Make the Most of Your Performance Reviews

End of year performance reviews are right around the corner and with them comes the anticipation and excitement usually associated with having a root canal. Yet despite their reputation, these discussions are actually great opportunities to receive honest and specific feedback about your work, tout your accomplishments, and ask for that much wanted stretch assignment, promotion or bonus. At your next review, present your best self and avoid feeling like you just spent an hour in the dentist’s chair by utilizing these 10 tips.

1. MAKE IT A PRIORITY. Very few employees take the time to properly prepare for these “fireside chats,” so it’s not surprising that they often don’t achieve their desired results. Set aside a chunk of time to devote to this process; 15 or more hours is not excessive to properly prepare and practice.

2. REVIEW your job description along with the goals, competencies and development plans set out for you at your last appraisal. Use these as the foundation for preparing details on your accomplishments, strengths and areas of development.

3. TAKE STOCK. Go through your evaluation form and rate yourself…honestly! Think about where you have struggled, or where others felt your performance lacked. Ask your boss to give you specific behavioral feedback about both your pluses and deltas so that you know exactly how to continue or prevent these behaviors in the future. Then, determine which specific goals and development areas you would like to work on in the next performance cycle.

4. CONSIDER THE EMOTIONAL TEMPERATURE. Assess the thoughts and feelings that you and your boss will be bringing to the review (i.e. frustration, disappointment, anger, excitement, eagerness for the next quarter etc.). Identify where your emotional temperatures may differ or be similar, thus ensuring that both of your needs and objectives are met.

5. GRAB YOUR BRAG BAG! Look over your list of accomplishments, from weekly reviews, monthly highlights, project status reports, to the positive things your colleagues/clients have said about you. Choose a few tidbits (brag bites) you want to highlight and create Bragologues for each. Note: if you don’t have a Brag Bag, start one today so you can be ready to brag (the good way) in your next review.

6. CREATE BRAGOLOGUES. Using choice brag bites, put together pithy, entertaining, story-like monologues about your work and express them with enthusiasm, energy and pride. If you’re excited to talk about your work, chances are really good that your boss will be excited to listen.

7. PRACTICE “OVER THE TOP” (O.T.T). Set aside a small amount of time (10-15 minutes to start) in a quiet space where you will not be disturbed. Walk around the room to loosen up and then begin saying outer monologues such as, “I can’t wait to tell you this!” and “Wait ‘til you hear this!” in an exaggerated, Over The Top manner to get you excited and energized. Once you are feeling eager to talk about your work, rehearse your Bragologues, questions, and assorted answers out loud as many times as needed until you sound conversational, fluid and spontaneous.

8. ASK THE TOUGH QUESTIONS so that your discussion is both direct and transparent. Bring up any issues, uncertainties, and rumors surrounding your current job, position, responsibilities, team and/or company.

9. ZAP THE ZINGERS. Zingers are those statements or questions that may cause you to lose your composure during your review. The best way to remain in control of your emotions and thereby your communication, is to anticipate these zingers and the tone in which they’ll be asked, and then prepare and practice your responses. This will definitely help you keep cool in the hot seat.

10. SHARE YOUR PREPARATIONS WITH YOUR MANAGER. If possible, share the materials you’ve organized in advance with your manager. This will foster a much more meaningful dialogue between the two of you.