As you’re sitting at the beach this summer and have some time to think (hopefully you’re in flip-flops, in a place where the weather is really, really nice), here’s something important to ask yourself:
Do you really, truly know where you stand in your organization? With your boss? Compared to your peers? Are you satisfied that you know your future ahead?
If you are – that is, you’ve had several meaningful discussions with your manager over the course of the year and have a good feeling for where you’re going – get off your towel and hit the waves. You don’t need to read this.
But in our experience, speaking to hundreds of business audiences around the world and asking for a (very scientific) show of hands, 75-80% of people in today’s organizations haven’t necessarily had the benefit of open dialog and candid performance appraisals on a regular basis. They don’t have any idea where they stand and no one’s telling them.
So if you’re in this vast majority, and find yourself staring up at the sky wondering why the heck you’ve been running in place for the last three years or haven’t seen the raise you felt you deserved, here’s a tool that you might consider.
We call it the Four Quadrants, because no matter where you work, you can be sure of one thing — you’re being positioned around performance and behaviors. It may be in this framework, or it may be in a different one – some other formula. But in somebody’s mind, whether it’s expressed directly or whispered between two superiors, your organization has this picture.
Now think through it for yourself. Take a moment to reflect and give yourself a quick self-evaluation… Where would you place yourself on the axis below? And why?
UPPER RIGHT – Onward and upward
Nice going… You’re a star. You’ve got the performance and you’ve got the behaviors. You’re among the chosen few that managers want to reward, promote and hold up as examples to the rest of the company. And, someone has probably already told you that.
LOWER RIGHT – Another chance!
If you place yourself here, you’ve probably put your heart into your job and believe in what the company values earnestly, but just haven’t been able to make your numbers. It’s easy to tell – you either hit your goals, or you didn’t. In good organizations, you’ll be coached and mentored — and hopefully given another chance or two to prove yourself. Don’t waste it.
UPPER LEFT – One more quarter
Despite bad behavior, bosses are often tempted to cling to people who fall into this quadrant because of their ability to deliver results. For a little awhile. This is probably the most difficult quality to recognize in yourself — it’s the rare person that says they can’t match the company’s behaviors. And while it’s hard to find self-awareness here, if you suspect your boss might put you in this category, beware. He or she may hold onto you to squeeze through one more quarter, but beyond that, your long term prospects in the company are dim.
LOWER LEFT – Leaving soon
Of course, fewer people still would actually place themselves low-low in a self-assessment. If that’s your view of yourself—yikes—you’re in real trouble. Your time at the company is likely measured by your superiors in days, weeks, or months. So if you’re even thinking you might be in the lower left, be prepared. You can be sure someone else is thinking you’re there too.
Now that you have an idea where you think you stand, it’s time to match it against what your boss thinks about you. We hope this self-evaluation will help prepare you to go to your manager and ask, in the least confrontational way possible, for an honest conversation:
“If you have any time in the next couple of months, I’d love to talk about how you think I’m doing and where I’m going.”
Don’t act like you deserve something, even if you think you’re in the upper right. Try a softer approach, “I love this company, okay? I love what I’m doing and I hope I’m meeting your expectations. I’d like to talk about the future.”
This way, you’ll ensure that you and the system are on the same wavelength. And, hopefully, it will also help you plot your future — whether you should stay and stick it out, or decide it’s time to move on to something that fits you. That’s what this exercise is all about.
So give it a shot, then ask for the conversation. Winning players always will – and will come away so much better for it.