“Keep up the good work” is great to hear, but totally unhelpful. In fact, most people feel like their performance reviews aren’t valuable… and companies agree. Only about half of HR leaders and an even smaller amount of CEO’s think that annual performance evaluations are adding value for their employees. Just this year, Google, Accenture and Netflix ditched the performance review process all-together. Other major multinationals including IBM and SAP are entirely revamping their models. However, for those of us who aren’t spending our days in napping pods in Silicon Valley, we’re still enduring this outdated corporate routine.

The world of performance evaluations and reviews was entirely new to me upon entering a corporate environment for the first time 2 years ago. I was optimistic, naive and in my early career. I saw these conversations as an opportunity to express my career interests, strengths, contributions to the organizations and next steps. I was excited to have a platform and designated space to talk to my manager about my role, impact and plans for the future.

After a few fairly successful reviews and development conversations with my manager, our dialogue began to fall flat. “These are the things you’re doing really well, here are a few things for you to continue focusing on and overall you’re doing a really great job. Keep it up.” Of course, I appreciated the recognition and praise, but I started feeling unfulfilled by the discussion. I’d head back to my desk knowing I’d done good work and to keep it up, but quite honestly, I’d known that before I entered the room and didn’t feel as though I was gleaning any new information.

I decided to turn to a millennials’ most trusted advisor for guidance and wisdom, the all-knowing Google. I was hoping to find some more provoking questions to ask or points to raise during these bi-yearly evaluations and reviews. Surprisingly, what I discovered was a lot less about “my role, my impact and my plans” than I’d anticipated. Some career advice suggests one of the best ways to make the most of your review is to prompt your manager with some of the same questions you might anticipate from them.

“What do you see yourself doing next?”

“Is this role fulfilling for you?”

“Where are some areas you don’t feel like you’re doing well?”

Finding out about your manager’s goals, challenges and plans can often be more telling about your future career path than any conversation you were planning on having about yourself.

I put this theory to the test for my last two performance review conversations and left bursting with new insights, information and direction on my team. By finding out more about your manager’s goals, you can more accurately plan your next few steps and predict the opportunities ahead. For example, if your manager expresses they are ready for a new role, you might be led to a conversation about what you can do to prepare for taking on your boss’s job. If your manager tells you about the areas he/she feels are not going that well, for example sales of a specific product or the kick-off of a new project, you then leave your performance review with some really specific actions and tasks to get crackin’ on, rather than the typical and more ambiguous “areas of improvement.”

Asking my manager some of these introspective questions revealed her plans to start a family, expand our team and start partnering with new client groups. I left my performance review with a wealth of new information around the direction of my team, upcoming opportunities, and areas that needed support. I encourage you to turn your performance review on its head and make it less about your role, your impact, and your plans, and more of an opportunity to anticipate what’s next in your organization.

I’m interested to hear from those of you who try this. Uncover anything new? Have a better conversation than last time? Let us know how you’ve turned your performance reviews around in the comments below!

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