I posted a question on Twitter recently asking, “How do you know you’re doing a great job when no one tells you you’re doing a great job?”
While verbal pats on the back are always nice, the feeling of self-fulfillment that results from whether the effort put in has driven meaningful outcomes can be just as rewarding.
I believe this is especially true at a time when many roles have gone remote — there are fewer interactions and more of the conversations are transactional than personal, including with your boss.
That leads me back to my original question. The answer is simple — and certainly not an industry secret: quantitative goals.
This is not meant to be a primer on establishing and tracking goals. My objective here is to remind you, whether you’re questioning your abilities or feel in a lull as to whether you’re doing a good job or not, all you need to do is set some purposeful success benchmarks.
In purposeful, I’m not looking for empty vanity metrics either, but meaningful numbers that contribute to the growth or optimization of the business you’re in. Understanding what those key metrics are, you’re able to back into and assign value to your contribution. Unless you’re in the C-Suite, you’re unlikely to be accountable for the whole number so determining what percent (even if it’s a fraction of a single percent) you are able to provide is important.
Establishing the specific goal is easier said than done for certain roles. For example, in marketing it’s straightforward to quantify attributable success based on results (i.e. this social media campaign drove this many subscriptions) or owning a P&L. If you’re a product manager, however, your role may indirectly influence revenue. It could be that the number of users who engage with a certain feature you built is retaining at a higher percentage than those who don’t, which increases their customer lifetime value. See how I found a way to tie someone who doesn’t own — or is even likely goaled towards — a P&L a way to still contribute to one?
Once you’ve drafted your contributing goals, make sure that you’ll be able to measure them. In the aforementioned example, you may be able to easily measure how many people use a feature, but will you be able to then see how that same cohort retained over a period of time vs. those who didn’t to determine the lifetime value? If not, you have your first qualitative goal.
I also want to point out that some of your goals should bring meaning to what you personally want to accomplish professionally. Think about the story you want to tell at the end of the year or in your next job interview. Use that crystal ball narrative to figure out what you can personally work on to grow. I don’t view this as being selfish, as long as it’s related to making an impact.
After you’ve established your goals and that they’re measurable, share them with your boss. You’re looking for a reaction from them as to whether they agree or not. They’ll review under the lens of whether these goals will contribute to their own personal success story and what they expect from someone with your level of responsibilities. The fact that you also looked beyond how you can contribute to their group, and the business as a whole, should also impress.
For those that don’t get a reaction right away, it’s okay to remind your boss that you would like feedback. You’re attempting to align so whether you discuss your contribution to these goals weekly or every couple of months, you can personally review the progress to know where you’re trending.
Finally, you’ll want to make sure to track your progress – an obvious statement considering we’re talking about knowing whether you’re doing a good job without someone telling you, right?
I understand how hard it is to step away from “doing” day-to-day to “review,” but I personally look forward to this moment. It allows me to know whether the effort put in is contributing or allows me to re-adjust my plans if I’ve fallen off track. To make sure I have this time, I put a recurring block on my calendar with a reminder set for a few days before so I can prepare for my self-reflection.
What I just described is nothing new. It’s meant to serve as a reminder that there is a way to meaningfully contribute to your business, your story, and your self-moral to personally recognize your work as a job well done.
That, in itself, deserves a virtual pat on the back.