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Ah… Your Performance Appraisal (or Review). A time for reflection on past performance and discussion about how to do better, with less. A time for exploring new avenues and ideas. It’s a time for creativity and construction the future with the art of the possible. Yes? No? Or is it a humdrum activity ‘done’ to you twice a year where you receive arbitrary scores for doing stuff?
For 90% of people I talk to, it’s the latter. This must be frustrating – I mean – a constructive performance appraisal can yield so many benefits for the employee and employer alike, but aren’t they squandered to become a box-ticking and naval-gazing activity. Yes, for those 90%. Is there a way to make your performance appraisal constructive and creative without breaking the process our employers have invested heavily in, and are so proud about.
You know, I think there is.
The key is in our preparation, and execution. The core purpose of a performance appraisal is to assess our achievements and behaviors in order to learn how to adjust and perform better in the future, and often to judge the ‘reward’ – that is – bonus, pay-rise or other benefits like promotion. It’s an important event!
Get this – most of us (me included) have looked at our review as an opportunity to be criticized and judged, which means we behave defensively and erect a wall of steel around us. We don’t use it to construct a possible future and identify the opportunities for us. When I thought like that, guess what, my reviews resulted in mediocre-to-poor outcomes.
When I experienced lacklustre result after lacklustre result, I consulted a career coach. After several consultations, I understood the problem. The cause wasn’t about the attitude of my boss, or that I was the victim of some malicious and well-orchestrated smear campaign. It was my own attitude that stunk. Ouch – it hurt.
My problem: I wasn’t using my performance appraisal as a learning exercise and a way of setting future direction that I could influence. My performance reviews were my opportunity to reach my potential.
It was only when I was shown the potential benefits of a review did things change for me. It took a leap of faith to make the change. When I did, though, I experienced an entirely different kind of review, and observed unprecedented outcomes. Here is what they were:
The turning point was when I realized that my performance appraisal was a golden opportunity to be constructive. You know what, though, this takes preparation and careful execution. Why? Because your boss might not be thinking the same way.
So here’s what I have learned since ‘seeing the light’ and understanding how to make the review process work for me:
So in our performance appraisals, let’s remember to be human, open, honest and forward thinking - not defensive!
If you are the reviewer or reviewee during a performance appraisal, then here is a very good book that shares phrases to use. It isn’t just a ‘say this, and then this…’ kind of book, it shows you what phrase-constructs to use in the right context to help make a performance appraisal as effective as it could be: 2600 Phrases for Effective Performance Reviews: Ready-to-Use Words and Phrases That Really Get Results
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