A Performance Review That’s Not a Winner

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    A not so great performance review doesn’t have to be a career setback.

    Recently I coached a talented project manager who had received a not so stellar performance review that could impact her career advancement. Getting negative feedback from your boss is not a joyride. In fact, it can be devastating. I know from experience. So what do you do?

    My first reaction was to go home and hide under the bed covers – not a very mature response. But the next day, I let go of my embarrassment and started a list of concrete actions that would lead to performance improvement. I then went to my boss, now feeling more confident, and reviewed my list. We agreed on two performance areas that needed improvement; scheduled training and special assignments to develop specific skills; and finally set a time table to keep me on track.

    What did I learn from that experience?

    1. Reflect before reacting.
    It’s far too easy to be defensive. Let the results sink in before you do anything. Does the feedback ring true? Is there concrete evidence? Does it resonate with things you’ve heard in the past?

    2. Decide what to change.
    What feedback is most important to you as a leader, manager or professional? What are the two or three things you can start working on immediately to get results? It’s important to show improvement quickly so you won’t get labeled as a poor performer.

    3. Get support from others.
    Ask your manager, as well as other key people (peers, direct reports, mentors, etc) to give you regular feedback as you make the needed changes. Avoid vague questions like: “How am I doing?” Rather, ask for specific feedback. “How was my presentation on target and off target?”

    How did the project manager avoid a career setback?

    Well she choose to work on her leadership style. She admitted she was a perfectionist – detailed oriented, focused on facts, and very cautious to take a stand fearing it may be the wrong decision. That led to her projects getting behind schedule. So she decided to improve her delegation, decision making and communication skills. She also kept her manager in the loop and requested regular feedback from him.

    Bottom line: Her projects are meeting the milestones set by her boss; she is more self assured and able to let go of responsibility and authority; and she’s back on a career track for advancement.

    Readers, how have you turned around a poor performance review?

    Do you want to develop Career Smarts?