“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, …who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, …“
Theodore “T.R.” Roosevelt, Jr. (1858-1919). Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States.
Let me be honest with you from the start: I do not like, never have liked, and never will like annual performance reviews. But, I do understand that delivering and writing reviews is a necessary duty for most employees each year. For many companies reviews help determine raises, promotions, and bonuses. Too often, however, performance reviews are used as a disciplinary tool and to focus on the negative aspects of an employee’s year rather than leveraging their strengths.
Imagine how employee engagement might be increased if the performance feedback was for the purpose of positively influencing behavior change, or helping an employee grow in their job, and inspiring creativity and inspiration in a workforce. Yet no performance system is perfectly objective: no matter how hard we may try to be objective, our (even our reviewers’) feelings, opinions, judgment are still subjective and will always interfere with the system! So how do we use a flawed system to our advantage?
Still, since most employees have to write a self-review every year, I’d like to give you a few tips that may help the process be less confounding.
1. Know your organization’s overall goals (for 2014). If your manager writes department goals for you, then they should be aligned to the company. If you write your own goals, then create them with your organization’s and your department’s goals in mind. Also, create goals that are attainable. This usually applies if you are asked to write one “stretch” goal. For example, one company goal may be to increase international sales by 4% in 2014. You then must demonstrate what you will do to support that goal.
2. Ask questions on expectations. “Is there a specific sales number you want me to reach?” Have your manager explain exactly what she/he expects of you in 2014, to not only meet requirements but also exceed those expectations. Include her/his expectations in your self-review. Use them as guideposts throughout the year. Request for coaching (in 3, 6, or 9 months or as they are required) to achieve those goals! And rate your performance against them at the end of the year in your self-review.
3. Understand the competency section. Read the explanation of each category and then ask your manager to verbalize her/his expectations. “What does ‘Thinks Broadly’ or even ‘Lead Effectively’ mean for me in my current role?” “What do you expect from me regarding ‘Delivers Results’?” Also, do not only focus on shortcomings, further develop your strengths too.
4. Organize and record your accomplishments as they happen. You can also avert memory lapses by regularly ‘data-mining’ your calendar and status reports. This will eliminate racking your brain to remember what you did 10 months ago.
5. Write your self-review with your manager in mind. Does she/he respond better when bullet points are used, or would she prefer you write a dissertation? Whatever her/his style, BACK IT UP WITH EXAMPLES AND TANGIBLE RESULTS. Remember your good idea is unrealized until you put it into motion and something tangible comes from it.
How many times have you heard yourself or others say, “I can’t remember yesterday, how can I remember what I did last February?” Here’s how: create a simple matrix in Word or Excel that includes the month, goals, competencies, and anything else you can think of that might be useful. Also, you may want to include avenues to exercise creativity and innovation, instead of being too focused on performance. Also include a row called “Results” so that you can say how your activities manifested into something positive for the organization.
Download our template (with example) to help you get started. If you commit to filling this out each month, I guarantee you will have no problem writing about how you’ve far exceeded your goals throughout the year.
Click here to download our Monthly Self-Review template.