What’s your stance on the importance of titles?
When someone first joins my Executive Ahead of Time program, they usually fall into one of two camps:
🏕️ Camp A Title does not matter (ie: they do not “think about their career that way”).
⛺ Camp B: Title really matters (and they’re sick of waiting to land the title they deserve).
These two approaches may seem like polar opposites, but they’re really just different sides of the same coin.
Obsessing over title AND pretending that title doesn’t matter both have the potential to send you on an emotional rollercoaster ride where you feel like you’re completely out of control of your own career.
But I want you to do something different.
I want you to care about titles because they do matter…
But I also want you to recognize that they don’t matter, too.
Because, yes, you don’t need a higher title to start having the impact you want to be making right now.
But on the flipside…
Your title can open doors for you.
It can help you have a seat and a voice at the table, so you can be the change you want to see in your organization.
And it can provide you with the bonuses and pay raises that you 100% deserve.
So in this episode of Maximize Your Career with Stacy Mayer, I’m going to show you the Middle Way between titles being the ‘be-all and end-all’ of your career, and titles not being important at all. And finding this balance is going to help you reach your next level of leadership and have so much more success once you get there.
Want to receive the recognition you deserve, step into a higher leadership position, get paid for your ideas instead of the hours you put in at work, and enjoy more time, freedom, energy, and joy? Then you need to get your hands on a copy of Promotions Made Easy. Get your copy here.
What You'll Learn:
What You'll Learn:
- Why titles matter
- Why so many women are averse to caring about titles
- What ‘I don’t care about the title’ REALLY means
- A powerful exercise for determining why it matters that you earn an executive title
- The problems that will arise when you only care about your title
Listen to the Full Episode:
Featured on the Show:
- Featured on the Show:
- Ep #115: How to Get Exactly What You Want at Your Performance Review
- Connect with me on LinkedIn
- Join my group coaching intensive, Executive Ahead of Time
- Get your copy of my brand new book, Promotions Made Easy: A Step-by-Step Guide to the Executive Suite
Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Maximize Your Career. I'm your host, Stacy Mayer. And super excited, as always, to be here with you again this week.
So inside of The Leadership Table, which is my advanced executive group coaching program, we have been doing a lot of conversations around performance reviews. And if you've been following me for a while you know that I have very specific opinions about performance reviews. I wrote a whole chapter about performance reviews inside of Executive Ahead of Time. And I really believe that the way that you approach performance reviews really dictates your ability to get promoted into those higher level executive positions. And I'm going to show you today what I mean by that. But really think about it. When I tell you performance reviews, what's the first thought that comes to mind?
Is it: Oh gosh, I hate performance reviews. Is it: Yeah. Performance reviews are what they are. Or is it: I love performance reviews. I think it's the most exciting thing that happens throughout the year. So really, just check-in and see what happens to you.
And for the most part, what I'm looking for is either a neutral approach to performance reviews or actual enthusiasm about your performance review. Because that's when you know that you're going to get the pay increase or the title or whatever it's coming to you that you're already aware of in your mind. You already should know what is going to happen at your performance review before your performance review.
And so if you're at the place in your career where you always know what to expect, then you are significantly steps ahead of the competition of the other people at your organization. And I say competition with light because I believe that there's enough room at the top for all of us. We're not competing with our co-workers. But really, when you think about those higher level executive positions and there are very few slots at the top, I want you to be the top contender. I want you to be the first person that they think of when a position becomes available. And the way that you're going to do that is to start to shift the way you're having professional development conversations.
So today I'm going to be dissecting for you exactly how I approach performance reviews, how you can start approaching these year round conversations, really having professional development conversations, building relationships with your entire executive team year round so the performance reviews aren't a big surprise for you. Each week, I offer different polls to my audience on LinkedIn because I really want to hear from you and understand what it is that you're thinking about and challenges that you're facing and really have data. I think data matters and understand what is actually happening for my community and the other corporate leaders in the community so that I can really tailor all of the work that I do around what you really need.
