Performance Reviews, Career Development, and How to Get Promoted
February 3, 2022
In this Issue
If your performance reviews feel broken, this could be why: one structural issue could be at the heart of all your frustrations about your performance processes.
Helping your team think about career development: discussing development is a two way conversation. Whilst managers need to think about their side of the bargain, there’s scope for team members to accelerate progress through their own ideas.
How to get promoted: someone else writes the article we were going to, and identifies seven key ways to advise team members on how to get promoted (and maybe use yourself…)
If Your Performance Reviews feel Broken, this Could be Why
It’s no secret that lots of people don’t like performance reviews.
In 1983, Intel CEO Andy Grove wrote down the reasons his managers hated them and the list could have been written yesterday:
Review comments too general
Mixed messages (inconsistent with rating or dollar raise)
No indication of how to improve
Supervisor didn’t know my work
Only recent performance considered
But even if the frustrations are well-known, figuring out the root cause and fixing it is much harder. You might work for a company that has tried various times to ‘streamline’ your process, without making much of an impact.
We think that’s because there’s often a structural issue which needs a more radical fix than using a different metric or assessment form.
We dive into why this is such a problem, how we got here, and some practical steps to fix it - whether you’re a decision-maker with power over these processes, or a frontline manager wrestling with them.
Start with these four lists: ‘career goals’ can feel like a weighty topic. Encourage team members to make four lists: ‘Things I love doing’, ‘Things I’m exceptional at’, ‘Things I hate doing’, ‘Things I’m bad at’, to get the discussion flowing.
Explore the ladder: to make sure team members are doing work that’s valued by the company and is going to contribute to their progress, be sure to check out what’s required for more senior roles on company career ladders. If there isn’t a formal ladder, make sure you discuss what progress at the company looks like.
Help your manager help you: if team members have a specific ask, they should be encouraged to come forward with it. Either a project they want to work on, a person they want to work with. Managers won’t always be able to second guess, and making clear what would be helpful will accelerate development.
Zoom out beyond the issue of the week: as teams get busy, daily work can begin to dominate discussions. If that starts happening, make sure to keep having career development conversations, at least monthly. Encourage team members to be selfish in 1:1 meetings and steer them towards these topics if it’s been a while since they’ve been discussed.
We were going to write a full article on this piece but then someone else did it for us.
You can obviously use the following for your own nefarious ambitions (you’re welcome) but ‘How can I get promoted’ is also a common question for managers to get from their team members and this advice is as concise and practical as we’ve seen.
Some of you may be familiar with Lenny Rachitsky, ex-Airbnb Product Manager turned author/advisor/investor.
He asked his considerable twitter following what they had previously done to get promoted and synthesized the replies.
They’re exactly what we would have said.
Deliver more impact: companies want to give more responsibility to those who deliver results - contribute to goals that map to business growth; work on high visibility, important projects; save the company a lot of money.
Take on more scope: demonstrate you can handle the next level up - take on work that your manager is doing; take on a project for a senior person on leave; get ahead on next year’s strategy.
Demonstrate that you’ve addressed a gap: work on the skill or behavior that is keeping you from the next level - work to identify those with your manager in your 1:1s; put together a concrete plan for improvement; review it every month.
Find an influential champion: find someone who’ll fight your corner in the room when it comes to making promotion decisions and give them ammo to do so - note this is no substitute for not doing the first three things above, in fact the ‘ammo’ probably flows from them.
Pay attention to who gets promoted: this will be a strong indicator of the skills and behaviors which are valued in your organization, and which you could follow.
Ask for it: if you want it, it should be obvious to your manager that you want to get promoted but it isn’t always. Make sure they know it.
Quit and go work somewhere else: the last resort, but sometimes the role you’re right for just isn’t available, or you’re not surrounded by people who’ll help you get there, and you’ll need to make a change.
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