of company records. All your glory (or lack thereof) is read, analyzed and stored for future reference and use.

So, here’s how to ace your review.

Avoid surprises |

If you’re waiting for the year end annual review to find out what your manager thinks of you, you’re screwed. You should know exactly what’s going to be on your review before you walk into your one-on-one. The only way to do this is to get periodic feedback sessions with your boss. Most bosses won’t have the time to set this up so make it your job. One of the first things you should do when starting a new job or starting a new year at the same job is to ask if you can set up periodic informal feedback sessions.

Then follow through.

Set meetings every month or at least once a quarter. It’s your job to know when your boss is unhappy with you and to fix it. Solicit “real time feedback” after a meeting or a pitch and ask for feedback directly both good and bad. It’s fresh and allows you to improve immediately. More importantly, it shows you care

Don’t sit around till the end to find out what you could have done. Too little. Too Late.

Market the hell out of your successes |

Influence your boss’s impression of you by taking action well ahead of review time. Throughout the year, you keep track of the accomplishments you’ve had … both small and large. Talk to your boss about every single one as soon as possible without appearing to be bragging. If possible, thank her for her support or acknowledge how you couldn’t do it without her help.

Then, during the annual review, make sure you line these successes up against your goals. And if you did it right, then your boss will remember all those accomplishments you guys talked about.

Brevity is key |

Seriously, don’t write a book. Be nice to your boss and try to keep your goals and commentary to no more than 500 – 700 characters. In a twitter driven world where 140 characters can move worlds, there’s nothing you can’t say in a few sentences. Use bullet points that get straight to the point. Abbreviation when used appropriately is fine. Do not use language you use to text your friends. No “LOL” or “IDK” or “WTF”

 Use numbers & well defined metrics |

Follow up your successes with quantifiable metrics. You increased sales by 13%. You decreased cost by $180K. You increased productivity by x%. Numbers make an impression. They give instant credibility.

Align your successes with the goals of company |

Some companies will distribute a set of goals for the year. In these cases, make sure that your goals and successes are aligned to leverage the things that are important to your leaders.

Even if your company doesn’t actually distribute goals, you need to figure out what’s important to your boss and the overall company.

Align your goals with those of your boss. This way, when you crush them, you make your boss look good. When he looks good, he will make you look good.

Be a marketing guru |

Highlight strengths but downplay weaknesses. If you led the successful implementation of the new ERP system but it was over budget, then focus on and highlight that you implemented it. Highlight the perceived or realized benefits. Don’t mention the fact that it was over budget.

Don’t lie |

This is a no-brainer. Don’t take credit for shit you didn’t do. The last thing you want is to be called out for being a liar. Remember, anything that goes on your review stays in the system forever. Being known as a liar ain’t a good career move.

Be positive |

The importance of displaying a positive attitude towards your job, your colleagues, your manager and your company can not be understated. The performance evaluation is not an avenue for you to bitch and complain. Remember how I said earlier that it becomes part of your permanent record?

No matter how pissed you are at something, use positive language.

In fact, you need to make sure nothing negative goes onto the evaluation. Nothing negative from you about the company, the job or anything else. And definitely nothig negative about you from your boss.

You can use the annual review to remind your boss about all the great things you accomplished … so that he remembers them when he’s deciding pay raises. You can use the annual review to secure a promotion. And most importantly, you can use the performance review process to set goals and expectations for the upcoming year. This way, when you crush them, your boss will notice.

Finally, the annual performance review a great way to set the stage for your future success at the company. By getting in front of it early every year, you can actively shape the image of you seen by senior leaders. This can be a deciding factor when they’re looking to promote from within.

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