“But I exceeded all my objectives. Why am I not rating ‘leading?' ”
It's a frustrating conversation no matter which side of the desk you're on. The truth is, in most companies, meeting or exceeding your objectives is not enough to stand out. In a stack-ranked world, you've got to make a bigger strategic impact.
5 Ways to Differentiate Your Performance in the New Year
Whether you're looking for ways to take your own performance to the next level, or to help a frustrated team member stand out, here are a few proven strategies to make 2018 your best year ever.
1. Know what matters most.
Have you ever noticed it's not necessarily the times in your career that you worked the longest or hardest that got the most positive attention? Sure sometimes there's a correlation, but chances are it's more a matter of finding that sweet spot where your skills and talents matched a strategic business need and pointing all your energy in that direction. You've got at least 37 priorities on your plate, you can't exceed expectations on all of them. Talk to your manager, know what matters most, and be sure you nail that.
“What's the most important thing I (or my team) needs to accomplish to really impact the business this year?”
Or, “I know everything on this scorecard is important, but if I had to fail at something, which of these metrics matters the least, and what do you want me to really blow out of the water?“
Or even, “Imagine we're sitting here this time next year, and you're blown away by my (my team's) performance… what would I (we) have accomplished?”
2. Fix something broken.
What's not working that's driving everyone crazy? What process could be made more efficient? What can you do to improve the customer experience (not just once) but systematically? How can you make work more efficient not just for you, but for your peers as well? Find something broken and fix it.
3. Build a clear cadence of communication.
Be the guy that makes everyone's lives easier through a clear cadence of communication up, down and sideways. Treat everyone's time as a precious resource. Hold meetings that people actually want to attend. Come buttoned up to one-on-ones with your manager, with a clear agenda (this tool will help).
4. Strengthen strategic peer relationships.
Great work never happens in a vacuum. Invest time in building strategic peer relationships where you truly understand, and help one another to achieve, your interdependent objectives. Nothing frustrates senior managers more than dysfunctional turf wars that distract people from doing the right thing for the business and for your customers. Your competition is not the department down the hall, it's mediocrity.
5. Invest in your own development.
I once had a mentor who said, “Some people have 10 years of experience and other folks have 1 year of experience 10 times.” Even if you're not changing roles, be sure you're constantly learning and growing. Have a clear development plan that stretches you and helps you contribute more to the business each year.
If you want to truly differentiate your contribution–go beyond what's necessary for today, and work to make a broader impact for your customers, for the business, and for those around you.
Your turn. What's your best advice for building a year of truly differentiated performance?
See Also our Fast Company Article: 10 Common Excuses that Silently Damage Manager's Careers