Mardi Humphreys
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Mardi Humphreys

Your annual performance review is coming and there’s one question you know your manager will ask: “What do you think your weaknesses are?” 

It’s an uncomfortable topic to think about. Will admitting I have a weakness make me look, well, weak? Does the inability to resist eating the only blueberry donut every time Jane leaves a variety box in the break room count as a weakness? 

Clever woman that you are, you’ll go into this meeting not only boldly declaring your weaknesses, but also proposing how you’re already in the process of turning them into strengths. Here are three ways to flip the script in your performance review.



1. Do a self-assessment.

Even if it’s not a pre-requisite, do one. A self-assessment helps you make sure you and your manager are on the same page. For example, if you think you’ve done well keeping your expenses down and she disagrees, you need to know that. If you have a difficult time recognizing your own weaknesses, think about a time you were unsatisfied with the outcome of a project. Let's say you avoided conflict to the point that it negatively affected the deliverable. This is a weakness you can identify and present a solution to — “For the next project, I’m going to get together with Pat and better define our roles” — turning it into a strength during your review. Remember to check last year’s performance review. If you’re still working on a skill from last year, be ready to present evidence of your progress.



2. Categorize Your Weaknesses. 

In other words, don’t list every soft skill you could improve. List three, then briefly explain what you’re doing to practice them. Here are some ideas you can use for areas of improvement: time management, customer service, leadership development or business acumen. You can research ways to improve these common weaknesses on your own, but to illustrate, pretend business acumen is your weakness. In your review, confess you’re having trouble with Excel and so do the teammates from whom you’ve sought help. Suggest it may be time to send a few employees to workforce training. Volunteer to research companies and compare prices. Offer to go, take a couple of people with you and set up a time to share what you learned with other team members to keep the cost down. This indicates to your manager you not only have a growth mindset, but you’re also a leader.



3. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Demonstrate to your supervisor you can manage large assignments by breaking down large goals into smaller chunks. For instance, if one of your weaknesses is communication, then one of your large goals is for your team to better communicate. Break this goal down into action plans. One of your smaller chunks could be proposing to set up a weekly thirty minute project progress check-in. This goal is Specific (a weekly meeting with the agenda in the title of the meeting), Measurable (by getting weekly updates you can chart the assignment’s progress), Attainable (you choose a day everyone is in the office), Realistic (thirty minutes every week) and Timely (the agenda is limited to what happened since last week).
 
Everyone has weaknesses. To deny they exist makes you look arrogant. Identify yours instead of forcing your manager to do it during your performance review. Immediately presenting your plan to strengthen your weaknesses could go a long way to getting you that raise.

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Mardi has been compared to the C.U.L.A. Advisor in “Legally Blonde,” which she takes as a compliment. She loves talking about all things communication, marketing, and relationships. Visit her at www.mardihumphreys.com.

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