And this past week, I offered a poll asking about performance reviews. And I wanted to really hear from you and hear how things went. And I was a little bit surprised in that 80 percent of the respondents to the survey actually said that the performance review went better than expected. Or at least it was pretty average at most. Which is what I'm telling you I want you to be doing. And then it occurred to me. I said: Well, who in their right mind would actually put that the performance review, one of the option when I said that it didn't go well was a "total nightmare", who would actually put that their performance review was a total nightmare on LinkedIn? It's not really a thing that we want to do when we're socializing on a platform that is supposed to be professional and help us advance our careers.
And so even if that's true and 80 percent of my community really is kicking ass, getting promotions, getting money, getting all of the things that I teach on this... That's great because it means they are listening to what I'm teaching and they're implementing it and it works. But let's say just for the sake of argument that it's actually not true. That we put on a face in the public eye that we don't really want other people to see. And by not true, I'm not saying that those people who said yes, their performance review went great. I'm sure that it actually probably did. They're not lying. But I'm saying the people who it didn't go so great, they're not going to be as likely to check that box because it's a bit embarrassing. We don't really know how to handle it, and that's the first attitude that I want to address.
So you have thought about social media at some point, even if you're not a person who engages actively on social media. You think about it. It's in your face. And we have been told time and time again that Instagram is not a direct reflection of the world that we live in. There are filters. There are people only showing the bright side of life. They don't show the hard stuff. They're not showing the aches and pains and things like that. And then when they do show the harder sides of life, we sometimes tend to even subconsciously judge them for putting too much of themselves out there.
And the same is absolutely true for LinkedIn. I think LinkedIn is still a very "professional platform". And for good reason. And that doesn't necessarily bother me. I take a little bit of a different approach to Linkedin when I post myself. And you'll always hear from me. Everything that I teach is something that I also apply to my own life. And so my thought is, that if we show up authentically powerful at work and also on these social media platforms, then that is our best chance of getting notice, getting recognized, getting put in those opportunities for amazing things to happen to our career.
And so what my approach to LinkedIn is is authentic power. And basically what that means is that as a woman, I am a total corporate badass. And I own that and I also own that I make mistakes. And that I have challenges along the way, and I'm not afraid to communicate that in a very powerful, growth oriented type of way. It's not a self-loathing way. It's not a woe is me. It's not a victim mentality. This is what I'm learning and this is how I'm growing.
So this is how I show up on LinkedIn. This is also how I recommend that you show up at work. In your conversations with your team. And that way of being vulnerable, sharing about your values, sharing about what matters to you, areas of growth, is incredibly powerful for you and for your team. And if you listen to my most recent series on Things I Suck At, you'll get a really great taste of what it's like to express yourself in this way.
So I wanted to first put that out there is the tendency, when we think about performance reviews and even if you're thinking about what your coworkers, regardless of social media, you're only going to see the good side of things. Nobody is going to tell you their shitty performance review. They're not going to tell you how bad it really went. And by bad, it really went... This is what my guess is for you if you're listening to this. Is that an average performance review for you is really, really bad. And the reason why I say that is because if you are listening to this podcast, you don't necessarily have what I would call fatal flaws. And those are just that god awful emotional intelligence. You never deliver on your deadlines. You're just terrible at your job. The women who tend to be attracted to my work are the ones who are really already corporate badasses. They're just not getting the recognition that they deserve.
And so I'll give you an example that I share inside of my book, Promotions Made Easy, in my entire chapter on performance reviews. And you could definitely check that out and read more about my philosophy. But basically, there was a woman who consistently got "meets expectations" on her performance reviews. And this pissed her off to no end. It really made her angry. Because she wanted to get an "exceeds expectations" on her performance review. And often her boss was giving her feedback that she did, in fact, exceed expectations. But whenever it came down to the performance review, it always said "meets expectations", and he would just say: Well, I have really high standards for what it means to exceed expectations. And you'll get a promotion when it's due to you. And you'll get more compensation when it's due to you.
