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Managewhich’s Guide to the Annual Review

For many middle managers, it’s that time of year again.  Fiscal year’s over and review time is upon us.  I’m guessing that this is an unpleasant task for most of you, which is a shame.

Corporate America has taken one of it’s better opportunities for engagement and celebration and turned it into a administrivia-laden stress-inducing B.S.-laden process that’s designed to control compensation as opposed to inspire great performance.  In the end, most people feel demoralized.  (If your experience is different, I’d love to hear about it.)

All that said, you have the power to make the experience different for your folks, and I recommend that you do.  Here are three things you can do this year to make the annual review a win for your staff:

Understand thoroughly how the performance management and review process works in your company.  Rarely does it work the way it’s documented, and be very candid with your staff about what’s involved.  For example, most companies don’t disclose that they score on a bell curve (I.e. there are only so many “Exceeds” to go around).  This is important for setting expectations, because you may think that Jane walks on water, but Jane’s “Exceeds Expecations” may get reduced when management 3-levels up makes the final cuts.

DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT (did I say do not?) promise anything about raises, promotions, or bonuses unless they have been approved by HR.  I mean it.  If there is a place to get burned, this is it.  What happens is that you want to be a good guy and you tell someone to expect good things, and then, later in the part of the process that you’re not involved in, your person gets knocked down to fit in the bell curve.  Not good.

Acknowledge and celebrate successes.  Do it privately in the review.  Hit what’s good about that person hard. Look for opportunities for development (“how you can be even better next year”) as opposed to ways to make the person wrong. That said, if there is a true performance issue, be direct and kind and address it. Have a team lunch or pot luck or conference call to celebrate your team and your appreciation of the efforts they make and who they are.  One thing that one of my clients did that I think is really special is that she wrote down 2 or 3 things that she appreciated about each person on her staff and shared that at their final meeting for the year.

Here are three things you can do for next year:

Plan for success.  Create goals and objectives that are meaningful and doable.  If your success depends on another group, get together and align those goals.  Nothing like getting left holding the bag at the end of the year, yes?

Teach your staff how to write out their accomplishments in the STARS format and have them do it throughout the year.  It’s good for their resume, and it makes life easier for you.  You’ll have a mostly filled out review at the end of the year.  Review these along with performance issues during the year. You’ll have your comments all ready to go.  And, you’ll have much more specific documentation at your fingertips for when it comes time to influence others as to why your people deserve raises and promotions.  There is little better for managing down than getting people raises and promotions.

And, for next year… if you lack the influence and negotiating skills to get wins for your staff, consider putting that on your personal development plan.

This year, I am going to do something special.  At this time of year, I offer a “Close Out the Old, Bring in the New” complimentary consultation for anyone who wants to set themselves up for success in the coming year.  In addition, this year, I am going to send the accompanying worksheets to all of eZine subscribers.  If you’re not a subscriber on the eZine (and I don’t know why you wouldn’t be if you love my blog), I’m giving you fair warning so that this is coming so that you can receive it.   Sign up right here:

Be Your Best You Today,
Carolann Jacobs

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