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What to Do Before Your Annual Review: Tip 4

Here’s my final tip–for now!–on What to Do Before Your Annual Review. Have you tried some of these ideas? Or have others you’ve used? I love to hear about what’s working at work–and what isn’t–so please share so we can share with our community! You can reply at the end of this post, or you can share on our Facebook page! If you missed the three earlier tips, here they are:

Tip #4: Talk Before It’s Time to Talk

Does your annual review conversation quickly degrade into running down the a checklist of tasks you and your boss haven’t discussed in a while? Do you hope for a big, meaty, insightful conversation, but end up with a ho-hum information exchange that could have been sent over email?

If that’s the case, it’s time for you to engage in tip #4–talk before it’s time to talk.

Contrary to popular belief, your annual review is usually not the right time to start a conversation about your career growth, promotability, or your achievements. The conversation is best when it’s a continuation of topics you’ve already been talking about.

Already talking about? “But we’ve been too busy to really talk, ” a client said to me. “Besides, isn’t it my manager’s responsibility to make sure we’re talking,  so she knows what’s going on with me?” Yes, and no is my response.

I’ll explain. Yes, one lesson in Good Manager Behavior 101 is to make time to regularly connect with your team. This often plays out as scheduling one-on-one monthly or quarterly meetings or calls, where the agenda is intended to be on bigger picture issues, like professional development, growth, or new opportunities.

AND, the reality is that even with many good intentions to live Good Manager Behavior 101, today’s working manager is busier than ever, and those check-in meetings can revert to task review, or worse, get perpetually postponed due to the firedrills of the day. A colleague of mine, a well respected Good Manager in a large organization, wrote me:

  • “I know from experience how important the one-on-one meetings can be, and I even enjoy the opportunity to take a step back and talk to that particular person. But in the everyday swirl, when those meetings show up on the calendar, they don’t seem that important. Cancelling doesn’t feel great, but unless anything’s on fire with the employee, I end up choosing the day’s urgency instead of the long-term investment in my team. I think my team is sometimes grateful for the cancellation, too. “

So when even a Good Manager is pushing those conversations off, you can be sure an Average Manager or a Still-Learning Manager might be doing the same thing, too. What’s a person to do?

Make time to talk before your annual talk. If your boss isn’t already scheduling—and keeping—a regular check-in meeting with you, at a minimum invite him or her to catch up at least a month before the performance review time, by saying things like:

  • “I know you have a lot going on, and we haven’t had the chance to connect live/voice-to-voice for a while. What would be helpful to know from me as we get ready for our annual performance review conversation?”
  • “With our annual review conversation coming up, what’s the one thing you want to make sure we cover then?”

Also, you know how you don’t want any surprises in your annual review? Well, your manager is just like you, and springing a fresh topic during the annual review can be an unpopular–and unproductive–strategy. But if you do have big picture questions or expectations for the review, try setting those expectations in advance:

  • “I have a few questions I’d like to make sure we talk about in the next few months. What works best for you—making time during our annual review conversation, or scheduling additional time to talk shortly afterward?”
  • “I know our annual review is approaching. Will you be sending me anything in advance to prepare? If not, I have some thoughts/ questions I’d like to cover, and I’ll send them to you by [commit to a date that’s far enough in advance to give your manager a chance to look at them]. “

The bottom line is, no matter who’s job it seems on paper, you deserve and need focused attention and conversation at annual review time, and throughout the working year. Don’t wait for others to tell you what or when–start talking before it’s time to talk. You’ll take back the control you need –and you’ll be better positioned to bring your superpowers to work.

How do you prepare for your annual review? Share your tips or reactions to this post by replying below, or commenting on our Facebook page!