How many times in your personal interactions have you thought you were talking about one thing with someone and then realize they thought you were referring to something totally different? It’s a common occurrence that may be comical at times. It, however, can be a major issue if you and your supervisor are talking about two different things regarding the work expected from your role. All of us want to please those we for whom we work. Yet, for many people they are mostly working off assumptions that may or may not be correct while hoping they are on target with what their supervisor or project leader wants. At the wrap-up of the year or of a major project you may have a chance to get some very valuable input from your supervisor. This can bring clarity to expectations and make sure you are doing what your supervisor wants and needs. Here are some tips that will help you focus on moving forward in their eyes.

Are you both clear on the job description/project objective? This is an overlooked aspect of communication but vital to shared understanding. If you are working for a supervisor then you should have a current job description (JD) in place. I emphasize current because many times there is one in place when someone was hired but is no longer completely accurate. Jobs evolve and your particular skills will usually add tasks and expectations not captured on the original generic JD. Make sure the job description matches what you are being asked to do. If you are serving on a project team and not in a job capacity then take this step to make sure you and the project leader have the same expectations for the work to be done. There are few things more embarrassing than to be at a point to evaluate your work and then find out your supervisor or project manager had a completely different expectation on what you should be doing other than the work you did.

What have you noted that I do well? This isn’t simply fishing for compliment, it’s a legitimate evaluation question. The response will help you strengthen the value that this person sees you bringing to the team. Sometimes this is something you know you do well, sometimes it is a skill that seems so natural to us that we don’t even realize we are doing it. Zoning in on this and continuing to strengthen an aspect that your supervisor or project manager already believes you do well both adds value to you as team member and also serves to reveal to you a bit about how others positively perceive you.

Where would you, in view of the vision of the work here, encourage me to develop my skills? There are two valuable levels of this question to consider. First, you are giving a supervisor who worries about delivering constructive feedback a vehicle to give you input in a positive way. You are asking what skills they believe you can develop, not a more vague “where can I improve” type of question. Also you are asking for specificity in that you are not seeking generic insights but particular actions that help move the vision the supervisor has for the work forward. They will appreciate the question and their responses will give you a step up in understanding not only what you can do better but also where you can add specific value to the work.

What can I take off you? This is both a great development opportunity for you and the chance to communicate to your supervisor you actively interested in helping important work move forward. Any items you can help with creates more time for them to concentrate on their core responsibilities. Even if the opportunity to help they offer seems small if you do it well and truly take work off of them then you will get larger responsibilities from them later.
Annual reviews or even the review of a major project can seem daunting and tend to worry many people. Looking at this as an opportunity to communicate your desire to work hard and receive clarity on exactly what success looks like to your supervisor will prove to be an invaluable map toward creating personal value for your team.