Self-Evaluations: Men Self-Promote; Women Don’t! (Part 2 - Setting Goals)

Last week I covered Part 1 of how in general women don’t make the most of the self-evaluation process, how this hurts us, and what we need to start doing differently. Women under-sell themselves and don’t take credit where credit is due to them. 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. We looked at some great pointers about how to make the most of your self-evaluation and the look backwards at your major contributions and accomplishments.

This 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 set of goals and enlist support accordingly. Goal setting is a hard and time-consuming exercise if you do it right. You should spend just as much time on your goal-setting component of your self-evaluation as you do on your past performance. Don’t shortchange where you are headed next. This is your future we are talking about. Your journey through the management ranks to the executive team. Here are some advanced tips on setting your goals that go beyond the basics we already know.

  1. Your goals must tell a story. Just like your resume, you want your goals to tell a story and you have to think about what you want your goals to say about this next chapter in your story. Your next goal must build upon what has come before. When your goals build progressively upon one another, when people can see the thread and the themes, when they can see how success over here is a logical launching pad and qualifies you to go after that stretch goal over there, they’ll get on board.
  2. Create your own roadmap. Own your future. Don’t rely on the roadmap someone else puts in front of you. Just because your goals need to tell a story, it doesn’t mean that you need to contain yourself to what appears to be the next logical, pre-defined, safe career move. Think out of the box. Go big, look laterally, vertically and diagonally for those out of the box opportunities that you know will get you to your end game. Then set about defining the logic, the connection points, and the themes that support the weave and fabric of your story. Unfortunately, too often women stick to the pre-defined career path, while men find all kinds of ways to skip a step, or to make a lateral move and within a short amount of time still end up a level or two ahead. Clearly establish your credibility and talk proudly about where you’ve been on your journey so far, and how those past experiences provide the basis for where you are headed next and why this makes you the right person for that role.
  3. Eliminate self-doubt and take risks. So why do women tend to stick more to pre-defined career paths while men tend to creatively find ways to accelerate their upward momentum? Take a woman and a man who have exactly the same levels of skills, competence and talent. The woman will invariably identify and even worse articulate to herself and others what she hasn’t done yet to build up 100% of the skills required, and why she isn’t ready to take on that next role. The man, on the other hand, will find and articulate everything he has done, and why he is ready for that next role. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t completed every check box in the preceding career step. You are never completely ready for the next thing. What matters is have you done enough to prepare yourself for that next opportunity to contribute and grow, are you up for the challenge, and do you know that you will do a fantastic job? Eliminate any self-doubt and start to take some risks.
  4. How can we make it possible?  You may well encounter resistance, the naysayer, the person who tries to get you to the point where you acknowledge to them that you aren’t ready for that goal. That you should set your sights lower, be patient, wait another year. Be ready to push back on that and turn the conversation back in your favor. I have found that women take ‘no’ for an answer too easily, and too many women are uncomfortable with making the direct ask for something. We have to be willing to ask for what we want, and we have to view a ‘no’ as just another opportunity to ask again and get a ‘yes’ this time. Here is a technique to help you out. Six of my favorite words are ‘How can we make it possible…?’ By asking that simple question, all of a sudden you are making the other person part of the solution. You are getting them to be directly involved. It is no longer an abstract discussion to be left to others to make happen, or not. ‘How can we make it possible for me to move into that department?’ ‘How can we make it possible for me to fill that open VP slot?’ When you ask a question this way, the answer gets framed in terms of the things that need to be done, and then the conversation turns to getting those things done. Obtain specific commitments from the person you are having this dialog with about how they are going to be involved in working with you to make this possible.
  5. Be genuine and passionate. It is inherently easier for someone to support you in your goals if they come from a genuine place within yourself, and if you are excited and passionate about them. We all know the distaste we have for people who are false, and how we step away from getting too close to them. On the other hand, we’ve all experienced the joy of spending time with people who are committed to what they do with their heart as well as their head, and who exude energy and excitement about what they are doing and what they plan to accomplish next. We gravitate towards those people. We ask them ‘How can I help you? How can I get involved?’ Be one of those people, and your support base will grow.

While I have written this two-part blog entry in what appears to be more of a context for women working in organizations, these exact same principles apply if you are a women entrepreneur. Invest time in setting your goals strategically, and think big. This is your future we are talking about.

I’d love to hear your comments and personal stories related to this two-part blog posting. Thanks to those who have already shared. I look forward to more great comments. Cheers!