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Posts Tagged ‘performance reviews’

Write Your Own Goals & Take Control of Your Performance Review

Many year-end performance reviews include whatever the manager and direct report can remember happening during the last six weeks of the year. For the most part, managers and direct reports sit in front of blank performance appraisals and self-appraisal forms and try to remember everything that happened during the year. The result: A vague, incomplete performance review that leaves employees feeling disappointed, if not discounted.

If you were disappointed by your performance review last year, don’t let it happen again this year. Take charge of your career by writing your own goals.

One of the first companies I worked for did the goal process so well, I learned early in my career how powerful well-written goals could be. Each employee set five to seven goals. Experienced employees wrote their own goals and then discussed those goals with their manager. Less experienced employees wrote their goals with their manager. Managers wrote goals for inexperienced employees. The goals were so specific and clear that there could be no debate at the end of the year whether or not the goal had been achieved. It was obvious. Either employees had done what they said they would, or they hadn’t. This made writing performance appraisals very easy. Very little on the appraisal was subjective. And this gave employees a feeling of control over their year and performance.

It’s great if you work for an organization or manager who works with you to write goals. If you don’t, write your own goals and present them to your manager for discussion and approval. Managers will be impressed you took the initiative to write goals and will be thankful for the work it takes off of them.

Goals should be simple and clear. It must be obvious whether you achieved the goal or not. There should be little if any room for debate. Sample goals are below.

Desired Outcome (goal):

• Improve client feedback – too vague • Get better-written reviews from clients – better • 80% of clients respond to surveys and respond with an average rating of 4.5 or above – best

Actions you will take to achieve the goal:

• Ask clients for feedback throughout project — too vague • Ask clients for feedback weekly – better • Visit client site weekly. Talk with site manager. Ask for feedback — best

Goal template:

Completed sample goal:

How to approach your manager with written goals:

Try using this language with your manager: “I want to be sure I’m working on the things that are most important to you and the organization. I’ve written some goals for 2024 to ensure I’m focused on the right things. Can we review the goals and I’ll edit them based on your input? And what do you think of using the agreed-upon goals to measure my performance in 2024?”

You have nothing to lose by writing goals and presenting them to your manager. You will gain respect from your manager, clarity of your 2024 priorities, and more control of your year-end-performance review. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Specific Feedback is Good Feedback

Most of the feedback people receive in the workplace isn’t feedback at all.  It’s what I fondly refer to as Cap’n Crunch – vague and unhelpful words that make people defensive but don’t change behavior. If you want the people you work with to do some differently, give specific feedback.

Most of the fake feedback people get sounds like this:Specific Feedback

“You did a great job on that.”

“You’re doing really good work.”

“You’re dressing inappropriately.”

“You’re difficult to work with.”

None of this is feedback. It’s all Cap’n Crunch. Vague, vague, and more vague.

The first words out of your mouth will invariably be Cap’n Crunch. Follow those words with, “for example” and you’ll be headed in the right direction.

“You did a great job on that. For example, I never had to ask about the status of the project. You gave me an update every Friday, and that made me feel comfortable that we were on track.”

You dressed inappropriately for that meeting. For example, the client was dressed in business casual and you were jeans and tennis shoes. Next time, please dress as the client dresses or a step above in khaki pants or slacks, a button down shirt, and a jacket.”

Most people are afraid to give feedback because they don’t want to deal with the defensive reaction they anticipate. The more vague you are, the more defensive people will be. Because they don’t know what you’re talking about.

If employees shop your feedback around, asking what others think of the feedback, it’s because you were vague, they disagree with you or they’re being defensive. Feedback will be received better and resisted less if you’re specific.

Specific feedback can be captured on video. Meaning, you can video someone walking into a meeting late, rolling his eyes, and texting on his phone. I dare you to video “you were disrespectful in the meeting, you dressed inappropriately, or you’re difficult to work with.”  If you can’t capture the feedback on video, you don’t yet have specific feedback. You have Cap’n Crunch.

When I teach managers to give feedback I ask the managers to, “Describe the situation to me. What did the person do? Managers often reply with, “He was negative.” This is Cap’n Crunch. So I keep asking questions. “What did he do that was negative? What did it look like?” After two or three questions the manager tells me, “I overheard him complaining to other employees in his cube about the decisions the company is making. I’d rather he ask me questions about the direction we’re going versus gossip to his peers.” Now we have specific feedback.

Wait to give feedback until you have a specific example. If you don’t have a specific example, go get one. Without an example, employees will look at you in a confused way, question the validity of what you’re saying and become defensive. And they’ll be right in doing all of these things.

Most of us dread giving and receiving performance reviews. Last week, this week and next week’s blogs are designed to make the performance appraisal process easier. If you want more help, chapters nine through twelve of How to Say Anything to Anyone provide a clear and easy-to-follow formula for giving specific feedback.

I’ll be back next week with more tips on giving feedback that actually changes behavior. Until then, BE SPECIFIC. If you’re not using the words “for example” you’re not giving specific feedback.


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