Thursday, September 11, 2008

An Entrepreneurial Take on Your Annual Review

If you are employed within Corporate America, you are either approaching or are maybe in review time.  Without commenting on the merits or drawbacks of the actual process itself, I would suggest that you take the opportunity to view your feedback through an entrepreneurial lens.  If you view both the feedback, the conversation with your manager, and the action steps that come from it, the process can move you towards your small business goals within the confines of your current company.

Most processes will ask you to evaluate your peers and yourself for a set of traits.  If you take a step back and view these traits through your new secret-decoder entreprenuer lens, you will notice that some of these traits will be useful in small business and some ... not so much (in the words of Paul Reiser).  Your alignment of those traits along that spectrum does not always match those most highly rewarded by the corporation.  For example, the ability to make killer decks (PowerPoint presentations, for those of you fortunate not to know) might be the communication trait rewarded.  Not the most important of strengths to have in small business, however.  (It just occurred to me that this could be the topic of a whole other post in the future!)  

Many companies will also fall into the trap of getting you to focus your development on areas in which you are weakest.  Newer schools of thought encourage companies to focus on making strengths even stronger and insuring that teammates complement one another rather than trying to make a bunch of mediocre jacks-of-all-trades.  Regardless, your challenge is to focus your development opportunities on areas that will also enable your success in small business.  Presumably, you can do this without submarining your corporate job.  It is often a matter of stating your desire to find a role or opportunities that will develop those areas.  Hopefully, you have a manager and/or a corporate environment that will support you in that.  If you set aside cynicism, you are often pleasantly surprised.  For one, you will stand out in relation to those who are more reactive than proactive in their response to the annual review process.

So, maximize the personal, long-term value you get from the review process by seeing how your peers feel you do on the metrics that matter to you.  Discuss the results and gather the feedback with an emphasis on those from your manager and peers.  Take away from that a focus on opportunities to develop and improve those skills that you deem most important.  You don't have to be out of Corporate America to begin taking steps in the small business direction.

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