Performance evaluations are tailor-made for communicating your accomplishments, and if you’ve been brainstorming and tracking successes in the period leading up to your review, you’ll find it effortless to prepare. Your accomplishments offer the best evidence that you are not only doing your job, but doing it well, perhaps going beyond what’s expected of you.
Accomplishments are integral to both aspects of a performance review – the dialog you have with your supervisor, and the self-analysis that many employers ask you to complete before sitting down with the boss.
The self-analysis/evaluation is your chance to truly prepare for your review and to be armed with information that will demonstrate a high level of performance to your boss. In fact, Scot Herrick in his blog, CubeRules, calls these self-reviews “ultimate influencers,” citing an example in which he gave a subordinate the highest performance-review rating he’d ever meted out (resulting in a raise and bonus) simply because the staffer wrote an excellent, accomplishments-rich review. Author Peggy Klaus quotes an employer who says employees who spend time preparing for performance reviews are the ones who get his attention. “I just see them as more committed to their career and the company’s future,” he says.
Conversely, those who don’t prepare may not fare well in a review. “The less information you keep about your results,” Herrick writes, “the easier it is for management to prove whatever they want about your work. Proving whatever they want, by the way, rarely means proving you have an outstanding performance review rating.”
Herrick advises describing your accomplishments in your self-review “not in a way that is outstanding, but in a way that reflects reality. No one is perfect. No one is horrible. Call your accomplishments as you see them: some great, some fabulous, but great work overall.” That kind of authenticity lends credibility to your self-review, he says. He also suggests using metrics to the extent possible. Klaus advises prioritizing accomplishments in your review, placing the greatest emphasis on those that are “mission-critical.”
Following are some typical self-evaluation questions with prompts to help you identify areas in which you’ve shined and ways to optimize the way you communicate your responses:
- Have your job responsibilities changed [since you were hired or since your last review]? Has your job’s scope expanded; have you taken on new responsibilities? Prompts: Have they changed because you took the initiative to expand your role? If they changed because you were asked to take on more/different responsibilities, how did you rise to the occasion? How did you go above and beyond?
- How would you assess your own performance in executing your top three to five responsibilities as well as the full scope of your responsibilities? Prompts: How have you performed compared to how you did in the past? How have you performed compared to others with the same responsibilities? What kinds of metrics can you attach to your performance? Scan the prompts in Chapter 4 to see if they suggest any shades of meaning you can attach to your performance.
- How have you succeeded? During the past performance-review period, what contributions have you made? Prompts: Be sure to emphasize successes and contributions that align with the performance standards that have been set for you and that are most important to your boss. Think about metrics to enhance your successes. Scan the prompts in Chapter 4 if you’re having difficulty coming up with successes.
- In what ways do you think you could have done something different and/or better? In what areas, if any, do you need to change or improve? Prompts: Consider what positive spin you can put on your self-improvement ideas. Try to accompany any self-criticism with a small success. Example: “I need to be more aware of my audience when I give sales presentations. This year, I made a flippant remark at the end of a presentation, and a customer in the audience was turned off. I rectified the situation by apologizing profusely. Since then, I’ve been much more careful to respect audience members and think before I speak. In fact, the same customer was in the audience at a recent presentation, and he complimented me on how well I connected with the audience.”
- What strengths have you demonstrated on the job? Prompt: Use an accomplishment story to illustrate each strength. Again, focus on strengths that align with your boss’s and the organization’s priorities.
- Describe working on a project team with others. Prompt: Be sure to make your role on teams clear and give yourself sufficient credit while also crediting others. Choose accomplishment stories that emphasize interpersonal, communication, and teamwork skills.
- What goals from the last review period have you accomplished? Prompt: Try a “sandwich” technique here. Let’s say you had a list of goals from the last review period. You accomplished some in a big way; others were lesser successes. List a major goal-achieving accomplishment first and last. In between, sandwich the smaller accomplishments. That way, you start big and end big.
But don’t wait until your annual performance review to communicate to your boss about your achievements. “Unless you provide some sort of written report that shows what you accomplished during the week,” cautions Herrick, “your performance is solely based on the perception of the manager. Doesn’t it make a lot more sense to put your accomplishments in front of your manager every week to help ensure that performance perception is the one you want to have?” See the next section.
Of course, the employer’s actual review or evaluation of you is the other component of the review process. Most forms for this process rate the employee in various areas on a scale. Some include a narrative section in which the reviewer can expand on the ratings given. Providing your boss with well-expressed accomplishments in your self-review can help him or her articulate your strengths in written narrative. If self-review is not part of the process at your organization, there’s no reason you can’t submit a self-review anyway at performance-evaluation time. Use the prompts in this section to guide you in what to say about your performance. See next section.
To ensure you prepare the most effective, targeted accomplishments for the review after your next one, ask your boss for specific goals for you to strive to reach.
Status Reports to Your Boss
As we just saw, it’s virtually always a good idea to keep your boss regularly informed of your accomplishments. After all, we often don’t even see our bosses very often anymore, especially in the age of telecommuting. My partner used to send his boss a monthly email listing his successes. Ask your boss how (email, phone, memo, voicemail, in person) and how often he or she would like to receive this information. (If he or she says “not at all,” take that as a sign that you don’t have a great boss, and you may want to be wary.)
In many organizations, status reports, completed weekly, are a part of the job. Herrick asserts that status reports can be “the perfect vehicle for storing our accomplishments,” indeed, “an “accomplishment repository.” His advice for making the most of these weekly document mirrors typical advice for resume writing: favor accomplishments over activities and functions; use action verbs; focus on deliverables of meetings, not the meetings themselves; apply the “so what?” test, and include results.
You can also keep your boss updated in more informal ways, such as brief voicemail messages and copying your boss on communications (such as memos and emails) that discuss project progress and milestones. Don’t share these communications for every tiny detail of your work; be discriminating and save the best successes for sharing.