We’re in the second quarter of 2015, and for many people, this means that the year’s first batch of performance reviews are coming soon.
Ironically, the experience you want most from your review is often the hardest to prepare for: Positive feedback. Just like the grade school days of gold star and “A+” stickers, it’s so good to hear “You’re doing great! No issues! Keep it up!” on the job. But you absolutely cannot let your good work stop there.
My boss at MTV Networks had an approach to reviews that has been tattooed on my brain for the last nine years. He was one of those “40 Under 40” types who had performed well at every stage in his career, including having been one of the youngest-ever partners at a major consulting firm. One day, I asked him how he stayed motivated to get better and he said, “I want a win every quarter.”
I took that to mean that he wanted to look at his work every three months and make a strong case for the value he had contributed to his company. He must have been hearing “good job!” along his path, yet he committed himself to turning that “good” into “great.”
If it’s worked for him, it can work for all of us. Here are three easy steps you can take to make the most of positive feedback—at your review or anytime.
As you receive positive feedback from your managers, team members, and clients, be sure to keep track of it on an ongoing basis. Make a “brag” folder to file accolades in your inbox (more on that here). If you got the feedback in conversation, jot down what the person said and email it to yourself.
The benefit of documenting good feedback is that over time, you’ll start to notice what your specific strengths are. You can use them to make the case for raises and promotions, but more importantly you’ll see where to invest more energy to become great. For example, you may have a knack for writing. Push yourself to become a master by taking a course in copywriting, grant writing, or something else related to your field.
When you’re filing your brags, keep an eye on how your company is performing overall so that you can align your performance to corporate progress. For example, if your company set goals around efficiency and accuracy, make sure you’re the one who’s consistently finishing your projects on time. It shows that you’re not just interested in doing good work, you’re interested in doing the right work—work that will impact the company’s bottom line.
Better yet, ask your manager about longer-term goals that may not have been shared with your whole team yet, then aim your performance at those metrics. Like hockey great Wayne Gretzky said, “skate to where the puck is going to be.”
Once you get good feedback, ask yourself “WWJD”—or, what would (Michael) Jordan do? The best basketball player in history could have stopped after his first championship, or his first three. But he pushed himself and his team to six championships, the most wins in a season, and 10 individual scoring records. What would it take for you to do your tasks faster, better, or with bigger impact?
As a personal note: At Bureau Blank, my team is responsible for writing the project briefs that that we use to understand the challenges our clients face. When I first started writing them five years ago, it would take me up to two days to complete one and feel good about it. I was getting good responses from my team and my clients, yet I knew briefs shouldn’t always take that long to do. I challenged myself to find ways to make the writing process shorter. One improvement was to develop templates. Now, for me or any member of my team, a strong brief can get wrapped in about two hours.
In an era when companies’ needs are evolving so rapidly, it’s important to be your own motivator. If you use positive feedback to push yourself to peak performance, not only will you beat complacency, you’ll always be prepared to answer “What have you done for me lately?” and crush it.