And she was very, very frustrated by this. And of course, rightfully so. And so when I say you had a terrible performance review, I mean that you had a "meets expectations". And I think that's terrible.
Because oftentimes what you're doing is definitely exceeding expectations. But if you're not getting recognized for that and you're not getting paid for that, then that is a real and actual problem. And it adds up over time.
And so I'm always looking for my corporate badasses and the listeners of this podcast to get “exceeds expectations” on your performance review so that you're adequately compensated for what it is that you're doing at work. So I just kind of wanted to set that groundwork so that you knew what I meant. Because you might be listening to this and think: Well, maybe I'm not that bad. And I want to challenge you. If you're consistently getting "meets expectations", to do better. And by doing better, I don't mean get better at your job. I just mean, listen to what I'm sharing on this podcast, start implementing the work and really challenge yourself to get "exceeds expectations" on the next performance review. I want you to be in that 80 percent that was replying on LinkedIn.
So if there are all of these other women listening to this podcast, getting "meets expectations", feeling really terrible about it, wishing that they could get more. I want you to know that you're not alone. And I think that this matters. And inside of groups like Executive Ahead of Time.
We're having very open and honest conversations about what we're actually getting on our performance reviews. And it's a big deal. And there was a woman who was planning on getting promoted. And then she received the "meets expectations" on her performance review and she cried on one of our group coaching calls. It's incredibly vulnerable to be able to share that. But it's also refreshing. When you see a room full of women who have also been passed over for promotions in the past, they've figured it out. They've done the work and then now they're getting consistently "exceeds expectations" and they're getting higher salaries, higher titles, a seat at the table, all of those things that you wish that you had. Then you have hope. You have a specific pathway to move forward. So right now, what's happening at work is you're getting “exceeds expectations” and maybe you're telling your spouse and you're telling your spouse that you're very frustrated, but your spouse kind of wants you to keep your job. And he or she is probably happy with the fact that you're getting "meets expectations" because then that means that there's still money coming in. You're maintaining the status quo. And you're like: But I want more.
And so I definitely invite you to come join us in Executive Ahead of Time so that not only you can have those open, honest conversations with other women who've been in the exact same boat as you. But also so that we can get you out of it. Get you to that other side. And I'm going to show you a couple of ways today to also get you to that other side so that you can start receiving the recognition that you already deserve.
So the first thing that I want to point out is that performance reviews in my mind are basically meaningless. They should just be a thing that you show up for. It's standard documentation. It's basically filing your taxes. It's not something that you should get either too worked up about or too excited about or too upset about. None of those things should actually be happening in your performance review. If you get "exceeds expectations", you should also not be excited about it because it should be obvious.
So recently we had two women inside of The Leadership Table get very, very big recognition at their performance reviews. And both of them, it was obvious. So one of the women was promoted to vice president, from senior director to vice president. She knew she was going to be promoted and the actual performance review conversation was just the red tape, the paperwork.
And the same thing happened for another woman who was really set up to receive above her bonus. She wanted to receive at least one hundred percent of her bonus. She was shooting for one hundred and twenty percent of her bonus. And this is actually a really funny situation because she had just started at her role, but because she had been working with me for a year now, she was gung ho having conversations right out of the bat. Like: Look, how can I set myself up to get above average for my bonus compensation this year? And the bonus evaluations actually happened just three weeks after she was hired. So now it's been about 90 days since she was hired, and this is when her actual performance review conversation came out and she absolutely received one hundred percent, which is awesome. She didn't receive any less. And she received even more than that, and she received a pay increase. So she's only been at her organization for 90 days and already set herself up to get above average in her performance review in terms of compensation. So this is huge. But she had to do that right out of the gate. She had to set expectations, but then she also had to receive feedback from her boss about what it was going to take to get that above average on her performance review.
