How do you know if you did a good job?

I recently had a conversation with a mentee of mine. She had now completed a huge extra-curricular role and I asked her how she felt about it. I felt she did an incredible job. To my surprise, she didn’t feel the same.

When assessing ourselves, we are often too critical about ourselves and our performance. This attitude gets in the way of truly celebrating our efforts and recognizing the results of our hard work.

Below are my suggestions and tips, to enable us to get the best out of our performance reviews.

1. Objectivity > Subjectivity

When assessing ourselves, we often base our beliefs on how we feel. Feelings are dynamic. How we feel about ourselves today, may be completely different tomorrow. This can lead us to confuse how we feel about our performance, with how we actually performed.

It’s important to define objective measures for our success. Objective measures allow us to effectively assess our efforts against concrete goals and desired outcomes, avoiding our momentary feelings getting in the way of a fair self-assessment. The SMART framework can be a useful tool in defining these.

2. Hindsight Judgement is Dangerous

Hindsight is 20/20. Looking back, it’s easy to call out all of the mistakes we made, compare ourselves to others, and say we could’ve done better. What appears OBVIOUS in hindsight might not have been so in the moment. Hindsight judgement is especially dangerous because we tend to evaluate ourselves on completely new criteria or results that were out of our control.

As stated previously, to avoid the perils of hindsight judgement calls, ensure you have a pre-defined set of goals and KPI’s at the onset of a project. If throughout the project the goals or priorities change, make sure you refine and adjust your success measures to reflect these.

3. 50/50

Similar to the concept of “list 5 things you did well, and 5 things you can improve on”, match every “negative point” with an equally strong “positive point”. Spend some time ensuring you build a balanced list. Don’t be cheap on yourself.

4. Be Specific

Use specific examples from your experiences and results to justify each positive and improvement area. Specificity enables you to be objective about your results, and avoid “throwing in points” that aren’t meaningful or real. Being specific also ensures we give each point some thought and reflect on the impact of these outcomes.

5. Little things Matter

Avoid the misconception that all results need to be glorious, impossible, and out-of-this-world. There are many “little things” that we do that add tons of value to the team or project, although we might not think they did.

When talking to my mentee, we highlighted the great coach she was for her team and how much her team members had improved under her leadership. They were both now pursuing more challenging roles in other organizations. Although she might not have seen it at first, their growth was clearly a result of the trust, autonomy, and support she gave them. Her achievements as a team lead were incredible and worth recognizing and celebrating.

6. Remember, We’re only Human…

It goes without saying but the truth is that we are only human. We make mistakes. We try new things and fail. Sometimes we succeed and sometime we don’t. That’s life.

At the end of the day, trust that you did the best you could do, with the information and resources you had available. Have faith in yourself and don’t measuring yourself up to unrealistic, superhuman standards. You’re not a superhero. (Even though deep down inside we all think we are…)

7. Focus on what matters most…

At the end of the day, the purpose of evaluations, self-assessments, and performance reviews are for improvement. The goal isn’t to highlight everything we did wrong, but more so identify everything we did well and can do better.

Maintain a positive outlook when dealing with failures. Practice a “Growth Mindset”, focused on continuously improving and developing your skills and abilities. Become your own standard, striving to perform better than you did in the past. This is the most “objective” and fair comparison you can ever make.

In the End

Being ambitious, realistic, and critical of ourselves is important. It enables us to challenge ourselves, expand our comfort zones, and take strong measurable strides towards achieving our goals. But there’s no value in putting in all the hard work and never being content or personally satisfied. It’s important to be proud of our merits and celebrate our achievements. We can’t let our “ambitions” get in the way of giving ourselves a well-deserved pat on the back and appreciating what we’ve accomplished.

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