Yep, this is it.
After Thanksgiving, all bets are out, the year is over, ladies and gentlemen!
Holidays Parties are rock and rolling.
In-depth discussions taking place, featuring parties, foods, and gifts.
No complaints here.
If December’s darkness can be overcome with a heavy dose of cheer, no matter how cheesy it is, I am in.
And let’s not forget the wisdom of our predecessors in the Western Hemisphere, to have found in gifting and sharing the best way to bring warmth to the hibernation season; bringing closure to the year that is finishing, and opening the door to the new one.
How about you? What does December bring to your mind?
Do you picture Gifts, Holidays, Christmas, Vacations, Snow, Office Parties, Ugly Sweaters, Hallmark Movies, and those Chocolates! and that Champagne!
The fun doesn’t end here though, right?
If you work in a corporate, you know there is another kind of tradition looming over your head – not quite like a mistletoe – more like an itchy ivy: the dreaded year-end review.
And it is as stress-inducing to your upper management as that tête-à-tête can turn into a headache when it will be your turn to be the reviewer.
Does this really need to be seen as a sort of punishment?
How can you make of that meeting a valuable source of information, for everyone involved?
That, Ugh, Year-End Review….
Let’s start by the elephant in the room and see how you can use your year-end review to your own advantage.
Yes, I do get it. The idea of year-end review rarely brings pleasant thoughts, unless you have already been told that you are promoted and getting a pay raise, in which case, many congratulations!
But even if you have a good idea on how it’s going to unfold, there is always the anticipation and that ugh feeling in the back of the head.
The interesting part is that it is (almost) as stressful when receiving the feedback, as it is giving it out to your team.
Anticipation, Expectations ….and Surprise!
In a nutshell, this is what goes on in your head. The “I have no idea what they will bring out of their hats this time again” feeling.
By now, you know there are plenty of tools to help you calm your inner chatterbox.
Meditation, hypnosis, ignoring the cry wolf in the head, all works. But and this is me telling you: these are techniques only, they are good for the short term only and each has its own limitations.
What works though, is deciding to be rational. Meaning: root your thoughts in the reality of your situation at work. No anticipation, only observing facts and actions.
Let me explain.
Your Scout Motto of the day: Be Prepared
Document, document, document.
Start by your last year review; go point by point writing your own review of each.
Even if you did it already as part of your company’s process, go back to it. Be thorough and go beneath the surface.
- Where did you shine?
- Where did you mess up?
- What did you learn?
- What can you do better?
Take time to reflect on your soft skills.
Where did you improve teamwork? Built better relationships with another team? With a client?
How did you adapt your managerial skills to the team and new team members?
How did you manage a crisis (or several)?
Other ideas that you had or implemented that improved processes, or workflow, or work relationships?.
All these count.
Your managers need to know that you are more than a set of year-end objectives to reach.
It is important for you to also take pride in your accomplishments, and be ready to market them to your managers. Listing them before your review will allow you not only to have them fresh in mind but also to see general themes of that past year, and to give you a more in-depth view of what needs to stay and what you’d like to change for yourself professionally.
What about managers who tend to govern with a stick rather than with a carrot?
Being prepared will also address the anticipation that they might highlight all of your mistakes and downplay your successes.
Be clear on where you improved, give examples, give numbers.
It’s important for you to see that review for what it is, a set of data providing a two-way feedback.
Yes, two-way, it’s a conversation and a dialogue between two adults. Even if you feel that one is dominating the situation, try to stay as factual as you can especially if things start to heat up.
Having The Talk
On to the next one on the must-do list: reviewing your team.
Starting by what should be a rule of thumb, the good news and the praises should be delivered with your joyous emotions and a smile. Seems obvious.
As for the bad news? with rationality and compassion, requiring extra caution, in terms of choice of words, choice of examples and body language.
Meaning if you think that the person you are reviewing has let you down during the year for xyz reasons, and if this has left you upset and angry, then this is the time to be calm and collected.
