As learning and development professionals, we make a living out of helping others be thoughtful about and improve their own workplace performance, yet we often fail to heed our own advice. We invest so much time on others’ career development that we often neglect our own.
Let’s change that. Take the time to be thoughtful about your own trajectory, goals and opportunity areas. Not only will you reset your focus and become more intentional in your work, but you will be well prepared for your next performance review – not to mention for walking your talk. Regardless of when your next appraisal is, make sure you’re setting yourself up for success by avoiding these five common pitfalls.
1. You Are Waiting Until the Last Minute to Prepare
When you begin a job, one of the first questions you should ask your new manager is, “How will my performance be evaluated and when?” Then, you know how much time you have to thoughtfully prepare and, when the time comes, it is no surprise.
As you achieve wins, overcome difficult obstacles or receive positive feedback, share them with your manager, and then file them away for review time. If you receive a glowing review for a recent project, forward it to your manager to share the good news. Then, move it to a place where you can easily find it later on. The easiest and simplest way is to create an email folder called “Team Wins” or “Client Kudos” and, as you receive praise, move messages into this file.
Just as meaningful as recognizing wins is keeping a pulse on the not-so-great situations that inevitably occur. Mistakes are bound to happen, but what is most important is that you are able to own them, learn from them and move on. Filing away these instances will also be beneficial come review time, so you can recognize opportunity areas and discuss how you have grown.
Your review serves as a key opportunity to highlight all of the ways you’ve succeeded in a given time period. Make sure you are able to discuss them with your manager – and specific examples are key to supporting your self-assessment.
2. You Have Not Prioritized Frequent Check-ins Throughout the Year
We know that one of the greatest contributors to employee frustration during a review is receiving new information. While you cannot control what your manager will say, you can build a meaningful relationship with him or her to promote transparency and open communication.
At the very least, you should be discussing your performance on a monthly basis, though biweekly meetings are ideal. While making time for this activity outside of ongoing deliverables can feel stressful or overwhelming, understand that these check-ins are vital to your growth and development, both professionally and personally. For example, does your manager know how you prefer to receive feedback? Do you know how he or she prefers to be engaged? Check out these four essential questions for one-on-one meetings for further guidance.
These meetings also serve as relationship-builders that will help your manager better speak to your strengths in your review. Prioritize these check-ins to ensure you have a clear understanding of your progress and that you are not caught off-guard at your review.
3. You Did Not Use Your Last Review as a Reference for Growth
While your review is a prime time to highlight your achievements, make sure to address how they align with the goals you set for yourself in your last review. Chances are, the first file your manager will reference when discussing your performance will be your most recent performance appraisal. Hopefully, you and your manager have spent quality time aligning on those goals as well as creating a “SMART” action plan to achieve them. Ideally, you have discussed your progress on achieving those goals throughout the review period during your one-on-one meetings. For your upcoming review, consider the opportunity areas you outlined so that you can directly speak to your ability to turn feedback and action planning into results.
4. You Are Waiting to Speak Instead of Actively Listening
It’s finally time to sit down with your manager to discuss how your self-assessment compares to his or her evaluation of you and to identify next steps. You have invested quality time in preparing for this meeting; you have an agenda of items you would like to discuss in mind as well as examples to support your statements. You should have the desired outcome(e.g., a raise or a promotion) for this meeting in mind, as well. While you are entering this meeting with a lot on your mind, be sure not to let it distract you from the conversation itself and keep you from being present.
Your manager has likely spent as much time reviewing your performance as you have spent reviewing yourself – often, even more. Not only did your manager weigh their point of view, but they likely also gathered and synthesized feedback from your colleagues and clients. Be sure that you are taking the opportunity to absorb the information they are sharing rather than just waiting for a free moment to share your next thought. The most productive performance review meetings involve two-way, meaningful conversation, where each person’s points are considered in the other’s response.
5. You Are Viewing Opportunity Areas as Criticisms
Discussing areas that need improvement or reflecting on a sticky situation is difficult. When hearing anyone – let alone your manager – highlight these areas, it’s easy to deflect ownership by taking offense and viewing feedback as criticism. You hear “opportunity area” as “weakness” or “personal issue” and go into defense mode. In doing so, you are missing out on valuable insight into others’ perspectives of you and your work and are not welcoming room for improvement – and you’re no longer actively listening.
Yes, depersonalizing feedback is sometimes hard. An excellent method for processing feedback more objectively is to picture your manager as a personal trainer as opposed to a critic. In the gym, your trainer will praise the movements and exercises you are doing correctly and focus on helping you strengthen your weaker muscles. In doing so, they are not demeaning you or insulting you as a person; they are merely identifying weaker areas and providing you with guidance on how to be the best you can be.
Helping others identify areas that need strengthening and helping them to grow is what we do as L&D professionals. When you address opportunity areas in your meeting with your manager, shift your mindset to increase your self-awareness. If you disagree with the information he or she shares with you, understand that it’s someone else’s perception. Acknowledge it, consider it and grow from it.
By keeping these blunders top of mind, you can tackle your next annual review with confidence, readiness and a growth mindset. After all, you cannot truly help others without first helping yourself.