December 12, 2019

Your Boss Wants Your Input for Your Performance Review — Here’s How to Nail It


“Provide me input for your performance review.”

People cringe at the boss’s request. It is an onerous chore many abhor.

But why?

First, writing about yourself feels like bragging. Second, the information you provide affects your promotion potential and future career opportunities. Third, you wonder, “What the heck have I done since the last review?” Fourth, your input is space-constrained, so each word matters! Finally, the coup de grâce to this distasteful task, you are probably compiling the information on a tight timeline – “Input by tomorrow, please!”

Not to worry! Follow these 10 tips to compose a powerful submission reflecting your hard work and noteworthy contributions.

1. Pretend You’re Describing Someone Else

Banish your thoughts of bragging! Pretend you are making a case to promote someone else — a colleague, subordinate, or friend. Examine your contributions objectively and factually. What did you do? How did you move the ball forward? Proudly claim credit for what you achieved. Now is not the time to be humble.

2. Gather the Data

Like an investigative reporter, you need to dig for the details of your accomplishments. The following questions will help reveal this information:

• What is your level of responsibility?
• Do you supervise anyone?
• Did you submit subordinates for awards, honors, etc.? (Claim credit; this is a hallmark of fine leadership!)
• Did you resolve a difficult situation?
• Did you save resources? How and what, exactly?
• Did you work on a significant project? What was its duration and impact?
• Did you demonstrate initiative?
• How did you advance the mission?

3. Record Accomplishments as They Occur

Keep a job journal. Be precise in recording what you did, for whom, and the resulting impact. If your organization has a weekly activity report, contribute regularly and retain your submissions.

Both of these practices ensure you don’t overlook significant events in your work life. They also preclude that frantic, angst-filled, retrospective search — wondering, “What did I do this past year?” — as you strive to meet the deadline your boss imposed.

4. Scope the Story

Infuse your input with detail to add depth, dimension, and context, and make the story pop! Detail constitutes a mental yardstick, enabling readers to grasp the significance of your contributions. Quantify by addressing how many, how soon, accomplished ahead of schedule (by how much), finished under budget (by how much), or improved production (by what percent), etc.

• “Mary processed many job applications” is flat when contrasted with “Mary processed 54 job applications this month alone, twice the office average, and three times that of her peers.”
• “Named Salesman of the Month” sounds good but is more impressive when relayed as “Named Salesman of the Month, selected above 95 peers for the third time this year.”
• “Managed a team studying the continued viability of an aging computer system and provided recommendations to the CEO” tells a completely different story when revised to “Managed a nine-person team in a five-week study of an aging computer system. Made six recommendations; CEO accepted them all; saved $850,000 annually.”

5. Highlight Your Accolades

Maintain a list of your awards and other recognitions, such as time-off bonuses, kudos from your boss or clients, letters of commendation, and other forms of positive feedback. For record purposes, identify the source by official title and the date of the accolade. Depending on the magnitude of the compliment, consider including a short, concise quote in your submission. These golden nuggets are terrific bell-ringers. Nominations submitted for your awards, by necessity, contain valuable information about your accomplishments. Get a copy!

For more expert career advice, check out the latest issue of Magazine:

6. Strategize Subliminal Messages

Leverage words that connote selection. Differentiators such as “chosen,” “garnered,” “selected,” “agency-wide,” “named as,” and “nominated for” convey a subtle but powerful message highlighting you as an exemplary employee. “The CEO personally selected Jane to lead his star program” contains three differentiators: “CEO,” “personally selected,” and “star program.”

7. Prioritize and Triage Your Input

Performance reviews are usually subject to space constraints. Once you’ve compiled the information, triage it. The criteria below can help you decide what to keep and what to cut.

Was the accomplishment:

• completed early or under budget?
• groundbreaking?
• recognized as a new benchmark?
• a demonstration of excellent leadership
• visible to upper echelons of your organization? To other organizations?
• far-reaching in its impact?

8. Hook the Reader

Your opening words are critical. They set the tone for the compelling, fact-based information to follow. The hooks below herald a strong message: “Pay attention. This individual is remarkable!”

• Personifies innovative leadership …
• Propelled her office to unparalleled levels …
• Best at showcasing his people’s talents …
• Tireless efforts this year resulted in …
• His top three of many significant achievements …
• Has contagious leadership we need …
• Brilliant, contagious enthusiasm led to…
• By force of personality, led her division …
• Not one to rest on her laurels, she continuously …
• A standout at motivating people …

9. Retain the Reader’s Attention

Avoid verbs like “responsible for,” “supported,” “contributed to,” and “assisted with.” They convey little meaning and prompt the question, “What precisely did you do?” Instead, describe your actions with crisp, powerful verbs like:

• Created a critical program …
• Directed development of …
• Executed budget of …
• Pounced on extra funds when they became available …
• Launched a prototype …
• Broke new ground …
• Ensured four-day conference was perfectly executed …
• Expertly arranged …
• Set new benchmarks …
• Brokered arrangements with …
• Impervious to stress, met the twin challenges of …
• Personally commended by …

10. Leave Them Wanting More

Closing words constitute the reader’s final impression. Select them to end with a bang!

• Her proactive, can-do attitude is contagious.
• Sets high standards, and her people achieve them.
• A superior performer by any measure of merit.
• Count on her delivering where precedents are nonexistent.
• Strong leader, outstanding manager, and a top-flight technician.
• Guarantees peerless performance in a most demanding assignment.
• Place in positions to influence others.

“Provide me input for your performance review.”

This is an opportunity to shine! You are your own best advocate. Own your success by claiming credit for jobs well done. Convey your achievements powerfully by making each word count. Use every second of the reader’s time to your advantage. You’ll be well on the way to earning that standout performance review.

Carla D. Bass is the author of the multiple award-winning book, Write to Influence!

Read more in Performance Management

Carla D. Bass, colonel, USAF (Ret), and author of the multiple award-winning book "Write to Influence!" (second edition published in July 2019), served 30 years of active duty in worldwide assignments and another 12 supporting a federal agency. Throughout her career, Carla composed products for Congress, the White House, ambassadors, and generals. In all instances, each word and every second of the audience's time counted. She developed and taught her writing methodology to thousands of Air Force members for 15 years and now teaches workshops to corporations, private business, government agencies, and NGOs to rave reviews. From powerful writing that banishes bureaucratic blather to crafting powerful resumes and grant submissions, she covers it all. Carla served in locations including Bulgaria; Germany; Korea; Hawaii; and Washington, DC. She lives with her husband, Lynn Reeves, in the Virginia countryside.