10 Reflection Areas to Guide Professional Performance Improvement
We get so bogged down with the day to day, that we often don’t take the time to reflect on how we can further contribute to our teams and customers, and on specific ways we can positively influence our performance. Often, we just don’t know what questions to ask our boss to help us determine how else we could add value, increase the quality of our deliverables/tasks, and simply identify any improvement areas that could be a focus.
We are both huge advocates for continuous professional improvement. It is personally rewarding, fuels our performance, is very much appreciated by our Manager/s, and often fosters a stronger culture of continuous improvement (i.e. “lead by example” role model). In our quests to always be growing and improving, both personally and professionally, here are 10 reflection areas and example questions we have identified to help you determine possible improvement focus areas to take your performance to the next level and get positive recognition from your boss, peers and client/s!
- Understanding big picture purpose and priorities.
Do you understand the “big picture” of your company, group and team? Do you understand your macro level goals and priorities, how you support the company and/or your client base or stakeholders, other key strategic initiatives, your technology roadmap, etc.? This will help connect the dots on how your work contributes, increase personal buy-in and commitment, and provide ideas for how else you could be further contributing via your role to support the greater vision of the group and organization!
- Qualify professional relationships.
Do you have strong relationships with the key people you support and work with? Have you made a “social investment,” investing time and energy understanding their priorities, pain points, and a couple additional other details? For each person you work with, and as new people start, invest 3-5+ minutes getting to know them, welcoming them to the team, and strive for one “me too” moment per person (i.e. establish a commonality/connection). Fostering those professional relationships will result in success in a variety of areas, and will likely strengthen the entire team dynamic and make it an overall more pleasant place to work!
- Culture change agent.
Are you a positive culture contributor? Are you aware of your overall attitude and do you take measures to influence your mood if you woke up on the wrong side of the bed or had a difficult scenario or conversation that dragged you down? One of my biggest takeaways from the ‘Creating Effective Teams’ course I took as part of my MBA program was this concept of a “glue guy/gal.” Essentially, a glue person is a team member that acts “as the glue that helps mold and then hold teams together!” Are you cognizant of your team’s morale and attitude? Are you positively influencing the “energy” of your overall environment? What about specific scenarios, like team meetings?
- Seek more value-add responsibilities.
Have you sought out additional value-producing activities you might want to make part of your responsibilities matrix, asking your Manager something along the lines of “What are some additional items I could be doing to provide more value?” Have you personally identified additional things you could be doing that would benefit the team, project and/or client? Examples could be anything from helping establish an informal mentor program or leading a training to determining how to automate some mundane processes or write meeting/recap notes.
- Offering more help/support.
This goes hand in hand with #4, but in general, how else can you be proactively helpful, sharing suggestions on how to help based on needs you are observing? You could also ask questions such as "What else would you like to see our team achieve that we don’t have someone owning?” of your boss to identify areas of additional responsibility that would make a direct impact! Make sure your questions are as specific as possible. For example, asking your Manager “Are you looking for a mentor, or anyone to help with training, for our next new employee?”
- Communicate needs for success.
For any roadblocks that may be hindering your performance, project success, delivery timelines, etc., are you communicating your success criteria? For example, say “Here is one thing I need to be more successful!” or “Are you able to help me with xyz, which will help me be more successful in my role?“ It is imperative to communicate what you need to be successful!
- Identifying and applying feedback.
Are you continuously seeking, embracing and applying feedback? Seek out from your Manager "What feedback will you provide me on this product, process, other deliverable, etc.? Have you noticed any areas that I could improve upon? What is the #1 thing I could do to provide more value in my role, to this client, to our team, etc.? What are 1-2 skills I could improve? Weaknesses I could work on and develop?“ Once you identify improvement areas, determine how to make an impact real-time.
- Invest in personal development.
Have you adopted a “growth mindset,” and are you investing time in your own development? What learning/training channels, in person or virtual, are you using to build your skills? Have you scoped out MeetUp, joined relevant technical/SQL Server groups, and started attending meetings? You can also go above and beyond by identifying any tools, technologies, etc. that your group is planning to implement over the next 3-6+ months, and then invest time to learn those so you can help provide expertise when the time comes.
Do you focus on identifying solutions for any challenge or problem you are encountering? Have you identified a problem-solving process that works for you? For any problem you encounter, you always want to identify at least one possible solution, preferably two to three, to review with your boss, or whoever you are engaging with to tackle the problem.
- QA process.
Do you have a quality assurance process for reviewing any key product, document, piece of communication, etc. that you are submitting/sending? Have you identified a “QA buddy” and/or implemented a QA Process to ensure no mistakes slip through the cracks? Delivering quality products that are as bug-free as possible are instrumental to building and maintaining a strong positive brand at your company!
Perfection in the workplace does not exist, but that should not prevent us from always striving to positively influence our own performance to be the best versions of our professional selves!
Have the mentality that engaging in continuous feedback and performance improvement is part of your job description, especially if you want to be tasked with more leadership responsibilities and move up the corporate leader. Consider requesting an ad hoc meeting with your boss or team lead every 3-6 months or so to discuss a few of the above questions, and brainstorm, strategize and prioritize at least two ways to go above and beyond to help your team, while improving key skill sets and overall leadership skills at the same time!
If you are missing something you need to be successful in your role, in the environment, in the project or with the customer, make sure you identify that need via a personal “needs assessment” and then be transparent in communicating “here’s what I need to be more successful” to the right people!
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