The annual review process has long been recognised as far from the most effective model for measuring performance. However, it’s still likely that you’ll be involved in some sort of review process, and at the moment you might just be somewhere in your end of half review cycle.
If you are required to be in the cycle, then use this current point in time to your advantage, and set yourself up for a great future. Now is a great chance to make the process as good as it can be. There’s certainly immense benefit in stopping to reflect, and deadlines can help sharpen the mind. However, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of the cycle, and only bring this reflection to bear in the days leading up to your review deadlines.
The ideal outcome is to make the formal process as painless as possible, by switching yourself to a constant rolling cycle of learning and growth.
First up, record what’s gone well and what was less good? Really work on this and don’t fall for recency bias. Try and find something from each month, then look for patterns. You can use email, instant messenger and direct feedback as sources for this reflection. Once you’ve built it up, think about how hard that was. If you track as you go then the reflection will come more easily in the future, and will certainly be quicker to pull together.
Take those patterns. Good things are your strengths, less good areas might be places to develop.
What do you want to focus on, think about where you want to grow. Set some strong forwards looking goals, and don’t be vague! Give them different time horizons. Think about three months, six months and other durations. Do this to set even stronger accountability, and use the variation to start to break out of your performance cycle.
Now you can review these goals with your manager. They may be able to provide more insight, or wider organisational context. If you are being reviewed annually, then this might also be a chance to discuss what an outstanding end of year review would look like. Agree this with your manager, and write it down. Documenting agreements like this will make all parties accountable in creating successful outcomes.
Agree to regular reviews and check-ins in weekly one-to-ones. If you don’t have them, now’s a great time to organise them. It’s all about making sure you have the support to achieve great things, whilst showing your progress and course correcting quickly if things are going less well.
This approach will let you get the most out of a fixed review cycle. You’re able to take it, turn it into a rolling process and then use the formal cycle as a point in time check-in.
It’s a great way to go from the theatre and heavy workload of annual reviews to a powerful shared model of constant development.
Own your future, and make reviews work for you.