Leave these emotions at the door and off the review sheet. Rather, be as factual as possible. Give examples. Show how that behavior or shortcoming impacted the team. More importantly, show the person what they can do to make amends and not to repeat it again.
A quick word regarding compassion.
It doesn’t mean a free pass. It doesn’t mean all is forgotten or forgiven.
The consequences are still there and someone had to deal with them.
Compassion here is being open-minded about what the person has to say, explanations, not excuses!; and wanting to work with them rather than closing all doors forever.
And as I am closing that chapter on the professional review, I would like to add that there are tools that can help you prepare to that talk in particular, but also for any discussion in a professional setting; Transactional Analysis being a favorite at the top of the list.
I mentioned Transactional Analysis in a previous post and I will do again, for a simple reason: It can work wonderfully at work. Especially when you have the tendency to either see your boss as your punishing / rewarding parent; or your team as a bunch of unruly kids that need discipline.
Transactional Analysis helps you being more aware of the quality of your conversation. It sees three states of dialogue on each side of the conversation: “Parent”, “Adult” or “Child”. When you get upset and want to scold your junior person for messing up, you are automatically assigning them the role of a “Child”.
Not a very empowering conversation for either of you.
When you make a conscious effort to be and stay in the “Adult” situation, by being rational and in control of your emotions, you allow the other person to reply in kind.
And ensues a constructive dialogue versus a pissing contest.
Isn’t that what every office conversation should look like?
Amen to that.
Now that you have the professional year-end review situation under control, I am going to ask you to extend this review outside the work box.
What if tis could be the time when you look back and wonder ….
- what is my overall assessment of this year?
- what did I do that I am proud of, content with
- what didn’t I do that I wanted to accomplish? and
- what would I like to bring forward for next year?.
In a nutshell. Let’s now look at your own personal Balance Sheet.
Why is it important?
Because that’s how you bring more mindfulness into your life.
Knowing what you accomplished, the good, the bad and somehow the “can do better” means giving your brain some serious food for thoughts for the year ahead.
Your Year-End Personal Balance Sheet
This is a place where lying to oneself is not an option. It means being an adult and taking responsibility for each area of your life.
Saying “thank you to me” for where you were awesome, and “can do better” and “how to do it better” for the meh parts.
I need to add one important thing here: we tend to beat ourselves up and go into guilt and shame. It’s not helpful; it’s unproductive and can be extremely damaging when it becomes a habit.
Maybe, maybe there are areas where you didn’t behave your best; where your intentions weren’t pure. It happens, we are all human. We still have survival reflexes.
Use this exercise as a tool to see where you messed up. Can you make amends? Can you apologize? If not, what can you do better next time?
Everything can be seen as a form of feedback, not a punishment, not a threat.
When you get into the habit of staying neutral when there is an external source of upset, you can come to your senses more quickly and hence can take a logical and rational decision versus snapping and burning bridges.
And yes, it’s a loooong process to get there, but eventually, you will be able to identify the common triggers that make your blood boil. And be more in control and cool-headed when you will see your usual suspects coming.
Let’s now delve into your other areas of interest.
We talked about the review. Beyond the mere corporate/human resources mandated exercise, this could be a good time to ponder on your work-life from a bigger picture.
What has happened during this year that delighted, upset or surprised you?. What did you learn? What did you achieve? What did you find challenging? What can you handle better?.
Beyond these logical and rational questions, ask yourself if you are happy where you are.
Does the Company’s culture match your own personal values? Do you feel you contribute to a greater good, whether it’s yours, your family’s, your community’s?
Your job doesn’t need to bring you happiness, but you need to find something in it that keeps you going. And yes, money, a paycheck, a title, all work as a great motivator, especially when they are a means to an end that you decided upon.
What do they look like right now? Where are your bank accounts at? Credit card debt? Mortgages and other debt?. Your investments?.
What can you do better?
