Let me preface my plan by admitting I have not yet done this myself, but it makes a lot of sense to me and hopefully I will see it return increased business productivity, personal growth and financial compensation.
- Talking about professional feedback and personal areas for improvement can be very abstract. To help focus this discussion, couch in the subject or financial compensation. Sit down with your manager at the start of the fiscal year or whenever you are assigned a new manager. Together, set expectations regarding what YOU want and expect to see in terms of an end-of-the-year bonus. (This may require some tactful negotiation.) Find out what level of performance is required to meet that expectation. Reach an agreement. An email verifying this would be best. It serves as an informal contract that you can print out and reference later if needed.
- It’s not about the money. Earnestly seek to not only meet expectations, but improve. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you claim to want to improve but you really don’t.
- Schedule regular mid-year reviews. Prepare emotionally for these sit-downs. When your heart and mind are humble, sit down with your manager and open yourself to all feedback he/she has for you. Remember, this isn’t about the money, it’s about self-improvement. When you do sit down, some managers will try to redefine the purpose of the meeting. For some reason, they might feel uncomfortable giving you feedback on your job performance. Don’t let this happen! Don’t let your manager dance around sleeping issues by telling you “you’re doing just fine.” Say, “I don’t buy it. You’re telling me there is nothing more I need to do to earn this % as a bonus this year?” That will force them to think. If they do give you something to work on, make a plan that you can both agree on that will define performance improvement that will still qualify you for the agreed amount. (It doesn’t necessarily have to be during that meeting.) If your manager says, “I’m sorry; the damage is done. There’s no way you can earn the initial amount agreed upon.” Reneg—keep them accountable as your manager.
- At the end of the year, your manager will slide you a piece of paper with a figure on it. If that number is anything other other than the one you agreed upon, it is your right to demand specific reasons why your agreed upon goal wasn’t met since the last time you sat down together. Your manager might cite budget cuts as the reason for below-expect bonuses. “There was nothing I could do.” Well, at this point, I frankly don’t know what I would say regarding the bonus. If money was the real issue, I think this situation would cause me some serious frustration. If the money was the issue, maybe I would have pressed the manager harder throughout the year to press his manager to make sure those funds would be available come bonus time. But fortunately, your goal was continual improvement and you have full support from your manager.
End note: The best professional development feedback doesn’t necessarily come from the one who determines your paycheck. It ought to come from the one/s who are closest to your work. Peers, project leaders, etc.