Thursday, April 30, 2009

What Your Boss Really Wants to Hear in Your Next Performance Evaluation

Tests are often the bane of every student's existence -- they hate them and often don't consider them a true evaluation of what they know.

Fast forward many years, and you're once again facing a test. Only this time it's called a performance evaluation and once again, you don't believe it's a true reflection of your abilities.

The problem with tests and performance evaluations is that the power is often in the hands of the teacher or the boss. You don't really know exactly what you're going to be asked, and so may then do poorly when put on the spot.

But what if I told you that there may be a way to figure out what you're going to be asked in your next performance evaluation? Or, at least have answers prepared that will keep you from freezing like a third-grader who doesn't know his state capitals?

All bosses want the same thing. They want employees who are going to make them look better and smarter. And always, always, always, employees have to help them make money. It's the same thing, in other words, that their bosses want.

If you understand that your success depends on helping the boss get what he wants, then you can structure your answers to make sure you meet those goals. This is what you should always keep in mind when heading into a performance evaluation:

1. Find ways you make him look better. Do you review materials before they are sent to clients to make sure there are no errors? Do you follow up with unhappy customers to make sure they have a positive image of your company? Do you forward him key industry news so that he is prepared when he meets with his boss? Helping the boss look better to his boss, to customers and to peers helps the boss see the worth of having you around. Sprinkle examples throughout your meeting, so that he is reminded of how good you make him look.

2. Show that he's a genius. If you can find ways to streamline a process to save time and money, then you're going to please the boss. The boss's boss is probably breathing down his neck to find ways to cut costs and work more efficiently, so anything you can do in that area will score points. Can you come in under budget on a project? Is a new technology you discovered going to bring in more customers? Give examples of how your work travels up the ladder -- you take pressure off him because you're such a smart cookie.

3. Look for bottom-line results. Did you find a mistake from a supplier that shows your company was overcharged? Have you thought of a way to attract a new client? Have your networking efforts resulted in a new strategic partner? Companies are under enormous pressure to bring in new business in a difficult economy, so bosses are going to be even more focused on bringing in additional revenue. Always be sure you mention how your actions show you're watching that bottom line at all times. Because he sure is.

What are some other ways to help a performance evaluation go smoothly?


David Benjamin said...

Another great post Anita!

Other ways to be prepared is to keep a journal of your successes throughout the year. It's easy to forget, even the minor ones but will come in handy when preparing for your review.

Don't be afraid to document your failures too. This will help you in preparing for turning those failures into future success stories...and the boss always loves those stories!

Anita said...

The journal is a great idea, both for the successes and the failures. And, along these lines, keeping track of your paperwork that applauds your accomplishments...thank you notes from customers, kudos from peers or bosses...those will certainly help.

Scot Herrick said...

The best advice to get the rating you want? Make sure you always do your own self-review that gets handed out in large companies. Do it as if it were a real performance review and put in your goal attainment and how you helped your manager meet goals.

The reason? Your performance rating is determined long before you get your performance review from the manager -- it has to go through layers of approval and pass the budget.

As a result, often the ONLY documentation your manager has when deciding your rating is your self-review turned in just before the ratings are first submitted. Now you have justification for the rating and your manager has cold, hard facts about what you accomplished for the manager to defend your rating in calibration sessions.

The journal (I use status reports) becomes your record of what you did and you pick the stuff you need for your review from it.

But write your own review because it tells your boss how you helped -- and no one else on the team will take the time to write an accurate review.

Anita said...

These are such concrete suggestions I hope that everyone is putting them into play RIGHT NOW. Thanks!

Joan Schramm said...

Excellent article! Another thing I recommend is that you be prepared to talk about your future during your evaluation. Be ready to discuss your goals for the next year with your boss, and outline how you plan to accomplish them.

This also gives you a head start on next year's eval -- you'll be able to refer to last year's goals and how you achieved (or surpassed) them.

Anita said...

Good suggestion...because if you don't have goals in mind and are ready to show how they will benefit the company as well, then your boss might come up with some for you (that may or may not be a good fit.) And, as you said, it gives you a head start for next year. Thanks for contributing!

Dan McCarthy said...

Anita –
The employees that give me the worst headaches are the ones that can’t collaborate and tick off their co-workers. So I like to see examples of how an employee has helped their team members be successful, as well as credit given to their team members for their shared accomplishments.

Anita said...

You're not alone. I've heard a lot of bosses say something similar! That's a great suggestion -- and one many employees need to heed.

Michele Kendall said...

Anita, I am disappointed that you used the term "him" instead of "him/her" or "your boss". The assumption that a boss is a male is ancient.

Anita said...

If you'll check out my other blog posts, you'll note I use "her" for managers many times. I try to alternate.

Anonymous said...

Here's something that's often overlooked by employees: take a look at the PRIOR year's eval and be prepared to tell your boss how you took suggestions from that review and improved in those areas. It not only shows commitment on your part but shows that you take the evaluation process seriously.