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Take It In - Turn It Around

05-27-2009

Six tips to turn your mid-year performance review into a full year of superior performance.

It is nearly time for your mid-year performance review. This year, even the best performers may feel a tinge of trepidation as they meet with their manager. While much has been written to help managers deliver reviews, we want to shift the focus to you, the feedback recipient.*

If you are fortunate, you work for a manager who gives you clear examples of your performance strengths and challenges. This manager partners with you to help you set goals, and champions you within the organization.

If you are less fortunate, you work for a manager who, though well-intended, fails to discuss your performance with you in a meaningful way. Perhaps your manager rushes through your review, speaks in vagaries or circles around an issue, leaving you confused, without a clear sense of how to improve.

Here are six tips to help you turn your review into a game-plan for success:

1. Assess your own performance - Objectively review your own performance for the first half of this year, as if you were the one leading the feedback discussion. List your top three accomplishments and your top three challenges or disappointments. Be specific; include details. To demonstrate that you think strategically, point out any trends in your development and link your accomplishments to your organization's strategic initiatives.

2. Plan for growth - Prior to the meeting, summarize actions you can suggest to address your shortcomings. Consider growth opportunities you'd like to explore and other leaders you'd like to gain greater exposure to in the coming months. Don't rely on your manager to think about growth ideas for you - come with those suggestions in mind!

3. Prepare & ask questions - During your review, your manager will share information with you and should ask you questions. Unfortunately, sometimes managers fail to share specific examples and the feedback lacks detail.

The discussion may also feel like it flows only in one direction, from your manager to you. To get the most out of your review and to foster a discussion, plan and ask open-ended questions such as:

  • What, in particular did I do well on project x?
  • How can I improve my performance during the next six months?
  • How can I add more value to our team (or organization)?
  • What future projects would you suggest I volunteer for to develop my skills?

4. Take notes - When you take notes during your review, you demonstrate that you value your manager's feedback and you project a commitment to improve. Your notes will also give you a means to summarize your thoughts and outline your action steps.

5. Project openness to the feedback - Your body language and physical manner will reflect your attitude during the review. To project your best manner, sit upright, lean slightly forward and sit with your arms open and hands apart. (Crossing your arms may feel comfortable to you but such a posture may convey defensiveness or withdrawal from the discussion). As your manager shares the feedback, maintain eye contact and nod slightly to acknowledge that you're listening.

6. Keep in mind - it's just business - Sometimes negative feedback can feel very personal. Managers who struggle with difficult conversations or who lead with emotional or personal attacks may demonstrate their lack of skill in partnering with their employees. You have a choice. You can take it personally, or you can remind yourself that even when your manager makes it personal, it's still just business.

Remember, you cannot control your manager, but you can control what you do - so now is the time to prepare and participate in your performance review. It's your career, after all!

*For information targeted to delivering feedback, see our articles:
Conveying Effective Feedback published in The New York Law Journal.
In Search of Feedback published in Executive Excellence.

Best Regards,

Exec-Comm
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