There are very few work experiences that hurt more than the moment you discover you and your boss have completely different impressions of how you are performing. In truth, you don’t so much discover a performance gap like this as it hits you in the gut. It can bring with it a feeling of emptiness, confusion and frustration to a degree you didn’t think was possible in work life. This happened to me exactly one time. I vowed in that moment never to let it happen again. This is why I created a performance template for myself. Not the one the company makes me fill out. Not something my boss gives me. Something I created to make 100% certain that I would never experience such a giant disconnect with my manager again.
Too many people assume performance management is the responsibility of the manager. And as much as I can see how we’ve arrived at this conclusion, it couldn’t be further from the truth. The only one responsible for your performance – the ranking of your performance – is you. Frankly nobody else cares all that much about it. Sure it’s uncomfortable for your boss to give you a negative review a couple times a year, but she doesn’t have to live with the consequences. It’s not her bonus. It’s not his future. If you are not actively managing your performance with your boss, you’re leaving too much to chance.
I built the personal performance review template so I could make sure to stay in total sync with my boss throughout the year and not risk veering off course. I like to use it as the framework and agenda for my weekly 1 on 1 meetings with my manager. Using this type of performance review template on a weekly basis ensures a few things:
- My boss and I stay aligned on what the most important success factors are for me.
- If my boss’s priorities change, I don’t wait until the annual review to find out.
- Our conversations stay focused on the most important things, not minutia.
- I have a consistent forum to promote my progress and successes.
- I have a structured framework for requesting help and documenting obstacles.
The personal performance review template is intentionally simple. Its simplicity is what makes it effective – it’s the perfect amount of information to be consumable by an executive and to ensure we stay focused on only the most important things. The performance review template tracks 3-5 key performance measures you’ve aligned to with your boss.
Performance measures, in my opinion should fall into one of the following three categories:
Performance Metrics. These are extremely important and you should make sure to propose some concrete metrics if you don’t have them already. Don’t wait for your boss to tell you what they are – put something out there and force her to have a dialogue with you about them. In a standard 4 measure template, I like to have two performance metrics. In the example I used for a marketing manager, I chose Leads and Web Site Visits. These are specific, finite measures that leave no room for ambiguity when the annual review comes around. Either you hit them or you don’t. It will be clear to everyone. That’s the position you want to be in.
Major Deliverables. Most jobs have a few performance metrics and a few major deliverables that define success and failure. In the case of the marketing manager example template, there is a market report that needs to be delivered. Select the most important deliverable for you (not all of them) and include it in your personal performance review template.
Learning Goals. Most people ignore learning goals when it comes to tracking performance. That is a mistake. You need to get your boss invested in your development and to think of your learning objectives as determining factors in your success and value. Most people are too passive about this. They sit back and wait for their boss or the company to provide them professional development opportunities. Don’t wait. You are responsible for your own development and any reasonable manager is going to support you if you propose it constructively. Use your 1-1 meetings to talk to your boss about what your personal learning goals should be. In the marketing example I’ve used, the person has decided to focus learning on the topic of inbound marketing. She has agreed with her boss that she should complete an online course this quarter to meet that goal. My recommendation within the standard four measure template, is to have one learning goal to track on a weekly basis with your boss. Once you have your performance measures in place, you update the template before each weekly 1-1 meeting with your manager.
A quick aside... If you don’t have regular weekly 1-1 meetings with your direct manager, you should request them. Even if you sit beside your manager and you feel totally in sync, the 1-1 meeting is critical to optimize your performance. It’s a meeting specifically designed to keep you on track with your goals and to ensure you’re getting the support you need.
Prior to each weekly 1-1 meeting, I enter a few bullets for each performance measure to update my boss on the progress I made the previous week. I try to keep it concise and at an executive summary level. Only the most important things should go here. Frankly the template isn’t big enough to fit more than the most important pieces of information. Keep your bullets focused on things that have been completed or delivered. This is not a template for you to describe the things you’re working on or the activities in process. What tangible progress has been made to advance the performance measure in the previous week? If you find you often don’t have tangible progress to report for a particular performance measure then you are almost certainly not focusing enough time on it or you’ve aligned to the wrong success measure with your boss. Check out the book “The One Thing” for excellent advice on prioritization and time allocation.
Once you’ve added a few bullets to record progress, you can add a few bullets to identify any help you need to make further progress in the week to come. Resources, reviews, approvals … this is a great place to get the limited time and attention of your boss directed on these issues.
If you’ve ever sat across from your manager and listened to her tell you why your performance is not meeting her expectation, you know just how painful it can be. Especially if you believed you were doing well. Use the personal performance review template as the framework for your 1-1 meetings to take control over your own performance and ensure that never happens to you again. The performance review template focuses the dialogue with your boss on the most important factors for your success. It bypasses minutia and other distractions and guarantees you are aligned on achieving what is most important.
Download my free performance review template and let me know how it goes.
Also check out some of my other free tools to improve your career.