Managing people is a skill that does not come easy, especially for new managers. Most people are promoted to managing a team because they excelled at the technical or hard skills, which is just one of the job requirements. The role of manager also requires EQ or soft skills, a highly sought after quality for connecting with and motivating employee productivity. While EQ may be lacking in some, a manager's deficiency in these skills does not negate the responsibility you have for your own performance. Some employees believe that career development is their manager's responsibility, and the reality is, your performance is the foundation of YOUR career. You have to learn how to advocate for yourself to get the best possible results. To accomplish this, you must engage your manager to address your performance needs.
The suggestions below can't take the place of solid performance, however, if you want to take strategic steps to improve, here are some ideas to get you started:
1) Initiate a job performance conversation.
If you have not had a performance meeting with your manager, then you should schedule a conversation. Find out her availability and send an agenda in advance for a productive exchange. Get her buy-in to periodically schedule one-on-one sessions with you. Make sure to take notes and follow up in email so she can clarify anything that you may have heard incorrectly. For some, this tactic alone may address the age old problem of hearing negative feedback for the first time during the review.
2) Ask for feedback and utilize it to make improvements.
When asking for feedback make sure you are ready to accept what you will hear. Receiving constructive criticism can be difficult, especially if you are hearing it for the first time. Be diplomatic (not disagreeable), ask for specific examples, and be committed to taking action on how you will improve.
This tactic can backfire if:
A) You are not expecting to hear that you are failing in certain areas
B) You don't take action on the feedback you have been given
Even if you disagree with what you have been told, you have to change the perception. While we all want to be a rock star at work, everyone has room for improvement, so seriously consider what is being shared. Asking for the hard feedback is a great way to let your manager know you want to advance. Listening to her constructive insight and using it to enhance your performance for the better gives you a greater chance to overachieve.
3) Find out a problem that he is trying to solve and take it off his plate.
Everyone loves help at work, especially if it's a nagging problem that someone else resolves. Help your manager to help you by taking an issue off his list of things to do. This sets you up to score points for your initiative, leadership, and problem solving skills. Make sure that you resolve the issue or this could go in the opposite direction than what you had planned.
4) Meet with your boss' boss and get feedback on your performance.
Most times when decisions are made in the organization, they are made at higher levels to support the company's strategy. It's important for your boss' boss to know who you are and the capabilities you possess. If your organization does not encourage skip-level meetings, then meet with your boss first and let him know your plan to gain additional insight on your performance. While this conversation should eliminate any concerns of what your meeting will be about, for some, can still elicit apprehension about your motivation. If you feel this may be the case BEFORE you tell him, engage a mentor or career coach to strategize about how you can overcome this obstacle. Going around him can exacerbate the situation and make your relationship tense. At the end of the day, figuring out how to establish a relationship with your senior leader and hearing his thoughts on your performance is very important for career opportunities.
5) Learn new skills and translate them into tangible results.
Learning a new skill is only valuable when you can use it to deliver results, personally or professionally. If you have learned a new skill recently, then you should demonstrate it in a way that shows tangible progress your manager can observe. Ask for a new responsibility, collaborate with peers to solve an issue, coach your boss on a process, or any activity where you can effectively leverage your newly found knowledge. Document your experiences and accomplishments. Getting your peers to provide feedback about your contribution also helps build your case for your review.
Employees who keep detailed notes about their performance during the year have a better chance at influencing what is written about them. Never skip an opportunity to document your self-review or talk about your accomplishments. Challenging your boss takes courage and competency, but the payoff can result in a boost for your career.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stacey Rivers is the director of an executive portfolio management office at a large media company and a career advice blogger. In her day job she has responsibilities for defining, planning, and prioritizing initiatives to provide portfolio-level oversight for technology projects. After hours she blogs regularly on her site careerbluprint.org. She has a Master of Science in Management with a focus on Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness, and a Bachelor of Science in Technology Management. For more career advice, ideas, and suggestions, follow her on Twitter @staceyrivers13.
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