Although we’re (supposedly) moving towards a culture that understands and implements the virtues of regular, real-time feedback, annual performance reviews still dominate for most of us.
And it’s round about now, ~11.5 months ahead of their upcoming (!) performance review, that I ask my clients about their preparation and planning.
Because a stellar annual review takes a year to create.
Not a handful of hurried and disorganised weeks ahead of that meeting. A year of concerted and aligned effort towards well-defined goals and career-advancing objectives.
So whether you’re looking ahead to your review, securing a raise or winning a promotion, here are 12 ways to start laying the groundwork.
#1 Imagine the conversation
Imagine the conversation you want to have, a year from now. What do you want (and need!) to be saying? What achievements do you want to point to? What differentiators do you want to highlight? What needs to be true for you to get the things you want? Write down your target vision, based on this conversation.
#2 Talk to your boss
Don’t wait until review time to talk to your boss. Do it now. Have a conversation about what’s important – to the business as a whole, to your shared department, and (importantly!) to them. Where do they see the business going? What are their goals in that? What would help them out? What would make them look good? What are their expectations of you? And then write it down! Time moves on and conversation details get forgotten.
#3 Schedule ongoing catch-ups
Talking to your boss about the higher-level stuff is not a once-a-year conversation, but an ongoing dialogue. Things change and evolve – and business priorities with them. So make your touchpoints a regular appointment.
#4 Quantify everything you can
What gets measured gets done. And what gets measured gets better. Not only will quantifying your objectives help with your goal pursuit throughout the year. Come review time: it’ll be very convincing to have that treasure chest full of quantifiably-evidenced contributions.
#5 Plan-in your development now
When we take a mental step back, we all know the importance of working on ourselves. But all-too-quickly, we’re into the hustle and bustle of the year and personal dev gets demoted behind the day-to-day. These goals and objectives you’re planning for the year will be big and career advancing – and you need the skills and support to achieve them. Build your dev into the plan now.
#6 Pencil-in your holidays
We need to take time away from work if we expect to be on top of our game at work. And like personal dev, holidays can get forgotten. Avoid compromising decisions between wellbeing and career objectives and sketch-out your breaks now.
#7 Spend time getting your environment right
To achieve your year-long goals and objectives, you need the support of an environment that’s aligned to you and your goals. That’s essentially setup for success. So take a look at your environment and ask: What’s supporting me? What’s holding me back? What quick changes can I make now to improve things? What longer-term changes do I need to incorporate into my mid-term plans?
#8 Set non-work goals
Momentum in one area of life positively impacts and complements other areas. So have non-work goals. Something to focus on and get motivated about other than work.
#9 Set milestones
We only overestimate what we can achieve when we think in terms of “a year”, rather than “12 months” or “52 weeks”. Breakdown your annual review goals and set markers for yourself throughout the year. Complement your 12-month “End Goal” with “Process Goals” and “Work Goals”. And if those are goal-types you’re not familiar with, take a look at this article: From Goal Setting to Goal Achieving.
#10 Work on your brand
Whatever the detail of your goals and objectives, be working on your personal and professional brand, week-in, week-out, and wherever you show up. The things you’ll achieve this year will be done with the collaboration of others. The review you want to enjoy at the end of the year will be given by your leadership. When these people buy into you, they’re buying into your brand. Work on it consistently, throughout the year. Here are some ideas to reinvigorate your personal brand.
#11 Work on your promotable differentiators
Great performance in your current role is only half the story for those that get stellar reviews, raises and promotions. There’s that whole collection of ingredients beyond job-description-defined performance that makes a huge difference when it comes to review time. (If this sounds like something worth exploring further, take a look at my Winning Promotion Worksheet.
#12 Think beyond this year
Just when we thought our year-ahead thinking and planning put us well-ahead of the game, we need to extend our thinking ever further and ask: how does this year fit into the bigger picture? What are the 3-year and 5-year plans? And how will what you’re doing this year make a complementary contribution to those longer-term objectives?
It’s never too early to prep your review
It’s an all-too-common mistake for us to complete our annual review – and then stick it all in a drawer for 11 months. Get to work laying the foundations now for the review you really want to receive.
p.s. This professional development challenge is why I’m launching a new, year-long coaching programme designed to overcome the limitations and compromise of just-in-time career development. If you’d like to be notified when this programme becomes available, send me an email: email@example.com.