For many traditional employees, the words “performance review” are associated with dread or anxiety. This is because performance reviews are often time-consuming sessions where employees feel scrutinized or criticized. Then why should independent consultants put themselves through this process? The answer is simple: when done correctly, performance reviews can be a powerful tool in evaluating what you’ve achieved, revisiting goals you fell short of reaching, and assessing how to best move your consultancy forward.
By objectively evaluating your progress, you can put yourself in a position to turn a performance review into what it should be: a tool to help you become a better and more successful independent consultant. Follow these four steps to get the most out of your self-review.
If you’ve been through a performance review in the past as a traditional employee, the process probably included input, feedback, and prompts from your manager. But without outside assistance, it can be difficult to know where or how to start. With the right tools and data in front of you, it can be easier to perform a self-review that is objective, efficient, and beneficial. Before starting, gather the following:
With the last iteration of your business plan or goals in front of you, review the objectives you set for yourself and your business. Ideally, these will already be in a form that can be measured or quantified. In other words, “continue to grow client base” as a definition of success is more difficult to measure than, “gain five new clients per quarter.” If you realize that any of your goals are vague and hard to quantify, work to change them so you can better review your goals next time around.
If possible, break your goals down into increments and assign a level of success to each increment. For instance, using the example goal of gaining five new clients per quarter, gaining one new client may be labeled “poor,” two or three clients “adequate,” four clients as “good,” and five as “excellent.”
With this breakdown of goals in mind, it’s now time to evaluate how well you performed in your efforts to meet each goal. Whenever possible, use numbers and hard data to make these evaluations. In your mind, you may feel that your income levels were subpar, but the financial data or software you use may show that you’ve actually had a steady improvement on a month-to-month basis.
In between performance reviews, try to keep thorough records that document changes or achievements; factual data can be essential to eliminating any internal bias that might cause you to overestimate your success or be too hard on yourself.
Once you’ve completed your self-assessment performance review, it’s important to try and maintain an unbiased mindset as you evaluate your review. Don’t let your successes go to your head or your deficiencies make you feel discouraged. Instead, try to make an objective evaluation of the results of your progress so you can create a plan for improvements in areas where you fell short and recognize your successful efforts so you can continue or even improve them.
If it’s been awhile since you last updated your business plan, now may be an ideal time to do so as you re-evaluate your business goals and create a plan to achieve them.