Taking control of your performance review

Jul 07 2010 by Francie Dalton Print This Article

Have you ever felt the need to prove your value to your boss? Have you ever felt that your hard-won accomplishments are considered "light weight"? Are you at all skittish about articulating how your work contributes to the overall organization?

If so, take heart. This article will help you communicate your value without seeming narcissistic.

Before you read on, write out what you'd normally write to your boss to make him/her aware of at least one accomplishment about which you're very proud. Now, assess what you've written to see if some edits are in order:

The Three Most Common Mistakes

Misused Adjectives: Did you use words like "Top Quality", "Cost Effective", "Excellent" or "Appropriate"? If so, you've lost a huge opportunity to feature your results.

For example, saying "Secured five desirable clients" lacks punch. The technique for correcting this error is the "FIB" (fill-in-the-blank) question, which forces you to rephrase your outcome more powerfully.

Here's how it works. "The five clients I secured were desirable because they xxxxx [fill in the blank]".

Using the FIB technique evokes a degree of specificity that produces a much stronger outcome statement. "Secured five new clients away from the ABC competitor, with combined initial orders of X$, each of which agreed to stock an inventory of our products valued at X$ annually".

Which outcome statement would your boss find more impressive??

Misused Verbs: Does your statement include words like: "promote", "support", "coordinate", "educate", "attend"? If so, consider this example.

"Attended all the meetings of the XYZ committee". But warming a seat is not an accomplishment, so this isn't an outcome statement!

The technique for correcting this error is to ask "why" regarding the verb: "Why did I attend the XYZ meeting?" Usually, the answer reveals that the activity served some higher purpose, such as neutralizing a problem, creating an opportunity, building a strategic relationship, etc. Remember, it's not the various activities, but the outcome produced by those activities that you need to capture, and by which you'll be judged.

Applying this technique to our example might produce the following improved outcome statement: "Secured on-the-record support of our policy on "X" from three member companies during the XYZ meeting."

Misused Comparison Words: Outcome statements containing words such as "increase", "decrease", "expand", "reduce", "more", "improve", usually lack clarity. For example: "Achieved a 10% increase in attendance at the 2009 conference" doesn't reveal the utility of that increase. After all, one could raid the nearest assisted living facility and increase attendance.

Instead, be specific about the composition of that additional 10%. How about: "Achieved a 10% increase in attendance by CEO's of targeted prospect companies at the 2009 conference over the 2008 level."

A few quick tips about when and how to provide these updates. First, the communication of your business outcomes to your boss should not occur too frequently; ask how often s/he wants to be briefed.

Next, your briefing should not be a narrative, whether written or verbal; instead, bullet your items. Finally, don't use the word "I"; instead, start off your outcome statements with powerful verbs.

Clearly, the crafting of evidence based outcome statements is a fairly tedious process, but the investment pays tremendous dividends. Your accomplishments, and their radial impacts, will be more visible; your boss will likely be more willing to engage with you, since you will have established a track records of superb clarity, combined with the brevity that is the essence of "exec-speak".

Providing your boss with evidence based outcome statements will also establish a firm foundation for your performance review, insulating you against the possibility of a gut-feel or best-guess assessment by your boss.


About The Author

Francie Dalton
Francie Dalton

Francie Dalton is founder and president of Dalton Alliances, Inc., a business consultancy specializing in the communication, management and behavioral sciences.