So I want you to know that this is possible for you, no matter what stage you're in or how recently you started at an organization or with your current boss. You can always do this work immediately.
So as you've gathered, my thoughts about performance reviews is that it's a year round conversation. And basically what this looks like is you're saying something, so in this most recent example that I gave of the woman who just started the rule, you're saying: my expectation is to get exceeds expectation on my performance review in October. And I and I want to know from you what I need to do to make that happen.
So that's the actual question. You're really going to ask that question. And then you're going to listen to the feedback from your boss as to what it's going to take to get “exceeds expectations”. You want to know the calibration ahead of time. You want to know how you're weighed against your peers. You want to know specific actions that you can start to take to make sure that you're set up in this way.
And then you're going to start to do it. And every quarter you're going to have conversations to check back in and to see if you're headed in the right direction. Now, I don't know what this brings up for you. Maybe this makes you feel too aggressive, too outspoken. But the fact of the matter is, is that you are showing your boss that you mean business. Not that I am just in this for the money and the compensation. But no. I am here to do the best possible job that I can do. And not only that, but I'm going to go above and beyond for you. For this organization. I am an executive leader and I have expectations about my performance and how it's going to be measured accordingly throughout the entire year. That is really how it looks. When you start to have these conversations.
And if your boss feels uncomfortable about the conversation, that's your boss is uncomfortability. Because what is happening is your boss is not doing this with their boss. They're not having this level of candidness throughout the year. So they might feel a little bit uncomfortable, but that's not a reflection of you. That is a reflection of them and their uncomfortability. And so what we're going to do is we're not going to keep pouring salt into the wound. So if you notice that you have this type of conversation with your boss, your boss is very dodgy about it. Doesn't really know how to answer your questions. Says: Oh, you don't need to worry about it. Then you're just going to back off just a little bit. So you're leaning in, so to speak, and then your boss feels very uncomfortable and you're going to kind of lean out and just ask a question. Well if you did know, what would it be? Well, what would you think about me doing x y z? Would that be something that would be useful?
So you're going to just engage a little bit rather than pressing harder and being like: tell me, tell me right now. You're just going to back off a little bit, but still stay engaged in the conversation. Say: Well, it does matter to me. Well, I would to know because I don't want to be surprised at my performance review. Well, I would like to know because I want to make sure that I'm the best possible senior director on your team. I want to make sure that I am exceeding your expectations. So there are lots of reasons and ways that we can approach this conversation that makes other people feel comfortable ish. At the end of the day, though, realize that if your boss is very annoyed by this conversation, then that's because of their own uncomfortability.
Now I want to show you how you as a leader, can start to do this with your team as well. You can start to have year round professional development conversations with your team. And they're going to start to step up to the plate. And then you're going to have to realize: Oh, I'm going to have to come up with an actual plan for them throughout the year so that they can exceed expectations, so that they can measure it.
Now what I want to go to is the stuff that is outside of our control. And a lot of times, while bosses are so hesitant to have these types of conversations with their employees is because there are so many factors at performance review time that are completely outside of our control. So let's say you have a group where there's an allotment of of raises or bonuses and it only goes to the top two performers. Everybody else receives average. And then of course, there's the people that are below average. And maybe perhaps your boss. Says hands are tied and they have to give above average to these two performers who have been with the organization for 10 years and they haven't received adequate compensation in that long. And so they're looking to really reward them at this time. So let's say that that's the case and your boss's hands are tied.
I want you to know that as the boss, we get it. This is not your fault. So you can have year round professional development conversations without false promises. And as the receiver of this information, you also want to communicate to your boss that I'm not looking for you to promise that I will get “exceeds expectations” on my performance review. I think this is a huge differentiator. Because a lot of times why our bosses feel so uncomfortable with this conversation is because they honestly cannot promise anything.
