Rather than allowing the feedback from your review to come as a surprise, schedule a meeting with your manager now, at the beginning of the year, and ask these four questions. They’ll help you develop a clear plan of action for the coming months.
What three goals do you want me to meet and exceed in 2011?
When you sit down with your boss, recap his expectations into buckets of specific projects, objectives, or milestones that you can tangibly measure and work toward. That gives your manager the chance to help you focus on what he needs most. Don’t forget to write these down so that when your review arrives, you can provide specific examples of your achievements, mapped back to their expectations for you.
What will make the difference between average and great performance for these my objectives?
This question allows your boss to explain what great performance means to her and how it relates to your work. If it’s a hard question for her to answer, offer a follow-up question like, “What would make it easy for you to give me the top rating available in each of these objectives?”
How can I improve the way I work?
You may want to give specific examples to get the conversation going, so point out where you think you might want to get better, like teamwork or communication. What you’re looking for here are ideas for how to improve your soft skills. If your boss doesn’t offer any feedback, try asking, “How would like to see me be more like (name someone who is your company’s rising star or high performer)?”
I’d like to check in with you quarterly so we’re on the same page about how I’m performing. Would that be okay?
Here’s where you nail down your quarterly check-ins. You shouldn’t have to ask for this, but unless you take the initiative, they may drift on the schedule or not happen at all. Set the time and stay on track.
After you’ve spent time with your boss discussing the what, how and when related to your job performance, make sure to thank her for taking the time to go through it with you. And let her know that you want this year to be a great year for not only you, but for your team and the entire company. That will reaffirm your commitment to growing, developing, and improving as an employee—and in your career.
Rusty Rueff, director and career expert for jobs and career website Glassdoor.com has been a CEO, led HR in global companies and is co-author of Talent Force: A New Manifesto for the Human Side of Business.