It’s that time of year again. Whether you’re reflecting on your personal growth and achievements or the results that you delivered to an organization, it’s time to start preparing for year-end evaluations. Even if you’re running your own gig, what’s a year’s worth of impact and results if you’re not evaluating the success and building off of it?
Getting ready for my year-end review is on my ‘to do’ list for this month. I’m trying something new this year, it’s called not waiting until the actual end of the year.
Why? Here’s a couple of reasons:
1. When you are heads-down all year working your butt off, it takes time and preparation to be able to lead a conversation on a macro level about how your efforts drove results for the organization.
2. I’m passionate about what I do and I work too hard to have my efforts sold short. I don’t want to be short-changed on my performance-based compensation from not being prepared for the performance evaluation discussion. And neither should you.
The reality is, that even though you’ve undoubtedly put in work to help your company move the needle this year, the job is not yet done. Your individual contribution may not be accurately accounted for, at least not without a little self-advocacy. Now is the time to do something you might not do very often, brag about you and how you shined this year.
If you’re running your own gig, year-end performance reviews are even more critical for you. Sure, you might not have a boss putting that obligatory meeting on your calendar for a year-end check the box exercise. You do have customers, clients, or some kind of audience whose satisfaction with what you delivered this year can make or break the sustainability of your business.
So you make the decision yourself to evaluate and grow.
As we all get ready to answer the question– How did I do this year?– keep in mind that the question is really two-fold.
First, there’s the question of what you did and how effective your efforts were in moving your organization towards its goals.
Then, there’s the question of how you did it, so the skills and values that you displayed (or did not display) in doing so. Here’s how I’m preparing for this year’s performance evaluation at my 9 to 5.
1. Identify your hits & misses.
Take some time to think about what things you did well this year, the goals that you’re on track to accomplish, and the projects or milestones within a project that you’re on track to complete.
These are your “hits” for the year. As you list those accomplishments, ask yourself for each one, how do I know that I succeeded or that I’m on track to succeed?
If you started the year strong, then you set measurable goals for the year that outline the contributions that you were expected to make this year and how those individual contributions would help to move the needle for the broader organization.
But, if you’re like most of us, you have a lofty poster-worthy statement that your organization calls its priorities, mission, or vision and you have a year’s worth of tasks and projects that you were asked to take on at any given point throughout the year with some level of connection, though not always apparent, to that poster on the wall.
Here’s where not waiting until December to start prepping for year-end conversations is helpful. Spend some time reflecting on how each of those hits that you listed helped your organization to move the needle.
Then there are the misses. With 3 months left in the year, it’s time to get honest with yourself about the areas you may have fallen short this year. What projects did you start and, perhaps because of a change in organizational priorities or lack of resources, not finish? What challenges did this year throw your way that you were not able to overcome without impact on the cost, schedule, or quality of the work that you and/or your organization deliver? If we’re being really honest, unless your organization is on track to book record growth in productivity and finances, you’ve got some misses that you can list.
Even if it was a record-breaking year, what areas could you have done even better?
By getting ahead of the misses, you put yourself in control of two things. First, you gain the ability to course-correct and turn some of those shortcomings or projects that have fallen by the wayside into a success story at year-end on how you took a failing project and turned it around. Now is the time to get some recovery plans in place for those misses.
Secondly, you take control of the final narrative. Instead of your clients or your boss telling you at year-end about that schedule delay that you didn’t account for in the 3rd quarter, you can offer up how your original project plan did not account for that unforeseen delay in August, but how you used your impeccable problem-solving skills to recover lost schedule in the 4th quarter just in time to deliver high-quality outcomes like you always do and while keeping the customers happy.
2. Take a walk in their shoes.
Being prepared to share your take on your performance is just half of the conversation. In addition to preparing to contribute to the conversation, it’s important to be prepared to listen and be receptive to feedback. Timely, honest, and constructive feedback is just as difficult and awkward to give as it is to receive it. It’s even harder if you’ve gone all year without performance discussions or if you’ve had regular check-ins but the person on the other end hasn’t found the courage to give you honest, timely feedback in those moments.
So as you’re prepping to go into year-end reviews, put yourself in the shoes of the person that will be in charge of delivering your honest, constructive feedback at year-end. When is the last time you gave feedback? What about the recipient or the situation made it easy or difficult for you to be candid?
Also, think about the last time you received feedback and how receptive you were to it. How can you get prepared to go into the conversation ready to give and receive feedback on your performance this year?
3. Remember, it’s not over ’til it’s over.
Good news, the year isn’t over yet. Hits aren’t hits and misses aren’t misses until then. In the meantime, leverage those hits to bring home more wins, do some course correction on the areas where you or your projects are currently falling short, and make sure you’re ready to receive candid, constructive feedback from your customers and bosses.
All that said, let’s not kid ourselves. Performance management processes will never be perfect.
Most companies either have outdated approaches to performance management or are at the beginning of their journey to finding a more modern approach to this complex process. On top of that, as humans, we bring our own biases (conscious and unconscious) and subjectivity to the process. For minorities, those biases create an even bigger disparity in the performance evaluation and performance-based compensation process.
As a woman of color, I have chosen to focus on the parts of the process that I can control. I continue to go into every performance conversation prepared to share my take on my performance and to be receptive to feedback. If and when the day comes that the contributions that I make and the results that I drive are not being recognized in an equitable way, I will make the right decisions for myself as a professional to find a space where my passion and skills are needed and my contributions are recognized.
Until then, I’m counting both my wins and losses, I’m learning and growing as I go, and I’m having a blast while I’m doing it. I hope you are too.