On performance reviews

Since I switched from Engineering to Product, I've been more and more conscious of the review cycles. I feel this is due to two main reasons:

  1. As I grow in my career I’m more aware of the importance of these reviews
  2. Since I moved to Product, one of my main problems has been measuring what I’m doing and validating if it’s a good job or not.

On the second point I could write for a while, but let’s simplify it to the fact that when I was working as a junior engineer I was able to sit down and reflect on what tickets or features I have shipped. Once I moved to product management that was a harder attribution to make.

Anyways, here are a couple of tips that so far have been giving me good results across the years, let’s dive into it!

Performance reviews are a continuous process

I think a common mistake is to take the performance review as a one-in-a-year event. It’s not, you should be reflecting on your work and asking for feedback all the time. It can be in a more or less formal way, but your performance review should bring no big surprises.

Something I always like to do is to collect data across the whole year, so when this talk focused on performance arrives, I can simply take that information and give it the required format. I would strongly recommend you to sit down once a week and write some bullet points on what did you achieve this week.

These bullet points can contain data, and you can track certain metrics and how they evolve week to week, but I also encourage you to keep testimonials on how something you did improve someone’s life. Mainly as a product manager this kind of feedback is important to keep it close.

Also, don’t forget to track the positive impact on your team's health and mechanics, and remarkable interactions or show-offs from your soft skills.

Own your narrative

You know better than no one else what are you proud of, and what you’d like to improve. Be sure to be clear on it, and take ownership of how you tell your story. There will be things that you’ve probably overlooked, and your manager and peers will remark on them, but the main narrative on what and why you’ve done what you’ve done across the year should be owned by you.

Make clear what are your motivators, where was your focus, and what results you see on those focus points. Also, be aware of what can be done better and, if possible, how you’ve learned from your experience and avoided certain mistakes to happen again.

This will allow you to also highlight things that might be overlooked by your manager. Little improvements that helped to sign a deal, process improvements that have improved the team’s morale and effectiveness. Things you might feel proud of, but might escape your manager’s eye.

Set your success path and be open about it

Your manager will always want to help you to achieve your goals, you should be open about what your success path looks like. Do you want to be promoted? Be open and clear about it, and if you have an expected timeline, then be clear about that too.

This way, you can plan backwards with your manager on what needs to happen in the next years for you to be in the place you want to be. And your manager can fight for your goal when necessary.

Also, your manager can give you a real assessment of how feasible is something like that happening, and align expectations on both sides on what could happen if not achieved or bargain in new objectives.