Manage your career by changing your performance history before the Big Day

It is easy to change history in the making, but not after the Big Day

Pity poor Santa. Every year he and his team of elves are forced to work harder and harder because every year there are more and more children to please. And every year they must wait in suspense for that one Big Day to learn whether their performance was good enough.

Sound familiar? Yes! It is your average corporate performance appraisal system. Every year it is expected that you will do more and more with less, but you are only told once a year whether you were good enough (i.e. successful) during the year.

Your boss expects your performance to be one of continuous improvement. Yet, she apparently doesn’t understand why you need to know how you are doing while you are still doing it, while you can still change the result.

Dear Boss, let me explain. It is easy to change history in the making, but it is impossible to change history after the Big Day. Just ask Santa (or his elves).


Waiting for feedback leads to a career buried in sand

Soon the nervous wait for Santa will be over. No! I don’t mean your wait. I mean his wait. Your wait is one of anticipation. His wait is one of apprehension. You are waiting to see whether you have behaved good enough throughout the year. He is waiting to know whether he performed good enough to make one day a success.

Santa amazes me. Not the flying through sky in a sleigh bit, nor the sliding down a chimney act. It is his willingness to wait one whole year, three hundred and something days, before getting any feedback about his performance.

What! You wait that long as well? Now you amaze me!

I come from the land of the Ostrich and I have a question for you. Why, when it comes to feedback on your performance, do you bury your head in the sand?

Santa is caught in a time warp not of his making. You are not Santa nor are you caught in a time warp. You have the power to do something different this coming year. Don’t wait for the One Big Day with your boss. Instead, ask for, no demand, a performance appraisal every week.

Here’s how you should do it:

  1. Schedule a weekly appointment with your boss
  2. Explain to your boss what you have done (during this past week)
  3. Tell to your boss what you will do next (during the coming week)
  4. Ask your boss for feedback and suggestions (how you can improve or what else you should be doing)

That’s it. Done in 15-30 minutes.

Don’t treat your performance appraisal as something HR wants done. It’s yours. Own it and use it to manage your career every week. You might even get your boss to act professionally, every week.

For the record, the ostrich does not bury his head in sand (not really). Neither should you, because if you do, you won’t see why you are being left behind.



Accounting for appraisals

HR people often feel that I blame them for creating nonsense at work. Maybe I do because maybe they do. Actually, my excuse is simple. Every jester needs a king to mock. (Thank you, HR.)

Talking about kings, the CEO is often the one who enables nonsense to appear as HR’s fault. Here’s a classic example. The CEO tells HR to design and manage a performance appraisal system. Who ignores or subverts that very system? The CEO! What nonsense.

Come on, Mister or Madam CEO. If you think you are above your own performance system, then at least do the kingly thing. Hold your subjects accountable. (No, I don’t mean off with their heads.)

Relax. It’s easy. Simply ask these questions:

  1. Why does a particular job exist?
  2. How does the job add value?
  3. Can the person doing the job be held accountable for any value added or not added?

And what is accountability? It’s the ability to justify your actions against desired or planned outcomes.

By the way, can you justify your actions? (Careful now, Santa is watching you!)