Developing an Action Plan After a Critical Performance Review

Treat your performance review as a call to action for improvement.

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Before many of us can experience the joy of holiday time, it's often necessary to undergo scrutiny at an annual performance review. While some walk out of those tenuous meetings knowing their hard work is appreciated, others endure the burden of constructive criticism and try to figure out what to do with it all.

Shawnice Meador is a former head of talent management for a Fortune 250 company who is now the director of career management and leadership development at MBA@UNC, the University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler Business School's online program. She explains several useful strategies to prioritize critical performance feedback and ultimately implement a manageable and effective action plan.

Let's take a closer look.

All Feedback is Not Created Equal

"Oftentimes when receiving feedback, it's assumed the action plan should be a verbatim reflection of what the person giving the feedback has suggested," Meador says. However, feedback can come from a variety of directions, and while it's prudent to honestly listen to and understand the root of the different points brought to your attention, trying to implement every proposal will rarely be effective.

That's why Meador strongly emphasizes that "not all feedback is created equal." When considering how to compile and implement an action plan, the advice coming from "key stakeholders" – who are usually the movers and shakers who will have the strongest impact on your career growth potential at a given company and likely a direct superior with whom you have significant intersection – should be treated with the most weight.

Understand and Prioritizing Three Flavors of Feedback

Though we've identified key stakeholders have the most valuable input for your action plan, it's still difficult to pick a starting point after what was potentially a snowstorm of critical suggestions. "To cut down on some of those overwhelming feelings and develop a more systematic approach [to your action plan], I like to break down feedback into three different buckets, and the first is what I call 'no brainers,'" Meador says.

1. Skill deficiency or no brainer feedback. This is a class of feedback you've gotten from multiple sources, possibly even from yourself, that you know is leading to deficiencies in your career. For example, you're supervising a team of project management engineers. They all have Project Management Professional (PMP) credentials. You don't. Consequently, if this point emerges in your annual review (or if you identify it yourself), it's a no brainer that you should implement that certification into your action plan for the following year, to earn credibility and respect from your staff. Case closed.

2. Fatal flaw or derailer feedback. "As termed by talent management gurus DDI and Hogan, this is an attribute that if not fixed can become a fatal flaw in your career," Meador says. For example, your job requires you provide executive leadership with regular performance updates. However, you have a paralyzing fear of public speaking and can't get through a presentation without sweating, stuttering and losing your train of thought. If you don't take action to fix this characteristic and prevent it from emerging in your annual review (perhaps by finding an executive coach or enrolling in a business communications course), then it could squash your future growth, even if you're awesome at the other parts of your job.

But, remember few will turn a derailer into their greatest asset. "The goal should be to become competent enough in that derailer behavior that it no longer overshadows the things you're already great at," Meador says. "Because even when you're good at 20 things, people tend to focus on the one thing you're not so great at. So with regard to derailers, get competent enough so they don't overshadow those 20 things you do really well and focus more energy on strengths that can be your strategic points of difference."

In the public speaking example, this means you don't need the oratory skills of Stephen Colbert, as long as you're not Gilbert Gottfried.

3. White noise feedback. Returning to the point that all feedback is not created equal, Meador explains that white noise is feedback that doesn't require the same priority or need for action as no brainers or derailers. White noise feedback can include:

  • Peer feedback. "Not all peers [those level with you on your company's organizational chart] are necessarily key stakeholders, because oftentimes they might be the same people vying for the mobility you're eligible for," Meador says. "So, there can often be biases or jealousies that occur in that unwritten competition, meaning sometimes [peer] feedback needs to be taken with a grain of salt."
  • Indirect manager feedback. You may find yourself on the hot seat being reviewed by someone who is your senior but who is removed from your day-to-day activities. In this case, surely the feedback is still important and should be dissected carefully, but be cognizant that it is a less-direct vantage point of your strengths and weaknesses, and thus, a deep-dive action for every point that's made may not be worth your time.
  • Client feedback. Your clients may provide feedback that would help them but that doesn't make sense within the scope of your responsibilities. In this case, do what you can to show they've been heard and continue to provide excellent customer service. At the same time, recognize that implementing their exact suggestions into your action plan may work better for them than for you.
  • Ben Weiss is the digital marketing strategist for Infusive Solutions – an NYC-based IT staffing firm in the Microsoft Partner Network that specializes in the placement of .NET, SharePoint and SQL Server developers as well as Windows Systems Engineers, DBAs and help desk support professionals in verticals such as legal, finance, fashion and media. Connect with him on Twitter: @InfusiveInc or at Facebook.com/InfusiveInc.

    TAGS:
    careers
    training
    corporate culture
    productivity
    employment

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