This is the season of annual reviews, at least at LinkedIn. Performance reviews can be daunting for both employees and managers — at least everywhere that I’ve worked. Not only are we as human beings terrible at delivering feedback, but we also receive bad advice as managers.
For example, many of us have learned the “feedback sandwich” method, a technique that doesn’t hold up to scientific validation. Watch the video below to see what Stanford professor Clifford Nass has learned from his experiments (see my review of his book here).
Here is what I suggest as a format for performance feedback, whether for writing your own self-assessment or delivering feedback to reports or peers on their performance:
1) What is your day job?
Everyone needs a day job — a mission with a crisp set of responsibilities and deliverables. If you don’t know what you’re responsible for delivering, you can’t assess how well you are delivering it. You should know and articulate your top priorities — at most three, with a clear #1. For further reading, I suggest the Quora discussion on OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), an idea pioneered by Intel and now used at top technology companies (including LinkedIn and Google).
2) How are you performing in your day job?
Hopefully you make more contributions than you can count. But make sure that your day job comes first. If you find that a disproportionate fraction of your contribution is outside your day job, then consider changing your day job. Your top priority is to meet (hopefully exceed!) the expectations for your day job — expectations you should set early and revisit regularly. Performance reviews are a great opportunity to brag.
3) What do you do beyond your day job?
Your day job should be strongly aligned with your team and company’s top priorities. But great employees contribute beyond their day job towards other team and company priorities. For example, talent is our top priority at LinkedIn, so we particularly value contributions to hiring and growing our talent. And, at least in every environment I’ve experienced, the best employees are those who help make others successful.
4) How do you want to grow?
This is really a two-part question. First, what do you want to do next? That could mean getting better at your day job, evolving your current responsibilities, or taking on a different role. Second, what are you doing to get there? You are ultimately responsible for your own professional development. But one of your manager’s top responsibilities is to help you identify and advance along the path that is best for you. And performance reviews are a great opportunity to make you think about the future.
Regardless of how your company manages performance, these are the key questions you should think about. Performance feedback is a great opportunity to focus on professional development — your own and that of the people you work with everyday. Make the most of it!