Self-Evaluations: Men Self-Promote; Women Don’t! (Part 1)

On Wednesday night I had the distinct pleasure of attending an event held by the Women’s Leadership and Mentoring Alliance (www.wlmaconnect.org) and Glassceiling.com (www.glassceiling.com). One of the presenters was Andrea Kramer, a highly regarded lawyer and Partner at McDermott Will & Emery LLP, a huge advocate of helping women to be more successful, and an amazing lady all round. As part of her presentation on differences in gender communication styles, she covered what I regard to be an extremely important topic: writing your self-evaluation, and how these differ strongly as written by men and as written by women. Having written many of my own self-evaluations over the years, having managed many people and seen their self-evaluations, as well as understanding how they are used in the performance management and evaluation process, I could only agree vigorously with what she shared with the group.

Andrea’s point was that in general women don’t make the most of the self-evaluation process. They under-sell themselves and don’t take credit where credit is due to them. Guys will really talk themselves up, broadcast all the incredible things that they led, elaborate on the millions of dollars that they saved the client, and in general paint a picture in which they are cast as the conquering hero that saved the day. Women, on the other hand, talk more about ‘we’ than ‘I’, give credit to the team, and talk about what a great team player they are. Women don’t toot their own horns loudly enough if at all. They don’t make 100% sure that it is clear that the methodology that saved the client millions of dollars was their idea, they were the one who conceived it, designed it and developed it. This isn’t a problem if all you want is to continue to be a valued part of the team. But it is a big problem if you want to be perceived as a leader and if you are gunning for that next major leadership opportunity.

I kept thinking about this topic today. The self-evaluation process is such a great opportunity to accurately and confidently talk about our past accomplishments and gain recognition for your past work efforts, and it is also a perfect opportunity to focus on the future and enlist support in moving towards your goals. So I would like to share some of the pointers I heard on Wednesday night, as well as add some thoughts of my own that I was mulling over today. In this week’s blog let’s talk about writing the self-evaluation looking backwards component, and then in next week’s blog we’ll talk about goal setting and the look forward component.

Andrea drove home three main points on writing that self-evaluation:

  1. Do it well in advance. Women tend to do everything for everyone else first and take care of ourselves last. You can’t afford to do that with your self-evaluation. You must take the time to complete it well in advance, so it can be a thoughtful, well laid out, all-inclusive document. You do not want to do it in a rush, only to remember afterwards that you left out some really important items, or to realize that the wording in no way reflects the full extent of your contributions but now it’s too late to change it. Take the time to write it, put it aside for a few days, and then come back to it a few days later when you have had time to think about it further and can make changes.
  2. Get someone else to read it. A fresh set of eyes is invaluable. Get someone who you trust, who knows you and your contributions, and who knows how to advocate for themselves and others, to read your self-evaluation before you submit it. They will be able to tell you if you are under-playing yourself, and they will also most likely be able to tell you things that you have left out that they feel are your strong differentiators. Make sure to give them ample time to do this. Don’t expect great feedback (if any) from this exercise if you give it to them 3 a.m. and it is due at 10 a.m.
  3. Get your points across succinctly, toot your own horn, and get over being uncomfortable with saying what your contribution is. If you don’t advocate for yourself, it’s unlikely that someone else will. Take your credit where it is due, and make darned sure that someone else doesn’t take credit for your idea because you feel embarrassed about hollering about it from the rooftop.

So that’s a look at some great pointers about how to make the most of your self-evaluation and the look backwards at your major contributions and accomplishments. Next week we’ll cover the other side of the coin, that look forward, at using the performance appraisal and self-evaluation process to set the stage for your next goals and enlist support accordingly.

In the interim though, I encourage you to take a few minutes think about to what extent you believe you have not taken full advantage of the self-evaluation process in the past, where you have under-sold yourself in the process, and what the consequences were. Then start to think about how you can apply the above principles in your next self-evaluation cycle at work.

I look forward to seeing you back here next week for Part 2 – making the most of the look forward.

  • Tammi Barlow

    Daniella, thank you for sharing this excellent post. The things you wrote are so true, and I often wonder why women, including myself, find it hard to celebrate our accomplishments when at the end of the day, we have done so much that contributes to the success of an organization. I happily shared your blog post with some of my female colleagues and we all thank you for your insight! I can’t wait for part 2!

    • Daniella Levitt

      Tammi, I am glad this resonated with you and that you shared it with others. We have to collectively continue to support other women by sharing what we each learn, so that we can all be more successful. Cheers!

  • Sue Duckett

    So true! When I look back at the beginning of my career, I spent way too much time second guessing my decisions, which we know is a trait of so many professional women. Guys did not have this problem, they had the self confidence to run with ideas and take credit when things went great. As women, we do not take credit well, we tend to pass this onto the team we are with and rarely pat ourselves on the back for a job well done.
    As my career has progressed I have learnt it is a team and individual effort. Confidence is not only a personal requirement, it is also vital to be a great leader in your organisation. How can your team feel confident in you, if you can’t in yourself?
    Start from within ladies, change yourself and others will change with you.

    Daniella is doing a great job giving women the tools to improve and take control of their career path. Thank you Daniella.

    • Daniella Levitt

      Good morning Sue. Thanks for your insightful comments. I love that you raised the issue about second guessing ourselves. I know I still fall into that trap sometimes. On those occasions I try to turn to my cheerleaders to give me a shake and jolt me out of it, instead of just stewing in self-doubt. Thanks for your support. Cheers.

  • Suzanne Voce

    Daniella, I’m thrilled that you’ve connected with Andrea Kramer and WLMA! She/they are a dynamite organization and drive home key points for us ladies to improve our game. I wish you all the very best in building repoire, while building up women and business connections!
    Suzanne & the McKnight Kurland Team