Wednesday, December 19, 2012

An Annual Review may be a key point in your career path. Depending on the company for which you work, this may be the only official feedback you receive during the year. Raises and promotions are often dependent on your annual review scores. Some companies emphasize an annual review more than others, but it's a good idea to devote some energy to them as an employee.

The first important thing to know about your annual review is that you should start thinking about it very early in the year - preferably right after your last annual review. Set explicit, measurable goals for yourself over the coming year. Once your goals are established, formulate a plan to achieve those goals. Be as specific as possible. Include skills you want to learn, certifications you want to earn, and roles you want to fill. Review these goals periodically over the following months. Revise them, if necessary and record what you are doing to accomplish them.

Keep your manager or managers aware of what you are doing throughout the year. If you are speaking at a conference, let them know. If you receive an e-mail from a customer, praising your work, forward it to your boss. He should know what you are doing and how you are doing and this tends to create a favourable impression that can only help at review time.

Record all your accomplishments. I keep a spreadsheet with a tab for Projects I've worked on, Candidate I’ve interviewed, Presentations I've given, and other categories of contributions I've made to the company. For you, this record might be a Word document or a text file or a spiral notebook. The point is that you should not rely on anyone else to remember what you did throughout the year. It's tempting to believe that your manager will remember these things, but I can tell you from experience that managers have a lot to keep track of and they will often forget what you accomplished a few months ago. Add to that the non-zero chance that your manager may leave the company or get transferred to another role and you can see why it's important that you take responsibility for remembering all that you  did during the year.

When it comes time for your review, review your accomplishments and compare them to your goals set at the beginning of the year. Give yourself an honest evaluation of your performance during the past 12 months. This accomplishes two things:

  1. It will prepare you for what your Annual Review will likely be.
  2. It will help you to articulate to your manager how well you did during the past year.

It's important to remind your manager of your accomplishments at this time. As mentioned before, there is a good chance he has forgotten some of them and providing positive data points only makes his job easier.

Finally, almost every annual review process includes some qualitative feedback. Listen carefully to this feedback, even if some of it is negative. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the promotion you wanted or if you were evaluated lower than you  expected. But make sure you understand why. Insist on an explanation if you don’t understand a score in a particular area. Look at the negative points as areas that you can improve next year. Use these points to help define your goals for the coming year.

A well-done annual review is an important part of an organization and of an individual's career path. If done correctly, the employee has at least as much involvement in a review as his manager does.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 10:45:00 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
 Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Today, I tried to add a new Outlook contact and was blocked when I attempted to add an e-mail address to the contact. After typing in the address, I received the following cryptic error message: "An Outlook Address Book entry cannot be used as an e-mail address in a contact".

The problem arose because I had the same e-mail address in my "Suggested Contacts" folder.

To view your Suggested Contacts, select "Contacts" from the Navigation pane or press the CTRL+3 shortcut key combination. This view is shown in Figure 1.

image
Figure 1

Suggested contacts are populated automatically when you type an address into an e-mail's "To" or "CC" text box. They are used to quickly fill in these textboxes if you send to that same addressee again.

For me, this was hard to find because I use Outlook to manage multiple e-mail accounts and each account has its own list of Suggested Contacts and the Suggested Contact list and the Contacts list to which I was adding were not even associated with the same e-mail account.

I deleted the e-mail address from the Suggested Contact list and I was able to update the contact without error.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 4:12:47 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
 Monday, December 17, 2012
Monday, December 17, 2012 10:13:00 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
 Monday, December 10, 2012
Monday, December 10, 2012 10:46:00 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
 Monday, December 03, 2012
Monday, December 03, 2012 10:15:00 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
 Monday, November 26, 2012
Monday, November 26, 2012 8:36:16 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
 Sunday, November 25, 2012

One of the most satisfying things I've done over the last few years has been my work with the Great Lakes Area .NET User Group (GANG). I've learned a great deal from the people in this group and my role on the leadership team has given me the opportunity to meet some of the smartest and nicest people in the industry.

I love working with this user group because I love the people and it feels great when we put together an excellent meeting with a great speaker and an engaged crowd and tasty food.

I was not prepared this week when, following the monthly user group meeting, the officers of the group presented me with the first "Compiler" award. I received a trophy with the following inscription:
Thank you for your continuous and extraordinary service to the GANG community.

GANG President Kent Fehribach said that this award will likely be given in the future, but he did not commit to any schedule. In any case, I am very proud to be the first recipient and grateful for those who thought of this.

Sunday, November 25, 2012 10:23:00 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
 Saturday, November 24, 2012

A few months ago, David McKinnon told me he planned to organize a conference at Cobo Hall. I was skeptical. At this larger venue, he could attract a much larger audience than to the previous 1DevDay, MobiDevDay, and CloudDevDay conferences he had organized, but the cost was higher. A lot higher.

Still, Dave decided to take a chance and he signed a contract with Cobo.

