On the fifteenth entry of The Link Up with Latesha, our incredible host Latesha Byrd, founder of Byrd Career Consulting, covers the crucial topic of performance reviews. They can literally make or break your success at the organization that you work for, so make sure you’re prepared for your next one!
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Latesha: What’s up, everyone? Welcome to The Link Up with Latesha on Living Corporate. This podcast is for young professionals that need some real advice, tips, and resources to navigate corporate America and dominate their career. If you’re looking to upgrade your brand, get the knowledge you need to level up professionally for your future, you are in the right place. I’m your host, Latesha Byrd. So let’s get into today’s episode. I’m really excited about today’s episode because we are talking about performance reviews. Yay! [laughs] I know that most of the people I talk to, in terms of my clients, really hate performance reviews. [laughs] Like, it can be a dreadful process. So I know we are approaching the end of the year. You know, 2020 is right around the corner, literally on the horizon, and so I want to make sure that all of you are able to end this year going into a new decade professionally with a bang, you know? With a new mindset on what you want to accomplish and achieve. Go back and listen to some of the past episodes where I just kind of gave some tips for you all to really start thinking strategically about your career in 2020. But in order to do that, it is important to do some reflection, all right? And that starts with, you know, depending on the company you work for, having a successful performance review. So I decided to give some tips on this because I’ve been getting a lot of questions recently about performance reviews. A few of my clients have performance reviews coming up in December. Now, I understand that, you know, it does–not all performance reviews happen at the end of the year. It does depend on the company’s year end. It depends on when they give out bonuses and raises or do promotions. But if you have not already had your performance review, then this is perfect timing. If you have already had one for the year, let’s go ahead and start planning for that performance review next year. So why are we talking about this? Why are performance reviews important? They really could literally make or break your success at the organization that you work for. As a career coach, I talk to hundreds of people about their careers quite regularly, [laughs] and I have heard of horror stories where folks have walked into performance reviews and they hear they’re doing terrible [and] had no idea, had no idea that anyone at the company felt like that. They may have been put on a performance improvement plan. If you have ever been put on a PIP before, I know it sucks–it really, really sucks. Or some folks just walk into the performance review and they are fired then and there on the spot. I don’t want any of this to happen to you all, and it is important, so important, to be in tune with leadership on your performance. So by the time you get to the performance review, there should be no surprises. Let me just say that again. By the time you get into the performance review, there should be no surprises. There really shouldn’t. Now, why is this? Because you should be having recurring check-ins with leadership. If this is not something that is going on right now, go ahead and set it up. This is super, super crucial to your success because getting feedback regularly, knowing your areas of improvement, and also being able to share with leadership what you’re working on, this is going to help you with managing your reputation, A.K.A. managing your brand. If you don’t know what your brand is someone is going to define it for you, and I want you to really take control over that narrative that is being told about you when you’re not in the room. My favorite quote about branding is from Jeff Bezos, and he said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Guarantee you that, by the time you get to that performance review meeting, your manager has likely already met with other people that you have worked with to get feedback, or when it comes to companies giving out promotions and bonuses and raises, managers and leadership, they’re getting together, probably months in advance–you know, at least a couple of months in advance–to discuss together collectively who will be getting promoted, who will be getting raises and just discussing that feedback, and so there’s really never too late of a time period to, you know, start having a hand in terms of managing your reputation, but that starts with getting feedback. So I decided to really break this into two parts for this episode talking about performance reviews and how to just knock them out of the park. So we’re gonna talk about 1. how to prepare for it, so the preparation that should go into, you know, your performance review, and then we’ll talk about the meeting, what actually should happen when you walk into that meeting. So preparation is key. Oh, my goodness. Preparation is so incredibly crucial to having a successful performance review. In order to do that, you should be tracking projects–or I will recommend [laughs] that you are tracking projects, keeping up with what you’re working on. I do recommend doing this weekly. I know that sounds like a lot, but if you can’t do weekly, maybe bi-weekly. And this is really painful for me to say, but if you must, do it a monthly basis. That’s okay. It’s okay. Literally at the bare minimum though at least once a month. Maybe just block some time out on your calendar [the] first Monday of the month, [the] last Friday of the month, where you can actually reflect on what you have worked on and what you have accomplished over that past month. If you’re doing this, you know, daily or weekly