Solutions are multiple when it comes to helping manage your finances, from apps to hiring a financial planner, there is something that will fit your budget and the time you want to spend on it.
What makes your finances a liability to you? Ignoring them altogether.
It doesn’t mean that you need to have your accounts statements on your nightstand.
It means knowing what your objectives are in the short and the long term, and aligning your finances to them.
Your Family and Other Relationships
I am putting everything under that one item. Evidently, if you have kids or a spouse, they could deserve a separate paragraph.
The idea is the same, however.
- Where are your relationships at?
- Are you mostly a caretaker and a giver?
Do you have healthy boundaries? Do you know how to say “no” without feeling (too much) guilt and more importantly, not dwelling on what a bad person you are for refusing to bake the cookies for the PTA?.
Tis is also a good time to start shedding the proverbial “what doesn’t serve you anymore”.
Even more so, when certain of these relationships are downright toxic.
The perpetually jealous friend; the needy one; the never-there-for-you one; the one who disappears when all is well for them.
All of them!.
Because, repeat after me:
Yes, repeat it until it sinks in.
Your time is precious. Choose wisely who deserves a piece of it.
How can you learn to say more “no” to what doesn’t do anything to you and “yes” to that scary thing that you’ve always wanted to do but never dared to or never had time for it?.
Now is the time to make time and space for YOU (back to the first point…).
Your Free Time
Time for some time management talk (yay?).
Look back at that past year. In which areas do you see yourself not using your time efficiently?
Remember, life happens, so we will “waste” time. And time management is not intended to be an accounting system of your daily activities. It is, however, a great tool to help you free some time to do things that you want to do but can never find the right time for them.
So back to it. Take a closer look at some of the activities you partake in but can do without or can do less of.
Too many back-to-back episodes of the Kardashians? Scale down.
You binge-watch “Homeland”? same here.
If that’s your thing, all good!. BUT if it has become a reflex and there isn’t much pleasure after the x numbers of hours on it; if it is preventing you from doing other stuff, then, you know what to do.
Your Comfort Zone
On the subject of doing other stuff….
You know that saying: your growth starts where your comfort zone ends.
See in which areas this has been true for you? What crazy daring thing did you do this year, that was scaring the hell out of you, and that now is like, of course, no problem!
The more you confront what is uncomfortable and scary, the less it will be for you.
That’s you growing out of it, right there!.
And, if you did it once, you can do it again and again.
What activities would you like to experiment with this year? See the benefits they bring you. Assess their costs to you.
And it feels right and it is feasible..then take the plunge, and enjoy swimming like a fish!.
What other areas in your life would you like to explore?
Remember: celebrate your successes, enjoy where you are at, praise your growth. And be honest with yourself on 1/ what needs to change, 2/ why you want it differently and 3/ what steps you can take to operate a smooth transition into your new desired state.
And before we wrap up this year, here is the now famous Proust’s Questionnaire for you to play with. It is one of the greatest tools in the ‘know thyself’ department. You can use it as a game, or you can decide to go deeper after each answer. Enjoy!
- What is your idea of perfect happiness?
- What is your greatest fear?
- What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
- What is the trait you most deplore in others?
- Which living person do you most admire?
- What is your greatest extravagance?
- What is your current state of mind?
- What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
- On what occasion do you lie?
- What do you most dislike about your appearance?
- Which living person do you most despise
- What is the quality you most like in a man?
- What is the quality you most like in a woman?
- Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
- What or who is the greatest love of your life?
- When and where were you happiest?
- Which talent would you most like to have
- If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
- What do you consider your greatest achievement?
- If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
- Where would you most like to live?
- What is your most treasured possession?
- What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
- What is your favorite occupation?
- What is your most marked characteristic?
- What do you most value in your friends?
- Who are your favorite writers?
- Who is your hero of fiction?
- Which historical figure do you most identify with?
- Who are your heroes in real life?
- What are your favorite names?
- What is it that you most dislike?
- What is your greatest regret?
- How would you like to die?
- What is your motto?