January 29, 2019 / Esther Choy
Imagine this. It’s the end of the year. Multiple projects are behind schedule and over budget. You have family visiting over the holiday and your family will travel as well. On top of that, you have to prepare your team’s performance reviews and you have to prepare for your own.
Oh wait, what happened during 2019? You have an eerie feeling that lots has happened but you can’t immediately locate the details, especially the most important ones.
What to do?
By the time many of us are scrambling to distill a year’s worth of hard work into a brief narrative that will make us shine during our performance review, lots of memories have already been lost. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here’s what you can do now at the top of the year of 2019.
1. Get on the same page. Ask your boss to sit down with you and discuss these questions (sent ahead of your discussion to give them time to ponder):
- If you could accomplish three major things for our immediate team this year, what might those be?
- What are the most urgent changes you’d like to see our entire organization embark on?
- How can I help?
If your organization follows a standard performance review template, chances are you have already established your objectives and action items for 2019. This conversation will help you connect those to the big picture of what your manager wants to see the organization accomplish.
2. Write your story. Once a month, write your “If You’re Only Remembered As” Story. (IYORS) Here’s how it works.
- At the end of each month, ask yourself this question, “If the only thing my boss can remember about my performance this month is this story, and this story alone, what would it be?”
- Take three minutes to go through your calendar day by day in the past month to jog your memories of various significant moments at work.
- Then, give yourself the following writing prompt: “Upper level management might have a shrinking memory, but they have a little bit of space for me. What is one short story they could remember about my performance for January 2019?” Or, ask yourself a different way: “What is one thing that my bosses will remember about me this month?”
- Start writing. Don’t over think.
Use “IRS” to help you structure your story:
- I – Intriguing beginning
- R – Riveting middle
- S – Satisfying end
In a previous article on performance reviews, I’ve shown how you can use this structure to write a three-sentence story, which comes in handy if your boss is pressed for time.
- Edit this story to 500 words or fewer. If you’re over with the word limit, you have probably included unnecessary details.
- Share your draft with trusted colleagues, friends or partners who know your work intimately. Ask if they are moved or impressed by the story. Did you undersell or overblow your contribution? If they were your managers and read the story, what would they make of who you are?
- Save your story. Back it up. Repeat once a month, preferably at the end of the month. During your annual performance review, your future-self will thank your present-self profusely!
How can you make sure you actually sit yourself down and write the story? Here are three ideas:
- Block out time, say every Sunday afternoon at 4 pm, to write. Chances are, if it’s in your calendar, it will happen.
- Get a buddy to write with you. Much like having a workout partner, you will more likely keep going back to the gym if you have someone to keep you accountable.
Get a prompt or reminder automatically delivered to you at the same time and date every month. Here is one option.
Setting aside time to reflect on your performance will not only help your accomplishments win notice. It will also change your performance itself. Rather than working in isolation, you’ll find connection to the organization’s mission. And as you reflect monthly on how you want to be remembered, you will infuse your work with a sense of the kind of legacy you want to leave and the kind of person you want to be.
Want to prepare now for your performance review? We’ll send you free monthly prompts. Want one-on-one leadership storytelling coaching to make your accomplishments shine?
Contact us! Leadership Story Lab trains and coaches managers in storytelling techniques to help them become more engaging and persuasive communicators. Whether you would like to stand out in the interview process, add punch to a presentation, or make a compelling case for a new initiative, we can help. Schedule a complimentary session with us today! Esther’s book, Let the Story Do the Work (published by HarperCollins Leadership), is now available!
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com.
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