The Key to a Raving Performance Review

10/11/2011 1:00:31 AM

Why do some people soar in their careers while others flounder?

I asked myself this question very early in my own career, and I’m sure glad I did. The observations I made—and the solutions I came up with—served me well and, I believe, were instrumental to my career success.

Here was my secret. On my first day on the job (or in the performance review cycle), I discussed the upcoming period with my manager. At the right moment, I would ask him or her, “What would be the most significant achievement by the end of my review period?” Then, I focused on accomplishing this with all of my might. If I was successful, how could I not receive a great evaluation and salary increase and position myself for a promotion?

I did this every time. And, each time I delivered, my manager delivered. In a nutshell, I set myself up for success. It sounds simple, but few do it. 

The first time I used this approach was on my first job out of college, at the ripe old age of 22. My manager had a very precise answer to my question. Over the past several years, the accounts payable division had many unresolved invoices that had to be accounted for every month. By the time I inherited the job, these problem invoices dated back as far as 18 months. None of my predecessors had solved these problems, instead pushing them on to the next unfortunate soul. I was next in line. My manager told me that resolving these problem invoices would be a crowning achievement since my predecessors had simply “passed the buck.”

Now, armed and dangerous, I knew my mission and devoted all of my energy to accomplishing it over the next six months. With relentless focus and some ingenuity, I ended my term with the oldest unresolved invoice being three months! My manager was completely floored. I received his all-time highest evaluation (and the highest raise out of all of my peers), and this approach set the stage for several significant promotions. Ironically, in a mere twelve months, I was promoted to his level. I kid you not!

You may find a better way, but this approach literally proved infallible for me over the course of my career. If you have a clear understanding of what the boss considers outstanding, how can they not give you a great review if you deliver the goods?

Regardless of whether it’s your first job or you’re in the late stages of your career, it’s essential to know how you’ll be evaluated and what constitutes excellence in the eyes of your supervisor. Then, it’s a matter of getting the job done.  

Oh, one last thing. Never miss a deadline from your boss. Strive to be a “piece of cake” to manage! They’ll greatly appreciate your reliability and it will make a difference in your job reviews. 

What strategy have you learned that give you the greatest chance
of receiving a glowing report at review time?
What advice would you give a young person
to concentrate on in his or her efforts to earn a great review?