or bi-weekly, you will really start to remember. You won’t have to try to go back into your memory and say, “Okay, what was I doing three weeks ago?” You know? “What was I doing last month?” Or “What was I doing two months ago?” [laughs] Our brains can’t hold that much information, you know? So that’s why it’s important to make sure that you are tracking what you’re working on. Use a system. Like, put a system in place, you know? Track in a spreadsheet, you know, on Google. I live by Google Drive. My whole life is in there. So a spreadsheet. Use a system. You know, there’s so many different systems and tools out here. I use Trello for task management. I know a lot of folks use Asana and Monday, but there are different tools that you can use personally to track what you’re working on. You know, maybe you will want to go back to just looking at your calendar too. That’s a great way to kind of look and see, “Okay, what did I do this month? What did I do this week?” You know, go back through your calendar. Look at who were meeting with, what the meetings were about. Go through your emails as well too. So I definitely recommend creating an email with, you know, call it kindness. I call it kindness because I think it’s cool. Positive energy, you know? Recognition. So whenever you get an email from a manager or a colleague or someone that says, “Hey, good job here. You really helped out with this project,” or, you know, “You really,” you know, “kicked ass here.” Whatever. I don’t know if, you know, people use that language in emails in corporate, [laughs] but please store those emails, because it would be great if you can go back to those emails and put that into your performance review, you know? “I worked on this project and I got recognition from the VP.” You know, “I got recognition from this leader,” et cetera. So, you know, be prepared. So keeping up with what you’re working on. Set a calendar reminder. Set a calendar reminder to do this. Like I said, it could be bi-weekly. It could be, you know, monthly at the bare minimum, but set a reminder. What I used to do when I worked in corporate was–at the end of every day was set a reminder at, like, you know, 5:00 p.m., right before I head out, and during that time I would say, “Okay, let me just go through what I actually worked on for the day.” Check the box, check the box, et cetera. So understand how your work contributes to the overall success of the team and organization. If you do not know this, then ask the questions, you know? Ask your manager, “Hey, I just want to understand. I know I’m working on this project, but how does this actually affect or impact the overall goal of the team?” “How are we tracking success of this project? What does that look like?” You have a right to know these things. My company works with a lot of individuals on, you know, their resume and their LinkedIn, and as we’re going through their work history and their accomplishments, a lot of them can’t recollect what they’ve actually accomplished in their roles, and they’ll tell me or my team, “Oh, man, I did this two years ago. I can’t remember.” Well, what are you going to say to the interviewer when you walk into the interview? So it is important to make sure that you are tracking these things. You may think that you will remember it, but trust, you may forget. [laughs] You may forget, so understand how your work contributes to the overall success of the team. Understand how performance is measured. Other things to understand. Understand how promotions are given. Make sure you’re watching who is getting promoted around you and why they’re getting promoted. As you all know, there is a lot of bias that goes into this process. [laughs] There’s a lot of favoritism that goes into this process. At the end of the day, this is why it’s important for you to make sure you’re tracking your progress on your own and keeping your managers in the loop regularly. Think about prior feedback that you’ve received that may come up again in the performance review so you can address it. So if you got some feedback a month or so ago or earlier in the year where they said, you know, “Time management, you really need to work on your time management.” One thing that I’ve realized in corporate is that sometimes if you get one negative remark, they literally cannot let that go. Have y’all ever been in a situation where you’re given some negative feedback or constructive criticism and they’re still talking about it two months later, three months later, six months later, and it’s just like, “Hey, guys. I’ve actually–that’s not even an issue or a challenge for me anymore.” So think about that. Think about prior feedback that you’ve received so that you can address it. So if time management is maybe something they’ve asked you to make sure you work on and improve earlier in the year, when you get into that performance review, you will want to speak to how you have actually improved on that. What did you end up putting into place or implementing into your daily habits or practices where that is no longer an issue for you? So those are my tips on preparation. Next we’ll go into the meeting. I want you all to walk into this meeting like you are ready to go, like you are ready to own this meeting if you must. This may not only surprise your managers, but this will also impress them, because it will show them that you are really serious about doing well at the company and you’re really serious about your performance and your own career development. So we are taking the control back, and this starts with really beasting this meeting. Come into this meeting with your own self-evaluation. Some companies will ask you to do self-evals beforehand and some companies will not. So if your company does ask you to do a self-eval, make sure that you actually print a copy of that or have a copy of that and review it and still create a document or something