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Whatever your seniority level is, you report to a manager (or to the board as CEO). And in most organizations, the end of the year corresponds to the dreaded “impact” or “performance” review. The impact review is often a poor experience for the manager and the report alike. Why?
Truth be told, most managers don’t prioritize the impact-review process during their day-to-day activities (maybe because the impact reviews are somehow private and primarily impact only their reports?). If they don’t have a thorough process (taking notes of success/failures, structured 1:1, regular feedback loops, gratitude journal, identifying their report’s strength/weaknesses, etc.) during the period, then the impact review relies on their short-term memory (21 days or so, if we’re being generous).
Your manager also operates in their own context, and some key factors will hinder the ability of your manager to conduct your impact review well:
As the person being reviewed, you have no control over these factors (in a way, your manager also has little control over these things!) but you should be cognizant of them and understand the context in which your manager operates. Your success depends on your manager’s success.
The other key problem is that the impact review is rarely a conversation between two adults. I believe this is because of our education system. We are used to a very passive role—what I would call the submissive/student role. This is the default mode for many workers who just joined the workforce after completing their education. The education system from kindergarten (you get a sticker if you do things well…according to the teacher) has drilled in us the idea that somebody else has all the tools and knowledge to evaluate us. And, passively, we wait for the grades.
If you take one idea away from this article, please remember this one:
Instead of relying on others to tell you whether or not you did a good job, establish your own metrics and criteria.
Engaging in self-reflection is critical to transforming the relationship with your manager from a student-teacher type to a human-to-human egalitarian one. Product managers are knowledge workers with the tools and mental ability to self-evaluate. No need for a manager/boss to pass judgment on your accomplishments (or lack of accomplishments).
If this is your first time: this is most certainly scary! You may actually like the grading system that is so ingrained in our society. That being said, here is why this can help you know yourself better, transform your career for the better, and greatly increase your manager’s efficiency:
Here is a Google Doc template for your self-reflection. To use it, select File, then Make a Copy. You can then modify the document and following process however it works best for you.
Spend 1-2 hours reviewing the various sections and filling them in with your words using minimal analysis or judgment. You can also choose a single approach (or your own: this is really just a template to avoid “white-page syndrome!”).
In my experience, the more you invest in your self-reflection, the more rewards you will reap. Knowing yourself deeply and identifying what gives you joy and what pains you will provide you with clearer priorities that you can share with your manager. Once you have shared your reflections, here’s what may happen next:
Taking your self-reflection seriously gives you access to an incredible tool: self-actualization. In other words, you alone define your value, based on what is important to you. It is very liberating, as you will not dread your impact review. Self-reflection also has deeper effects, as most psychologists agree that measuring success according to your own metrics is critical to achieving long-lasting and sustainable happiness.
Whether or not your manager agrees with your self-reflections, your proceeding impact review will not destroy your self-esteem or value, but instead point toward areas you may have ignored. It will be entirely your choice what to do next: evolving to meet (and conform) to your manager’s view of the world, or finding a new manager to continue developing what you believe is more important for you.