Reflections from Middle Management
If you’re at all like me, then you’re probably wondering how it’s already November and we’re almost done with 2017. I know. It’s crazy. You may also be wondering why we eat pizza inside-out while all other food is consumed outside-in. Think about it…..
But seriously, time is flying. If you follow me on Twitter, then you’d know this past weekend I celebrated our twin daughters’ 4th birthday. I can still remember the day they were born like it was yesterday. In fact, my wife and I moved to Dallas when she was 7 months pregnant and it still feels like we’re new to Texas. So if those sweet, little girls were born just yesterday, you can imagine how surprising it is that we’re quickly approaching the season of end-of-year performance reviews! (I know you’re excited!) It feels like we just did them, doesn’t it? But they keep coming back, much like the flu.
With that in mind, I thought I would share how the performance review landscape subtly changes as we move into higher roles and expanded responsibility. As a newer leader with first-line responsibilities, the questions we had to answer in our performance reviews were pretty straight-forward:
- Did you meet or exceed the expect results?
- How did your key performance indicators (KPI) relate to those in a similar role/job class?
- How did you impact the business positively? (i.e. stayed under budget, made significant process improvements, etc.)
However, as we begin to take larger roles (or aspire to assume these roles), things get more nuanced because the higher you go, the more level the playing field becomes. Eventually everyone is essentially a top performer, so what happens is that the differentiating factors in your performance review revolve around how others perceive you and your contributions. Make no mistake – your work needs to stand on its own – but you also have to positively impact the perception of the other decision-makers at the table.
So, what can you do to positively influence the perceptions others hold about you and your performance? Let’s look at a few different strategies.
Seek out relationships with people who see your work from an indirect, non-reporting relationship.
You better have a good relationship with your direct boss. That’s a given. But who else is going to speak up on your behalf in performance review conversations? It’s one thing for your boss to tell everyone how great you are, but it’s different (and often more impactful) for someone semi-unconnected from you to echo the same message. The more voices advocating for you, the more likely you’ll get the kind of performance review you want.
Ask for feedback proactively.
Perceptions aren’t necessarily based on facts. So how can you possibly know how others perceive you if you don’t ask? You can leverage 360 feedback tools if you prefer to keep this anonymous, or you can have those conversations in person. Either way, if you’re seen as someone who actively seeks feedback and is self-aware enough to realize you’re not perfect, it will certainly contribute to a positive perception of you when the performance review comes around.
Consider building a personal Board of Directors.
The idea is to surround yourself with people who will give you direct, honest feedback – solicited or unsolicited – with a stated intent and goal to hold you accountable to reaching your potential. You specifically ask people to be on your “Board,” share what you want and need from them, and keep regular checkpoints with them throughout the year. Often these people are not people you work with on a daily basis – or even in the same company. I’ll admit this one might not impact your performance review, but the reason I’m including it here is because the Board of Directors concept is great at creating an environment where you can identify how others perceive you and your actions. If your Board members are picking up on gaps, you can bet people back at work might be noticing those same things, and you might have some opportunities to address them ahead of performance review time.
Hopefully these ideas help you gear up for performance review time and also build a positive brand. Next month, let’s take this same concept and approach it from the lens of the leader. How would you help someone on your team tackle a known perception issue? Or even more difficult, how would you help someone realize a perception issue exists when they don’t see it?
Until next time!