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How to nail your performance review

A performance review can be a source of significant stress and anxiety for anyone. In this op-ed, leadership and people management expert Karen Gately outlines nine top tips to knock your next performance review out of the park. 

How much do you look forward to your performance review? If you enthusiastically responded with positivity to that question that's great news, keep valuing the process, it can do a lot to help you get ahead in your career. If you're far from enthusiastic and anticipate a stressful, disappointing or even confronting process ahead, take comfort in the fact that you far from alone.  

Most people dread appraisal time, both managers and team members alike. When done well, however, performance management is a powerful tool that will help you to realise your full potential. The reality is though, for the process to add any real value both you and your manager need to invest and own it.  

Among the most important steps you can take to nail your next performance review include these:

1.    Treat performance management as an ongoing process. Success begins well before your review is even on the horizon. Begin with knowing what is expected of you and get feedback that helps you understand how you are tracking. Regularly calibrate with your boss the ongoing relevance of your goals and priorities.  

2.    Focus taking value from the process. Engage with an open mind in honest conversation with your manager about how you have performed relative to expectations set. Your goal should be to come away from the meeting with clear understanding of how your manager rates your achievements and behaviour, together with steps you can take to continue to learn and grow in your career.  

3.    Take ownership. One of the most important drivers of success at work is our ability to take ownership of our own performance. People who assume personal accountability make sure they have the information, guidance, support and self-awareness they need to achieve their goals. Your review is a great opportunity to demonstrate the ownership you have taken throughout the year for your own success.   

Don't entertain excuses! If necessary, be prepared to give reasons you think you failed to achieve a goal, but avoid playing the victim and looking for things and people to blame. Equally, for your self-appraisal to be viewed as reasonable, it's important you acknowledge how others have helped you to succeed.  

4.    Be prepared. It is important you take some time before your review for honest self-reflection. Review your performance plan and understand which of your goals you have achieved, which you have missed and why. Reflect on what you have learned and the things you would now do differently as a consequence. Consider the obstacles or challenges you have overcome. 

Make sure you apply the same criteria to assess your own performance as you would for anyone else. There's no point being your harshest critic or an easy marker. Your goal is to accurately appraise the results you have achieved, the effort you have put in and how you have conducted yourself.  

To truly nail your performance review, you also need to make sure you DON'T do any of these things.  

1.    Get into an argument. While you may disagree with your managers assessment, be careful to keep emotions in check. Pushing back aggressively is unlikely to lead to an outcome you are happy with. Protect the relationship you have with your boss and choose to reengage in conversation about your concerns at another time.  

2.    Turn up unprepared. Demonstrate commitment to your own performance and development by investing in the process.  

3.    Be too shy to share your achievements. Make sure your manager is fully aware of the things you have achieved. Keep in mind you manager isn't watching you all day every day (even if it feels that way, it's unlikely) so they may not be aware of all of the ways you have contributed to the team's success, if you don't tell them.    

4.    Be closed minded.  

Karen Gately, founder of Corporate Dojo, is a leadership and people-management specialist.  

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