Months later, over 500 people showed up to see presentations on various software development technologies, platforms, and languages. The common theme was software development.

On Saturday, November 17, the lines began to form at Cobo Hall. The registration line was so long that we had to delay Ted Neward's opening keynote presentation by 30 minutes. After that small glitch, the conference went very smoothly. Dozens of technical presentations were available to the attendees, open spaces, plus panel discussions, plus a gourmet lunch. The event finished with an excellent keynote by Chad Fowler and an after-party.

I had the privilege of serving as Master of Ceremonies for this event and I could not have enjoyed this more.  Throughout the day, people kept coming up to me and telling me how much they enjoyed the conference.

After a few days rest, we may consider a 2013 1DevDayDetroit.

Saturday, November 24, 2012 10:40:59 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
 Thursday, November 22, 2012

Today is Thanksgiving and I am making pumpkin pies and preparing to call my mother and brother and go to my sister’s house and enjoy dinner and an evening with my siblings and their families. But I’m also remembering the good things in my life and thanking God for them.

Today, I am thankful for my family - especially for my two sons who continue make me proud every day.

I am thankful for my friends, especially those who supported me through the difficult times of my life.

I am thankful for the occasional encounter with a kind stranger. These events renew my faith in the people of this world.

I am thankful that I am stronger today than I was a decade ago. At that time, I had no idea how I would move forward.

I am thankful for the success I've had in the community and for any respect that his been shown to me by my peers.

I am thankful that I have not had to worry about feeding my family or putting a roof over my head.

And finally, I am thankful that my faith in God has kept me focused on the future, despite my strong desire to dwell on the past.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.

Thursday, November 22, 2012 10:43:14 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
 Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Many companies institute a formal review process each year. It is a lot of work, but it's an important part of developing employees. An Annual Review provides critical feedback to employees. In addition, it provides objective criteria on which to base raises and promotions.

This week, I am responsible for completing an Annual Review for three Sogeti employees. At Sogeti, we call my role "Counselor" and these three employees are known as my "counselees". Of course, I also have a counselor, which makes me a counselee to him.

My task this week is made more difficult by the fact that I don't work regularly with any of my counselees.

But here is what I do to complete this process as fairly and effectively as I can.

Start Early

The annual review process starts at the beginning of the year. Push your counselee to articulate what their goals are for the year. Some of these goals will come from within themselves and some will be a result of feedback during the last annual review process. Goals can change and that’s okay, but it’s tough to achieve anything unless you have some objectives in mind.

Talk to your counselees regularly throughout the year. I schedule a monthly conversation with each of my counselees. It’s on our calendars, so we won’t miss it. Usually, this is a phone call, but I try to meet them for lunch at least a couple times a year. Find out how their project is going. What challenges are they having? What are they doing well? Is there anything they need from you or elsewhere in the company? Have their goals changed since the beginning of the year? If they received a flattering e-mail, ask them to forward it to you.  Give them direct feedback during these meetings. If you cannot answer a question, follow up later with someone who knows the answer. Take notes during these meetings. OneNote is a great tool for this. Often, I end up copying text directly from these notes and pasting it into the Annual Review form at the end of the year. If you are meeting regularly and having open conversations, there should be no surprises at Review time.

Encourage your counselees to keep a record of their accomplishments throughout the year, so that they can more easily articulate them at the end of the year. I always tell my counselees not to rely on me to remember anything they did during the year. There is a good chance I will forget something and there is a non-zero chance that I might not be with the company at the end of the year. At one of my former company's we had a slogan: "You own your career". Employees should understand this and it’s a counselors job to make sure they do.

End-of-Year

If your company publishes guidelines for the annual review, read them thoroughly and base your review on these guidelines. The less subjective your review, the easier it will be and the more fair to all involved.

Seek input from those who know the best. Because I typically do not work with the people I evaluate, I actively seek input from those who are more familiar with a counselee's work. Send e-mails and make calls to get as much input as you can. Typically, I might reach out to

  • Customers
  • Managers
  • Co-workers
  • Salespeople

Include specific examples in your evaluation. "Bob did a great job at customer XYZ" is far less meaningful than "Bob rewrote the Shipping screen, so that it now runs 70% faster, saving the customer 2-4 hours per week." On the flip side "Joe needs to improve his communication skills" is less effective than "The customer expressed frustration because he did not know that Joe's project was behind schedule until he failed to meet his deadline. Joe should have communicated the schedule slippage weeks earlier when he became aware of the roadblock."

Be honest. Often, you will find yourself evaluating a friend and it's tempting to let personal feelings sway your evaluation. Friendship should only affect an evaluation if there is a criterion for getting along with others. In all other areas, stay objective. Otherwise, you are not being fair to the other employees. Honest feedback is how an employee improves.

Give an annual review process the time and attention it deserves. Employees deserve this.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 10:33:00 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)