When it comes to appraisal meetings, you get what you ask for, not always what you deserve.
It’s March. Why are we writing about the annual de-motivational review process? (Sorry, performance review.) Every year businesses throughout the world put thousands and thousands of employees through an annual performance review process or appraisal. A few people get the top rating and are delighted. Most people get a good rating and are just okay about it. Anyone else is likely to feel miserable about having all of their efforts ignored, so 75% of the working population end up feeling more de-motivated than before.
Many PAs I have worked with in the past have been outstanding in their roles, but have over the years maxed out at the top of the salary band, or have a very small variable pay. Yes, that’s another year with little or no financial impact, however much you were ‘appreciated’.
So what’s the point of putting effort into the annual review process, I hear you ask? I guess the simple answer to this is thinking about all the waking hours we spend at work, and the non-financial rewards on offer.
‘Okay, so I have to work, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be an enjoyable experience’. Your annual appraisal provides the perfect opportunity to get commitment to make some small changes, or even some more fundamental ones that can make your working time more rewarding for you.
The appraisal is just a culmination of activities over the year, so you can start to implement actions to end up in a better place at any time in the calendar year.
10 Ideas to enable a great appraisal meeting
1. Set some really great performance objectives
Your performance objectives should, in addition to the three or four of the core outputs you deliver in your role, cover outputs that you will find interesting or challenging, and will enrich your job. Your objectives should be discussed and agreed with your line manager, and should be SMART (Specific Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound).
Ideally you should set these at the beginning of the year, but if you have not updated these recently, it should be easy to discuss with your manager in the context of thinking about your performance and development.
2. Think about the quality of your key relationships
How well you do in any role is often dependent on the quality of the relationships you have with the key stakeholders you work with. Inevitably, when you are being reviewed their perception of you will be key to both your performance rating, and their willingness to support you in your development.
Think about how well you know the key stakeholders, what you understand about their needs, and what you think they understand about yours. If the quality of your relationship is not as good as you would like it to be, think about ways of trying to develop a stronger personal relationship with that person, starting by understanding what the pressures are on them, and how your role can best help them. When you feel more comfortable, try to open up a little more on who you are, and how you work best. Just spending a little time to get below the skin of the ‘did you have a good weekend’ conversation, can make a huge difference to the depth of your relationship.
Making your manager aware of what motivates you, and makes you feel appreciated can also help enormously with how you enjoy your job, because if they know what you want, it’s much easier for them to manage you in a way that suits you.
3. Think about how you meet with your boss
Think about how you typically meet with your manager. Is this something you could formalize on a regular basis, maybe over coffee? If you have regular agenda sharing meetings, you will have more opportunity to see how you can proactively get engaged with things that may be interesting for you, and change your level of operation.
4. Get some feedback
Are you in the habit of asking for feedback? When you know you have done something well, asking for feedback not only affirms your manager’s positive impression of you, it also gives you an important opportunity to be appreciated.
If it is appropriate in your organization, think about sending an e-mail three weeks prior to your performance review meeting to a few people you have worked with significantly over the last six months. You could ask them for examples of things you have done well, what they would like to see you doing more of, and possibly what they would like you to do less of. You can then share this with your line manager for the review meeting, which will be a great way of giving them perspective on what you are doing in other areas, and how well you are valued by others.
5. Make it really easy for your manager to manage you
If you prepare your objectives, schedule some update meetings, and make sure the appraisal meeting is in the diary well in advance, it’s much more difficult for your line manager not to spend time with you. This is your opportunity to emphasize that this is important to you, and you’re pleased that your manager is investing time to do this.
If they postpone the meeting, be positive about it, but just confirm with them when a suitable time would be to do the meeting, so it doesn’t have to be re-scheduled again. A subtle reminder about the most senior leaders in the business ‘walking the talk’ with their direct team’s development may also work.
6. Be clear what you want to get out of the appraisal meeting
As part of the planning, think about what you would like to change as a result of the appraisal, and how you are going to measure this happening. Make sure you are clear in highlighting your achievements, and what you would like to do more of in the future. Write down any feedback you are given, and be curious about any comments that could be negative, rather than deny them or get emotional about them. Comments like: ‘that’s interesting, can you tell me a little more about why you perceive me that way’, can actually be really helpful, and maybe clear up a misunderstanding.
If there is negative feedback, remember that your manager’s perception must be based on something, so find out what this is and what you can do to change it, and if necessary develop your skills. You should ask for their support with this. If you still do not agree, try not to take it personally and just get on with your job. If things are really bad, and unlikely to change, think about looking for a role that better meets your needs and skills.
7. How will your manager leave the room feeling?
You should also think about what the three things are that you want your manager to leave the room thinking about you. It should have been more along the lines of ‘I really must make more effort to ensure I retain X and develop them as they are critical to my team’. You certainly don’t want it to be ‘I don’t know what’s got into X, demanding all these changes and being high maintenance’.
9. What do I do if I have a lousy meeting?
If things didn’t quite go as you had planned, think about what the outcome was. If you are unhappy with the outcome, think about who you can discuss this with to generate options to change the situation. Once you have a range of options, you can then make some decisions in a calm and informed way about what to do next.
If was only a small thing you were unhappy with, think about whether the juice is worth the squeeze of bringing it up again. You don’t want to amplify a small negative if you don’t need to. On the other hand, it’s okay to go back at a quiet moment and just mention it to your boss, saying that you would like to understand a little bit more about why they said that.
10. Identify people to help you
Having a really great appraisal (which is the summary of a great working year) requires planning, thought, and effort throughout the whole year. There will be many people who can help you with this, ranging from friends in and outside of work, peers or even other members of the Executive Team, such as Executive Assistants. You could book a quick coffee with any of these to talk about some of the changes you would like to make in your role to make it more fulfilling for you. You could get their feedback on your ideas, their input on things they think you could get involved in, and some ideas on how to help development.
So to summarise – the appraisal meeting might only be just once or twice a year, but enjoying your job is about what you do every day. If there is a process in place why not use it to get as much benefit as you can?