From the series “The CEO Lens,” chronicling insights from Ross Meyercord’s learned experiences as CEO of Propel Software.
Performance evaluations. Nothing drives more fear and trepidation into the hearts of employees and managers alike in the corporate world.
We are in the middle of our performance cycle at Propel, so I want to share some thoughts on writing and receiving evaluations that may hopefully begin to change how you think about them.
On the surface, it seems so straightforward. We periodically take a step back from the day-to-day interactions and document how our employees are doing. These are people we work with all the time, how hard can it be to jot down a couple thoughts for each of them? But because we do work together all the time, so many other dynamics come into play:
How will the person receive the feedback? Will they get upset, disagree, or disengage if they don’t “like” the feedback? Did I spend enough time talking about their strengths?
The “human element” of providing feedback can get in our way of being clear-eyed and purposeful about helping employees understand their strengths and where they can develop.
It’s All in the Mindset
First, know that your supervisor/manager wants to help you develop in your career. Development points and advice in a review are by their very nature meant to focus on what you can do better.
There are no employees, myself included, who are perfect at their job. Perfection is an elusive target anyway. Know that we all have room for improvement and the review process is intended to help you personally on that journey.
Managers may not always get it right in terms of crisply articulating your improvement areas, but they are providing their point of view. Remember the time-honored adage, “Feedback is a gift”.
So how should you approach your review from your manager? First of all, do your best to hold your judgment in check. Listen with an open mind and truly hear the feedback.
Here are some tips to help you out:
- Ask clarifying questions if you don’t understand or want to learn more.
- Don’t get defensive or try to refute or make excuses.
- If unclear initially, ask your manager how you can get better. What would good look like if you nailed this in the future?
- Seek their help, coaching, and commitment to help you get better.
Occasionally you will get a review that doesn’t say much (i.e. “Keep up the good work” or “You are doing everything right,” etc.). When this happens, I would encourage you to call BS on your manager. Push them to give you actionable feedback. Suggest some things you think you need to work on.
A year you don’t work on improving yourself is a year wasted in your professional development. Keep on pushing yourself to get better every year.
So as your own performance evaluation cycles approach, keep these thoughts in mind. Maybe your next evaluation can even be something to look forward to instead of dread!
In case you missed it, check out the previous installment of The CEO Lens: “What Makes Trust the Currency of SaaS.”