We often say “Outstanding performance is your ticket to the game.” By that we mean for good things to happen to your career, you must have a reputation—and performance appraisals to back it up—of consistent, outstanding performance year after year. Your performance review is your company’s ongoing record of the perceived quality and value of your work. Any good leader interested in hiring you will check your performance record—your performance appraisals—to assess how your performance is trending. Therefore, ensuring a record of outstanding performance is absolutely critical to your career success.
Ensuring an outstanding performance rating at the end of the year means managing a year-long process which begins with goal-setting, continues with a mid-year performance assessment, and culminates in your year-end performance appraisal. If the end of the year is the first time you think about how to achieve an outstanding performance rating, you have left it rather late. In this post, I describe your year-end process to increase the likelihood of achieving an outstanding rating.
Our ultimate goal is to make it as easy as possible for your manager to give you an outstanding performance rating. Begin by familiarizing yourself with your company’s performance-management system. Most robust systems begin with a goal-setting process at the beginning of the year where you and your boss agree on the results or outcomes you are expected to deliver by the end of the year—by now! If you created goals for the year, now is the time to review them and determine the extent to which you accomplished your stated goals.
Reflect on both the quantity and quality of your results. Consider important relationships you built or sustained and any significant collaborations you created or maintained to achieve your results. Give careful attention to the extent to which your goals supported your boss’ goals and contributed to the goals of your department. And, finally, consider the impact in 2020 of the COVID-19 pandemic and how it may have changed not only where and the way you work, but your goals and objectives as well.
Now, look at each of your goals and assess the extent to which you were able to deliver what you promised. Did you meet your goals? Did you exceed your goals? Were you unable to achieve some of your goals? If you don’t have a list of goals from the beginning of the year, create a list of outcomes/results from the deliverables you provided throughout the year. What’s important when creating this list of outcomes is to avoid mistaking activities for outcomes. For example, an activity is “Made 250 calls to potential donors.” An outcome is “Made 250 calls to potential donors resulting in contributions of $100,000 for this fiscal year.” For your year-end performance appraisal, the outcomes of your work are far more important than your activity throughout the year. Think carefully about your 12 months of hard work and your specific outcomes. Make a list of all of your outcomes—large, medium, and small.
COVID-19 had a tremendous impact on how we work, but how much did it really change on what you worked—your expected deliverables? The pandemic sent us home to work, limited our face-to-face interactions with one another, and significantly reduced our travel. We have all adapted and adjusted to pandemic constraints since March, and for many, it has been extremely difficult. The winners in 2020 are those employees who were able to deliver outstanding results despite the negative impact of working through the pandemic. Therefore, you want your performance appraisal to reflect your ability to deliver outstanding results notwithstanding the pandemic.
Finally, we want to use your list of outcomes you delivered in 2020 to provide a self-appraisal to your boss. A well-written self-appraisal describes your 2020 goals and how you achieved them with your specific list of outcomes (not activities!) As much as possible, your self-appraisal should use the same format as your company’s performance appraisal document to make it easy for your boss to simply cut and paste language from your self-appraisal into the company’s performance appraisal system. Providing your boss a strong year-end self-appraisal is the best-kept secret for increasing the likelihood of achieving a great performance rating.