I worried a lot about whether I should write this post. Would it seem Machiavellian to write about ways in which you can score a better rating in your performance review? I don’t know. I went ahead because a lot of people inside Gojek as well as outside have found value from these tactics and most people early in their career still don’t know how to write a good self-review about their work.
Note: JACA is our job ladder at Gojek. There will be different career ladders at other companies.
- Put only the most impressive numbers around the impact in your self-review achievements column. No one cares about a 1% improvement in DAU.
- Put impact numbers at the beginning or at the end of the sentence, not at the middle.
- If you are at JACA level X, then completion of items around expectations/roles and responsibilities of someone at level X is table stakes. Focus on expectations from a person at X+1 in the ladder. Say, the expectation from someone at PM1 is that they run the stand ups and IPMs of their team. There is no point highlighting that in your achievements. It is expected. Say at PM2, the expectation is coming up with your charter and OKRs, and you have been doing this already at PM1. Then this is much more interesting. Mention that proudly.
- Write your review assuming you are already at level X+1.
- Instead of writing “I was awesome in X project”, get social proof. Take feedback from someone who is above on the org ladder who collaborated with you on some important project, and ask them if they can share their experience of working with you. If you did good work, they will be more than happy to write a good review for you, which you can use in your self-review. In typical 360 reviews, the peer feedbacks come much later. So what I do instead is that on all major projects I work on I ask key stakeholders for feedback. Most of the time it is just for ways in which I can improve myself further. But the compliments don’t hurt either. And you can use these compliments (using their own words) in your review.
- Set up feedback sessions with not just the people to whom you have sent peer review requests, but all the relevant stakeholders you work with. When I the PM of Booking experience, I collected feedback from every member of my team. At that point, I had like a 20 member team. In peer review, the expectation is to get reviews from like 5-7 people. I got feedback from every member of the team which I shared with my manager. I wanted him to have a complete picture and not feedback from cherry-picked reviewers.
- People generally remember only the highlights, mostly the recent ones. These feedback sessions help not only the peers/relevant stakeholders remember the good things about you which they will remember to write in your feedback but also help you uncover strengths which even you did not know you have.
- Say thanks to people you closely worked with. Everyone likes being appreciated. This will strengthen your bond with other members in your team. I do this without any expectation. I also mention the feedback to their manager.
- Look at your aspirational org level. Generally, it is X+1 for most people. See if the points you have mentioned in your self-review will help you reach there. Does your self-review match the scope and complexity of level X+1? If not, then you need to step up by the time the next performance cycle comes.
- Ideally have at least one, if not multiple, 1-1s with your manager where you discuss your progress. This should be done well before the actual 360 review process starts. Sometimes they will also highlight things you might have missed yourself. If they are good, you can add them to your review. If bad, you will have time to work on them.
- Having a brag doc really helps.
- Have a highlights section at the top which touches upon all the key wins.
- For my own review I made sure I touched upon work I did around the following jobs of a PM manager:
- Process / Did I help in creation of new processes which helped my team deliver more
- People / Wins around people management
- Product / Key deliveries around product features and their impact
- Structure / Changes around team structure (if any) that helped in performance improvement
- If someone is surprised at your feedback on their performance review, consider it a failure on your part. You should have shared the feedback much earlier and given the other person a chance to improve.
- I make sure that I ask for feedback and also share feedback during each 1-1 I have with my stakeholders - manager, reports as well as peers.
I did not think about impress work before I stumbled upon this amazing thread by Shreyas Doshi. Most of the time I was too busy executing without thinking tactically about my career growth. Only after I joined Gojek, I started to take “selling my work” a bit more seriously.
If you are managing someone, you should make it explicit how you will measure their performance. For me, I check these 4 things while evaluating the PMs in my team.
- OKRs - If a manager is leading an org then it is critical she gets the right goals and meets most of them. Is her organization fulfilling the delivery expectations?
- I have a monthly career development 1-1 scheduled with my reports which is separate from the weekly 1-1 with my PMs. During this call, the first thing we check is how our OKRs are progressing.
- Core skills - How does she rate when it comes to core skills?
- For improving in core skills, I make sure they are working on their IDPs with me.
- Org level expectations - Is she meeting the requirements for the level she is on the org ladder? If she is a senior manager is she meeting the requirements set for that role?
- We do a gap analysis exercise for both the level they are in and the next level they want to get promoted to.
- 360 review - Is she meeting the goals for her as well as her organization but also meeting them in the right way? Meeting her org level expectations as well as delivering on her team’s OKRs does not matter if she is alienating her team and half of the team is on the verge of quitting. What is her review from peers, manager, reports?
- I check peer feedback to evaluate if they are meeting their goals in the right way while collaborating in the right way vs just meeting their goals. I appreciate PMs in my team who share feedback they have got from other stakeholders without me even having to ask for it. One PM in my team shares feedback, both good and bad, as soon as he receives it from someone. To make this exercise comfortable, I share all the feedback I have got with my team.
Documents for all the above can be found in Career development plan for PMs.
I request my reports to touch upon all 4 aspects when it comes to writing their self reviews. Do this and you won’t have issues with your reports when the time comes for their performance evaluation.