Cheat sheet: review time? Here’s a simple framework for discovering what you want and how to ask for it.

So it’s time for your performance review. You’re likely thinking about one thing: money. Your manager is considering how can I help this person grow?

Carrot meet stick, right? Not always. Money isn’t necessarily the thing that makes anyone happier or more productive. Many people don’t know how to identify and ask for what they really need. Which can leave many parties frustrated in the wake of a review.

Here’s a simple approach I’ve been using for years to identify what matters, and how to ask for it. I’ve used this successfully for my own reviews and in working with direct reports.

Here’s the how part: grab your boss and walk through these four questions together.

The first question is about growth: am I challenged in my current role?

You must have a sense of what “challenged” means to you. Are you learning something new? Given opportunities to grow? Lead? Say no to the wrong things? This should be a candid discussion about why you show up each day and to what extent this job is fulfilling. You’ll uncover some things that need fixing, and you and Boss Person should address solutions.

The second: am I set up to succeed?

Perhaps you’ve been thrown into rough seas without a lifeboat. Or your team needs to staff up to lighten your load. Or the personalities on your team are prohibiting progress. This question forces an exploration of what’s logistically necessary in order to help you help your organization.

The third: what’s my quality of life?

Am I working far too much? Are you taking care of me, or helping me take care of myself? Here’s an area where it’s easy to throw money, perks or benefits at the problem. Those are nice, but they’re bribes. And although I adore bribes, they rarely work for the long haul unless questions 1 and 2 are more thoroughly addressed.

The fourth: what’s my pay?

This is especially important in light of those preceding three questions. If life’s good in every other way, you’re winning. Put your money ask in context of that. If prior answers are seriously lacking, then it’s time for you to explore leaving or asking for make-me-stay money until those other areas are improved.

There’s one last assumption amidst all this: you are excellent at what you do, and you want to get even better. Walk through these questions with an open mind, and you and your manager should be able to identify specific ways to make that happen.


My second Chalet Workshop session, focused on helping design thinkers become leaders, is next month. I’d love to see you here in Boulder.

May 1–3: Love Your Unspoken Truths. Design for Massive Change. Find the issues that matter, devise impactful ideas, craft your strongest story and sell your vision. If you create products, services or campaigns, you will learn to devise powerful ways to frame, build and talk about your work.