Tag: Year End Review

I have always been a believer in resolutions.  Looking at how I’ve approached my projects and assignments in the corporate world, I usually go into each new project with at least one or two things I resolve to do differently.  It could be something as simple as “doing a better job of documenting my accomplishments” to things more complex like “learning to better manage coworkers who have different collaboration styles”.  Either way, I think it is good to approach new situations with renewed spirit while keeping your eyes on the prize.

One caution though…  Make sure when you set goals or resolve to do things differently, that the stated objective (i.e. new behavior, added skill, altered approach) is attainable and realistic.  If you are setting yourself up to fail right out of the gate, it will do nothing but put a damper on your morale and ultimately have significant negative impact in the long run.  Nobody likes losing, and the moment you see that you are trailing on the scoreboard, that can psychologically create a scenario where you are racing to try and catch up or throwing Hail Mary’s to try and win the game.  And people that are operating under that umbrella or playing the catchup game are often cutting corners or not putting forward their best product.  If you’re a football fan, I am sure you’ve noticed how most of those plays end up.  Not well.  I’m not trying to say “Don’t reach for the stars”, but I think it is most fair to dream big while also giving yourself the shot at quick wins or more near-term success by carefully setting reasonable goals or making sound resolutions that can actually be achieved.

So – as we wrap up 2013 – what are you resolving to do differently personally or professionally?  Here is a light-hearted take on resolutions via Deadspin (CAUTION: beware of some rather foul language used for extra comedic effect though which is likely not safe for your work browsing unless you’re self-employed and roll like that) that I found rather humorous which may help you clear your mind and approach the activity with a bit more of an open mind.  And, whatever it is that you choose to do, best of luck!

Til Next Time,

Michael

It’s that time of year again!  The time when most of us look forward to haphazardly rewording all of this year’s accomplishments to fulfill our obligation to perform our annual reviews.  It’s always a bit of a race (for me at least) and generally something we all resolve to do a better job of throughout the year (and, subsequently fail to deliver on by the time February rolls around).  But what if it didn’t have to be this way?

A very good friend of mine works at a startup.  They don’t have a formal performance appraisal process.  No year-end reviews, calibrations, roundtables, or personnel profile edits to make.  No application to update with highlights and no dashboard with their personal Key Performance Indicator results.  I don’t even think they have KPI’s; they have “Total Sales”.  On one hand, they have made a conscious effort as a company not to bog their employees down with these sorts of reviews and deemed it as something they manage on a recurring basis throughout the year (i.e. rewarding success and reprimanding failure).  On the other hand, the employees don’t have much to look back on in terms of a “year in review” unless they complete it in silo.

I, conversely, work at a massive company with over 100,000 global employees.  We have applications and processes to manage our annual performance reviews.  We have a timeline of year end review activities to complete with our mentors and our management, and a multi-layered evaluation form we are called to complete which aims to provide a holistic view of our accomplishments and progress across the full spectrum of defined functional areas our company has designated as relevant for assessment purposes.  We have KPI targets; our scores are tracked against the goals.  Each year, I PDF my annual review and archive it so I can more easily update my resume so I am not losing sight of everything I have accomplished.  But, truth be told, the process is largely extremely painful and the last thing I look forward to doing heading into the holidays (let alone the fact that I am responsible for presenting my counselees reviews in roundtables as well – an added layer of accountability and yet another speedbump in the race to the New Year).

So – which company is doing it right?  What if I told you it was neither?

I honestly think it’s time to completely scrap the traditional performance appraisal process.  And, time to get anyone who isn’t managing performance more proactively on board with a new school of performance management thought.  I firmly believe performance management is something that should be done on a rolling cycle.  Don’t wait til the end of the year – reward people for positive performance WHEN IT HAPPENS.  Also – take the opportunity to coach and learn from mistakes in real time (again, not waiting to align it with a formal review cycles).

I have helped develop performance management systems for clients in the past, and the one thing I have found to be “stickiest” is giving an employee ability to see their metrics in real time.  Coupling that with a holistic set of accurate and meaningful KPI’s that are within an employee’s control is the perfect potion to drive the needle in key functional and technical business measures.  I think often times, though, senior leadership focuses on the wrong metrics to drive results, and they are largely unable to clearly identify for employees how their individual contributions bubble up to drive top-line corporate initiatives (if they even relate at all in the first place).

I wish I had the right answers in terms of which metrics work in which industries at which sizes of companies.  I don’t have that though.  But there is one thing I know for sure – if members of the senior leadership teams are not all on board and don’t believe in performance management as a tool to make employees feel more valued and drive results, it’s a waste of time.  Strict performance management protocols, when they become a chore rather than an activity everyone enjoys doing (i.e. ongoing rewards and recognition programs, spot bonuses, appropriate celebrations of successes), they will garner much resentment from the front-line and never ultimately yield the originally intended result.

Til Next Time,

Michael

As we head into the end of the year, it’s a great time to motivate ourselves to reach back out to friends and colleagues to look back on the year and also solicit feedback for use in personal development and reflection over the holidays.  I find this to be a really valuable way to keep yourself properly networked and shepherd actionable feedback from your colleagues and friends, so that you ultimately avoid the tendency many of us have to not show substantive improvement in our capabilities or skills year-over-year.

Good questions to yield healthy dialogue as part of a feedback session:

  • What do you feel my major strengths are with respect to my current position/role?
  • What are two or three key areas you think I could improve personally in order to add more value or drive better results for the team?
  • How would you describe my morale around the office?  My work ethic?
  • In what area (of the business overall or within our functional space) should I spend more time and energy next year in order to grow?
  • In what ways do you feel like we best collaborate?
  • If you could describe me as any type of animal, what type of animal and why?

OK, so the last one was a bit of a joke and kind of “out there”, although I have been known to ask interviewees about themselves likened to an animal (for no other reason than to chuckle – I’m really not psychoanalyzing the answer I swear).  But, as you can see, I generally try to avoid common “Yes/No” answers, and aim to capture feedback that is both positive as well as constructively critical.  That is because it helps me continually develop a healthier internal personnel profile, letting me know who my advocates could be for future opportunities, as well as the areas in which I could stand to use some development or practice.  Selfishly, it also lets me establish a baseline with the reviewer so that I can come back to them over the course of time and do a temperature check on whether I am making progress (e.g. “Hello Jill, I know you had previously mentioned that I could possibly stand to do better grammatical reviews in my summary reports; I wanted to see if you feel as though the last few have been going better?  It is something I have been working on in recent months.”).

As far as whether these should be conducted in-person, over the phone, or through an electronic source (email/Survey Monkey), I typically adjust based upon the personality of the person from whom I am seeking feedback.  You will hear “experts” in strategic communication or feedback processes tell you it has to be in person – but I don’t think that is far to the feedback giver (and, ultimately, will net you a diluted or watered down version of the truth in many cases).  Either way, as long as you are making an effort to capture this sort of feedback with a regular cadence, you will ensure you are setting yourself up for personal or professional success in whatever endeavor next year may bring.

Til Next Time,

Michael

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