that has some facts, you know? I’d definitely recommend a brag sheet. Have a brag sheet, a list of all of your accomplishments that you can speak to. So print it and review it, but put something together for your manager like an appendix, you know? You know, something that will back up what you actually put into that self-evaluation. I know sometimes we may do that self-eval, like, a month or two months before the actual review, and we don’t remember what, you know, we said in there. [laughs] It’s kind of, like, an out of sight, out of mind thing. “Let me just do this self-evaluation real quick and keep on doing my work.” Go back to it, review it, print it. Take that very, very seriously, okay? Don’t assume your manager remembers everything that you’ve done too. Sometimes we will make that assumption where your manager is probably managing you plus maybe five other people, ten other people, and so they are also not only managing but trying to do their day-to-day job. So don’t assume that your manager remembers, but just know this – once you start doing those regular recurring check-ins with your manager, they’ll be more obliged to remember what you’re doing. But if you don’t have that relationship with your manager, if you’re not meeting with them regularly, this is the perfect opportunity for you 1. to get them caught up to speed on everything that you’re working on, what you have accomplished, and in that meeting go ahead and set, you know, some regular check-ins. In terms of being prepared to discuss things that you’ve done well, you also want to be prepared to discuss maybe things that could have went better, so areas of improvement, you know? We’re not perfect. We all have things that we, you know, need to improve on, and so make sure that you address those as well. Don’t beat yourself up too much though. You know, we sometimes can second-guess ourselves and our abilities, but remember that if you do bring up issues or challenges, also bring up some solutions. Propose some solutions. So maybe you aren’t confident with public speaking, right? Like, maybe you’re in a sales role or you’re in some capacity where you have to do presentations. Public speaking isn’t a strength of yours. So address that, but also talk through 1. how you are working to improve that, and also hold the company accountable and your manager accountable to get the support that you need to be successful in your role, which leads me to my next point – talk about skills that you want to develop. Talk about your goals as well, you know? Yeah, you definitely want to do that reflection of your performance over the last year, but also make sure that you are walking away with, “Hey, let me tell you what my goals are, and this is what I need from you all to be successful.” So maybe there are certain skills you want to develop, certain certifications that you’d like to attain, certain conferences or trainings that you’d like to get or projects that you would like to get on. This is not only your opportunity to get feedback from them. This is also your opportunity to give them feedback. So if you want to get promoted, let that be known. Sometimes we assume like, “I’m doing a good job here. I should just get promoted.” Let them know that you want to get promoted and ask what it takes if they tell you you’re not ready. With feedback, take the good and the bad, but I do want to be clear here – ask clarifying questions to understand the feedback that they give you and ask for specific examples. I had tweeted this maybe earlier in the year and it kind of blew up unexpectedly, but it was something along the lines of being in a formal work environment and a boss told me that I had an attitude. As a black woman in corporate that’s something that we hear quite often, when it’s really just a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of our communication, you know? We tend to communicate more directly, and so because of that and also just because of a lot of other factors that I could go into [laughs], we can say things in what we think is the nicest tone and it could still be taken the wrong way, right? And so if you are getting feedback like that, like, “Oh, you have an attitude,” or, you know, “You don’t really seem happy. You don’t seem enthusiastic.” Like, that–sometimes we’re just not enthusiastic people, you know? Sometimes we suffer from RBF. That doesn’t mean that we don’t want to be there or we don’t like our team. That’s just how we are. And so when you get feedback like that, it’s very important for you to ask for examples. You can say, “Oh, this feedback kind of surprised me. Can you give me an example of when this happened? Can you give me an example of how I demonstrated that?” So ask the questions that you need for understanding. So I hope this was helpful. You know, I do think that it is important for the company you work for that they have an annual performance review, that you have face time with your manager, that you understand how performance is reviewed, evaluated, and given, and you also know how feedback is given as well or making sure that feedback is given. You want to work for a company that takes your success and your career goals and your journey just as important as you do, so make sure that when you are interviewing with companies that this is a question that you are asking them as well. “How is performance,” you know, “reviewed and measured?” “How is feedback given?” “What does the,” you know, “upward mobility look like at this organization?” so that when it comes to this performance review you don’t get to any surprises or you’re not faced with any surprises by the time you get to these meetings. So hope you found this to be very helpful. I wish you all the best of luck. Make sure you go out there and get those promotions, get the bonus, get the raises, get everything you deserve, because 2020, we are killing it. All right, y’all. Bye.