Tag Archives: performance review

Milestones

I’ve been thinking a lot about the lessons I teach my students as a latin dance coach and how that applies to learning about my own career.

This past weekend, there was a big competition and I was pleased to see how my students did. They didn’t make the final, but the level of improvement that I saw was noticeable and was, frankly, brilliant.

I told a few couples the same thing. This isn’t the end. You can see how far you’ve come from the beginning and you can track your progress up until now. This is a milestone on what will hopefully be a long career. You’ll be able to reflect on this later, but you’re still working toward something coming down the road.

The same applies to you in your professional career. Regardless of where you are now, job seeking or not, happy in what you do or just seeing your job as nothing more than something that pays the bills, entry level or senior management, this isn’t it. We get really wrapped up in knowing where we are right now (and for those of you who are unemployed, I appreciate why that’s more true for you), but we tend to forget that it’s the collection of milestones – the journey, if you will – that makes a career. It’s how you work to shape the journey that matters.

As we get close to the end of the year, and as we approach performance review season for those of you that have that kind of system in place, reflect on that and consider your milestones and what kind of milestones you expect and hope for in the future. It’s a pretty personal topic, so I won’t force anyone, but if you’re inclined to share, I’d love to hear what’s on your mind.

Please and thank you

The other day I got some bad news dropped in my lap. A few years ago I might have thrown a hissy fit and been passive-aggressively angry at the messenger and then sulked about it until I got over it. Luckily, I have grown up and am no longer have the maturity of a middle schooler. Yes, we’re all thankful, believe me.

Instead, my first reaction was honestly to thank the person who gave me the news. It’s hard to deliver something like that. It’s not that the other person was scared to say how they felt, it was that they feared the reaction they would get when telling me something they knew I didn’t want to hear. And since I’ve worked hard to train myself to not get mad, not get upset and not really get overly emotional, but instead to acknowledge that this person had to work up the courage to be honest and truthful with me, I did the first thing that popped into my head, which was to show my appreciation for the straightforwardness.

It’s a good lesson to use in your career and in life in general. When you get feedback of any kind, you want to thank the person for sharing that with you. It’s behavior that you want to encourage, whether it’s good or bad. And as much as it sucks to get criticism, if it’s constructive, that’s really how you grow. If you never get that negative feedback, you can never use it to motivate yourself to be better than you are.

So when you get things to work on and opportunities for improvement, thank your commentator for giving you the chance to prove yourself. Not only will the other person be relieved at your reaction and be more willing to support you down the road, but also you’ll feel a whole lot better about working towards a goal than you would if you sat and stewed for a while.

Ever freaked out at someone for critiquing you? Or are you already thanking folks for the feedback? Maybe you’re the one who’s doled out the criticism and had weird reactions to it? Let me know where you stand.

Marching to your doom AKA your performance review.

This weekend, for those who may not know, was the National Equality March. A lot of GLBT folks and their supporters marched in our nation’s capital to draw attention to the want and need for our rights – and yes, I wholeheartedly use the word “our” here, since I identify with the cause.

I met some people that had marched earlier in the day and when I asked them about it, they said that they were shocked and annoyed at the less than enthusiastic attitude demonstrated by their fellow marchers. One guy said that after Prop 8 was passed in California, “people got up and did something about it”. This included not going to work the next day in solidarity, organizing street rallies, getting on megaphones screaming about rights and getting people riled up, etc. In comparison, this person was miffed that people were marching for the sake of marching, that they had no energy and that they weren’t excited for the cause.

I didn’t go, so I can’t comment. But the reason I didn’t go had nothing to do with my lack of enthusiasm for the cause (which, let me reiterate, is very high – I’m 150% behind gay rights, don’t you dare say that I’m not). I find that “marches” like that don’t do very much. Yes, they give a sense of unity, and I do like that. But I find that they usually serve the purpose of touting greatness amongst the group asking for rights instead of calling people to action and inspiring them to do more. People don’t get riled up by that and instead end up participating because they feel they should (i.e. I’m gay so I SHOULD go to the march), not because a fire is lit in them by the single event. I’ve been to many rallies like that for different causes and I’ve stopped attending. I already know this is a worthy cause to support, I don’t need to hear that. I need a reason for being there that can motivate me. I need to hear what’s happening and how I can contribute. I need to know how I can make a difference and inspire change in others. I need a next step to follow up on.

In the workplace (since this IS an HR blog), this sounds exactly like performance reviews. We just started talking about them last week as we move into review season (so rest assured I’ll have much more to say on reviews) and this same lack of purpose is one of the big HR fears related to reviews. We’ve been doing our best to make sure that the review is not “You’re great! Yay!” but is a balance of “You’re great! Here’s why! Also, give me your thoughts on where you need some improvement and I’ll give you my thoughts about what you need. Let’s work out a plan of action together.” Now, that’s the ideal. But in practice, that obviously doesn’t always happen.

As you go into your reviews, try and remember that, whether you’re a reviewer or reviewee. Even if your process doesn’t necessarily lend itself to it because a form is limited or it’s just atypical of your culture, try your best to be open with the other person/people in your review and have the full conversation. As the reviewer, it’s obvious – ask questions that draw out of someone their strengths, challenges and opportunities for improvement. Get to the bottom of it. You probably do this once a year, so make the most of your time. As the reviewee, it’s a little harder. While the meeting is about you, you’re not really in control. Do take the time to discuss your greatness (because you’re great, that’s a given), but be honest and figure out what you need help with in advance and then bring it up for discussion. Your supervisor will appreciate the thought you put in and will be ecstatic that you brought this up and they didn’t have to (because managers – and let’s face it, all people – hate confrontation). Both parties will leave the review with a sense of accomplishment but also a sense of purpose because there is a clear direction – the reviewer knows what you want and can help you while the reviewee can get to work on it. Plus, the precedent has been set for future meetings. It’s a win/win!

So yes, you do HAVE to do reviews (unless you don’t have them – and that gives me anxiety). But give yourself a reason to be doing a review in the first place, beyond the “HR MADE me!” reason (which is true, but it’s not good enough). When you stop marching along for the sake of marching and call yourself to action, you’ll find that you have an inspiration that will push you in a new and interesting direction – one that you’ve chosen for yourself.