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DIY Performance Reviews

Welcome to Do-It-Yourself Performance Reviews. If you think you’re here for regular performance reviews, administered by your boss in a timely fashion without nagging, you’re in the wrong place. Just get up quietly and leave thru the door at the back.

The rest of you may already have recognized that your professional development, learning opportunities, and earning power are in your hands. You need to put together a plan and share it with Management regularly to ensure you achieve your goals and job satisfaction.

Does that sound pushy to you? Shouldn’t your managers be thinking about your career path – making sure you feel appreciated and challenged?

Imagine for a second that roles are reversed and you’re the boss. You’re a group director or a CEO with 5 or 250 people to manage. You have clients jockeying for your immediate attention, P&L responsibility, stuff that’s on fire, maybe even a holding company or shareholders to answer to. That keeps you busy 12 hours a day. In the time that’s left over, you pray that your best people don’t leave and that you’re providing enough stimulating work and direction. Then you pass out because you’re fried.

It’d be very helpful, wouldn’t it, if your best people made a date with you, maybe once a quarter, with a well-defined agenda: Here’s what I’ve accomplished, here’s what I like and don’t like, here are my goals for the next 6 months and here’s how I’d like to be acknowledged.

Oh yeah, I could see how that would be helpful and probably inspire gratitude from my boss. So how do I create a DIY performance review?

Fold a piece of paper into four columns. (Don’t worry; you can make a snowflake out of it when you’re done). Title the columns Accomplishments, Goals, Needs, Timeline. Now fill it in in that order.

Quantify your Accomplishments in a way that’s meaningful to the company. E.g. How much did you grow revenues on your accounts? Did you improve profitability? Introduce new training curriculum? Install a chocolate fountain in the lobby? (Hey, that was my idea.)

Goals are development-oriented. What new skills do you want to acquire? How will getting those skills help your company prosper? What goals might your boss have for you? Put them all down, then apply a realistic timeframe to each.

Now you have a picture of what you’ve achieved and what you’d like to do next. Do you think your boss will agree those things are meaningful and important to the company? If you can’t answer yes, then it’s probably not the best time to leapfrog to your needs. You’ve got to build up some equity first.

Needs are the ways you’d like to be acknowledged in the near term. For example, if you worked crazy hours and traveled to all corners of the world to launch a new product, you may be after a better work/life balance.

Two comments about Needs:

  1. It’s important to tie them cause-and-effect to a tangible benefit. You deserve a raise and title promotion because you sold $200,000 worth of incremental engagements this year, not because there’s been a salary freeze and you’ve been with the company 3 years.
  1. Be prepared to propose and accept a variety of scenarios for meeting your needs. E.g. If you aren’t permitted to rotate to another account, ask for a draw down plan so you can transfer within 6 months.

If your needs are presented as rigid demands or threats, your boss will feel backed into a corner with little ability to please you. It’s hard to have an effective dialogue with someone who’s on the defensive. Maybe Asks is a more appropriate positioning than Needs.

Give your paper a once over to ensure it quantifies your contributions, presents reasonable Asks and clearly describes the outcome(s) you’re looking for. You’re not going to hand this paper to your boss. It’s intended as a cheat sheet so you can hit all your talking points. Go schedule a meeting with your boss. Feel better, Superstar?

Final tips:

  • Keep a running file of your accomplishments throughout the year so you can present a comprehensive performance picture rather than what you can remember from the last month. Stash words of praise from supervisors and clients.
  • Anticipate a baton pass. It’s not unusual for your boss to change during your tenure, especially in our industry. Make sure your new boss is brought up to speed (by you) on your performance. Once you develop a rapport, request an informal meeting to brief her on recent account history and your contributions.
  • Focus on progress rather than status. In a recent blog post, Victor Erdos talked about progress reports as a tool for briefing upper management. You have limited time and attention to state your case. Make sure your key contributions get top billing.
  • Give Management time to react. Particularly if they’re hearing things for the first time, understand they may need time to digest and propose solutions. Work with your boss to outline a reasonable action plan and timeframe. If you’re close to resigning, ask yourself if you’ve clearly communicated your objectives with the management team and given them ample opportunity to respond.


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