by Joelle Jay
You can make great strides in your career by understanding the advantages of exceptional
performance and how to make that performance count. Performance is the degree to which
you do your job well. Your performance is measured by your results, using whatever outcomes
matter most in your organization and your role in the organization.
Leaders strive to have meaningful results. They want to know their efforts will make a positive
impact on their careers, whether that means building their reputation, getting new
opportunities, or being rewarded for their good work. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee.
Corporate life is more complex than that.
Many company leaders believe that their performance will count for everything; however, in
complicated and changing organizations, it doesn’t. When it comes time for career
advancement, you cannot always control what happens to you or believe that your
performance will count for everything. But, you can take steps to ensure that good things do
happen and allow your performance to be the foundation for that success.
Performance becomes a dilemma for women when it doesn’t seem to count the way it
should–you do your best, get great feedback, and nothing happens. Research shows that
women, much more than men, must have proven accomplishments before their talent is
The perfect performance environment would be a true meritocracy–a system in which people
chosen to advance were selected on the basis of their ability. Performance is certainly not the
metric from which people are evaluated, but it is the most important. Performance is a clear
indicator of success and understanding when to deliver peak performance and showcasing it
appropriately cornerstones a place for a successful career.
Leaders can lose sight of this when they forget to prioritize and advocate for their own good
performance for several reasons. For instance, performance measures may not be clear in your
organization, or maybe you’re the one who is not entirely clear on those measures. Clarifying
those priorities can make identifying your performance more obvious and directed. You can
also become focused on the wrong thing–the next job, office politics, or the fire drill of the
moment, instead of your results. In addition, you can neglect to track changes in your
performance measures overtime. Your performance measure changes as your jobs change
throughout your career. Be sure you are staying current.
A final and potentially disastrous mistake is forgetting to identify, communicate and improve
your results. You don’t have to overdo it, but you do have to own your performance. No one
else will do it for you. You secure your performance by getting clear on the metrics that matter in your role–tracking the changes in those measures as your career progresses–and continuing to track your results.
By doing this, you can reap the benefits of a job well done. Typical benefits of good
performance are pretty straightforward: salary, benefits and bonuses. Beyond that, additional
and less concrete rewards become available such as confidence, marketability, promotability,
career choice and fulfillment.
If you show yourself to be a talented leader–and a future leader–of your company, you can
start gathering the experiences now that you will need to succeed in the future. Then, you
won’t just be promotable, you will be prepared.
Joelle K. Jay, PhD, is a principal with the Leadership Research Institute and an executive coach
specializing in leadership development. Joelle works with presidents, vice presidents, and C-level executives in Fortune 500 companies, and is the author of The New Advantage: How Women In Leadership Can Create Win-Wins For Their Companies and Themselves and The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership.