In any job you’re doing you’ve got to be good at gauging your own performance. It doesn’t matter if you’re working in a government organization, a private firm, or doing free-lance work, developing the processes and skills to clearly assess your own performance is a necessity. Unfortunately, however, we’ve grown up in organizational structures that tells us the person we work for is best suited to gauge our performance. While the boss is definitely licensed to give performance feedback based on their position, they’re not necessarily an expert. Just because you one person’s opinion of your performance, doesn’t mean that it’s legitimate or universal.
How often have you been given performance feedback that you categorically disagreed with? Why did you disagree? Because the feedback was unsubstantiated or false? Because it wasn’t a true measure of your capability or didn’t cover your performance accurately? Or was it for some other reason that left you feeling like you were shortchanged? Now, did you have a better answer for your performance, or was it simply to refute what your boss, manager, or supervisor told you?
Although many people may find themselves in disagreement with their performance feedback, they don’t have a better description. The reason is that these same people spend very little, if any, time self-assessing their performance. So, when the annual appraisal or 360-peer review comes around…surprise.
The better alternative is to routinely take stock of your performance according to measures that are pegged to you and that are based on expectations that are relevant to your job. Sounds easy, so where do you start?
1. Identify what performance factors are key to your job. You know these and if you don’t, then you shouldn’t be surprised with a poor performance review!
2. Know what the expectations are with each of the performance factors. These need to be set, or agreed to, by the person you work for. If you’re operating without clear expectations, then you’re operating at serious risk. Expectations are the goals you aim at. Without them, it’s like driving on a road trip without a destination. How do you know when you arrived?
3. Score Yourself. For each performance factor, give that factor a score of 1 to 10 with 1 being “pathetic performance” and a 10 being “exceptional performance”. Unless you’re in a fallacy world, you’ll know if you’re leaning towards either end of the scale. Give yourself a score, this way you have numbers to measure your growth against in future self-assessments.
4. Assess your performance. For each factor you selected, why did you get the score you selected? Write it out in either narrative or bullet format. Be honest, both for the factors you were exceptional in and those in which your performance was pathetic. That may be a hard thing to do, but you’ll never be able to advance to your fullest potential unless you can give yourself the hard truth on performance when you’re falling short.
Building the skill to self-assess is critical in the work environment, regardless of the macroeconomic conditions or organization in which you work. I grew up in an organization with an extremely regimented performance feedback structure, one in which my supervisor was required to give me formal feedback and a performance report annually. I quickly learned, however, that the structure fell far short of giving me accurate feedback on my performance. Most often it didn’t address what I knew where my shortfalls and shadow areas, the areas prime for growth or mitigation (i.e. avoidance). But I only knew there was a shortfall in the system because I didn’t rely on someone else to gauge my performance.
“It is an immutable law in business that words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises but only performance is reality.” Harold S. Geneen
Christian Knutson, P.E., PMP is a leader, civil engineer, and author. He’s an accomplished professional specializing in A/E/C work internationally and author of The Engineer Leader, a recognized blog on leadership and life success for engineers and professionals.
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