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Preparing for performance reviews

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There are few discussions as nerve wracking or as sensitive as the annual performance review conversation. This single exchange has numerous implications on your career. It dictates how you are talent managed in the organisation, the bonus you receive, the opportunities you will be privy to, the exposure you will receive in future and potentially how you are poised for promotion.

Very few people prepare for this significant discussion. I often find when talking to my career coaching clients that they enter the conversation as recipients and not as active participants who steer the conversation, actively drive their agenda and purposefully position themselves for their next career role. It is essential that this ill preparation ceases and in future is countered by conscientiously preparing for this conversation.

The first step in preparation is to do a comprehensive review of your agreed key performance indicators and job description. By this I mean,you meticulously anal­­yse on a line by line basis what is expected of you in your role and what the attainment of success looks like, both in a qualitative and quantitative terms. You review what is expected of you and ensure that you are able to aptly articulate the requirements for achieving the set goals in a simple, measurable way and in a manner which you can take accountability.

After conducting this analysis you then do an audit on the work performed. This in essence is an evidence gathering exercise. You need to back up how you not only excelled, but superseded in meeting the expectations of your contracted key performance indicators. This gives you an opportunity to be an advocate for yourself and your performance. It enables you to showcase the value you have brought to the workplace and to confidently display that you are a key asset to your organisation.

In having these discussions it is important to not only take a retrospective look at how you performed, but to look to the future as to how you want to perform. It then becomes critical that you ask about the strategy for your department and the larger organisation as a whole. This enables you to better equip yourself in how you can contribute to the success of your team and the company. Your performance review discussion should always include your personal development plan.

Your positioning in this discussion becomes imperative as this conversation allows for open and honest dialogue about how you want to be stretched, what role you want to grow into, what skills training and development you require, your academic aspirations as well as the kind of support you desire from your organisation and direct supervisor.

The biggest challenge in conducting performance reviews is that very often we seem to passively wait for them to occur on an annual basis without much preparation, as a pose to making the concerted effort to actively prepare for them on a monthly basis. I encourage everyone to collate their evidence regularly by purposefully engaging your direct supervisor to solicit feedback in writing as to how you are performing against your key performance indicators, as well as her or his expectations.

Do the same with all your key stakeholders, clients and colleagues. This enables you to get a holistic view of how others see the quality of your work and engaging with you. This further aids you to track, review and improve your performance. So the next time you have a performance review and you look around at your nervous colleagues, you will have the pleasure of being cool calm and collected, because it will be the continuation of a discussion you have every month.


In this article:
Vumile Msweli
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