Sometimes, planning for midyear or annual reviews can feel like a job in and of itself. However, we can take five concrete steps to ensure that feedback does what it is intended to do — improve our performance.
Step 1: Understand your organization’s performance evaluation process
What metrics will be measured? Who evaluates your performance? What is the process for gathering feedback about your performance? Who sees the feedback, and how will it be delivered to you? How long can you anticipate such a meeting will be? Where will the meeting be? How will it be scheduled? Can you expect to receive a written copy of the evaluation? Knowing the answers to these seemingly mundane questions can alleviate a significant amount of stress, thereby allowing you to focus on preparing substantively.
Step 2: Take stock
If you don’t regularly keep track of your weekly accomplishments and contributions to the organization, now is the time to update your “highlight reel.” This will help mitigate against any recency bias. Take the time to go through emails, your calendar, text messages, Slack chains and the like in order to memorialize everything you have accomplished since your last review. Using some of your accomplishments, and focusing on attributes that your organization values, fill out a “STAR chart.”
This is also the time to review your previous evaluation. Be able to specifically discuss how your performance has improved since your last meeting in which feedback was delivered.
Step 3: Prepare to receive positive and negative feedback (and likely a combination of both)
First, know and appreciate that without feedback, we cannot grow professionally. The data is clear; feedback is a clear driver of performance and leadership effectiveness. Leaders who seek critical feedback are consistently seen as more effective by colleagues.
It is important for you to prepare for multiple scenarios. The first scenario: You receive extremely positive feedback. In this scenario, you should be prepared to discuss compensation: “Based on my feedback, it sounds like I am a good candidate for a raise. Is now a good time to discuss that?” Similarly, be prepared to discuss a promotion. Know what is expected of you in order to be promoted to the next level; consult job descriptions if necessary. Probe the person with whom you are meeting about your path to promotion.
The second scenario to prepare for: You receive unexpectedly critical feedback. It happens. First, it is imperative that you have some understanding of neuroscience before going into any midyear or annual review. Hearing negative feedback that conflicts with our own image of ourselves prompts our brains to go into “fight or flight” mode. We feel angry, defensive and self-conscious. Science is clear; many people quite literally cannot hear or process negative feedback. So, to compensate for brain misbehavior, make sure to have pen and paper. Practice consciously transitioning into listening mode: “I’m hearing negative feedback. I need to continue to breathe, and I need to listen and take notes.” Be prepared to be gracious. Avoid becoming defensive or blaming others. Ask for time to absorb the feedback and circle back for a follow up discussion.
An important aspect to feedback and receiving it in a constructive manner is to expect contradictions. You may hear or read contradictions between individual pieces of feedback, or contradictions between how you see yourself and how others see you. Rather than attempt to dissect and parse contradictions, try to take a step back and absorb the feedback holistically.
Step 4: Think through your career development
Prepare answers to questions, including where do you see yourself in five years? What can the company do to support you and get you where you want to go? Finally, what are your goals for the next six months or year? Remember, no one cares more about your career than you, so be sure to prompt and own this part of the conversation if you do not get these types of questions.
Step 5: Strive to create space and adopt a generally positive mindset
To prepare for different contingencies, draft an agenda, in case one is needed and you are expected to lead the discussion. Strive to carve out 10 minutes of downtime immediately prior to your meeting. Think about and appreciate the time it has taken your colleague to solicit and deliver feedback for you. Look forward to the opportunity to share some of your accomplishments. Confirm that you are on track to continue to contribute and that you are a valued part of the organization. Finally, be mindful not to schedule overtop of or immediately after your meeting. You may need or want a fair amount of time to digest the discussion afterwards.
Preparation is the key to ensuring that your reviews serve you and your performance. ACS coaches are here to work with you to get you ready. Just contact us for an appointment.