So you want to say to them: Look, I'm not looking for you to promise that I'll get “exceeds expectations”. I'm just looking for you to show me what is expected of me to receive “exceeds expectations”. And at the end of the day, she might not be able to do anything about it. And then you have a choice to make right. You have a choice to make at your performance review. I did everything to exceed expectations. That conversation is still going to be about paperwork. Your boss is going to tell you: Look, you did a fantastic job. It's all documented here on paper. You're still receiving average, but that's just because Jim, over here, he's been here for six years longer than you, and we needed to promote him at this time. So you're going to listen to that whole conversation. You're not going to argue with her about her decision and say, Well, you told me that I could get “exceeds expectations” if I did these things. No, because it's never a promise. It's never a guarantee. Your promotion, your compensation is never a guarantee. Until it's actually on paper, it's not guaranteed. So you can still be frustrated and you can be annoyed by it. But now listen to this.
Now you can decide, OK, I'm going to stay another year at this company because I really care about their mission. I've built a lot of really strong reputation. I love the work that I'm doing. I'm going to stay here even though I'm averagely compensated for the “exceeds expectations” work that I'm doing. Or I'm going to start looking. But when you start looking from that place. The difference between getting passed over for a promotion from an empowered place and from a disempowered place is astronomical. So what you want to do is you want to get passed over for a promotion from an empowered place. So you want to get an average performance review from an empowered place. One where you truly know, look: I guess she says her hands were tied. I'm going to believe her. But also, I know that I'm valuable in this organization clearly doesn't value me. The way that their compensation process is set up, I can make a bigger impact over here. I can make the money that I deserve to be making over here. I can have a higher title and the benefits of a higher title... Maybe next week I'll do an episode on what are the benefits of having a higher title. But it actually matters to have higher titles. You may think: well, it doesn't matter. No, it does. Because when you see the women inside of Executive Ahead of Time and in The Leadership Table who get those promotions, they're like: Oh my gosh, Stacy, the other side is very different. Actually, being included in the conversation is so different than being a senior director. And it matters.
So I just want you to start to see how you can really think and shift your thinking around performance reviews that it just is. It just is a data collecting service. It's like paying your taxes. It's something that you do every single year at the same time. But what you're really doing is owning your career, owning your professional development, taking steps necessary to become that Executive Ahead of Time to put yourself in those positions so that even if you receive average? Ok, fine. whatever. Make a choice. Decide. Am I staying or going? It doesn't have to be this emotional anguish, or you will receive an exceeds expectation and you're going to be like: Oh my gosh, thank god, Stacy. Now I'm making forty thousand more a year, and I wouldn't have been able to do this if I hadn't started having those year round professional development conversations all along.
That's how I want you to look at performance reviews. I want you to realize that it is disappointing to get passed over for promotion and women everywhere are getting passed over on the daily. You are not alone. This is not shameful. This is not because you don't deserve to be an executive leader. It is simply because you haven't taken the tools necessary to really set yourself up as that executive leader to set yourself up to get that exceeds expectation, to really show up as that strong, powerful, authentically powerful corporate badass that you already are.
So I hope your performance review goes great. If it doesn't go as well as planned, let me know. Shoot me a DM. Join us in Executive Ahead of Time so that you never have to have a crappy performance review ever, ever, ever again.
All right, thank you so much for listening, and I'll see you next week. Bye!
About Your Host
Hi! I'm Stacy Mayer, a Certified Executive Coach and Promotion Strategist on a mission to bring more diversity to the leadership table by getting 1000 underrepresented corporate managers promoted into senior executive positions each year worldwide.
I help undervalued executives scale to the C-Suite using repositioning strategies that build your confidence and visibility, so you can earn the recognition and support you need from key stakeholders while embodying your unique leadership style.
My podcast “Maximize Your Career with Stacy Mayer” tackles topics like executive communication, getting more respect in the workplace from challenging bosses and team members, and avoiding the common mistakes that sabotage career advancement.