The easy way to boost job performance

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Jun 03

We want to have great job performance because performance leads to good performance reviews. Yet, we spend our time doing our work only to find that the work we did wasn’t right. It didn’t “hit the mark” and we ended up doing the work all over again. All this rework increases our stress levels and creates time management emergencies.

Even smart managers blow it

My Senior Vice President at the time was making a pitch to a major customer and our group’s job was to create the presentation to use at the customer site. We worked on it for two full weeks (you want to impress the Senior Vice President, don’t you know…) and two days before the presentation, we proudly showed our handiwork to the Senior Vice President. And failed. Changes to every slide were needed. Plus, he wasn’t happy because we didn’t get it.

We worked most of the night, then showed the presentation again the next day. Then there were more changes and we worked half the night on those changes as well. I can’t tell you how much fun and engaging re-work is…especially with a tight deadline that did not need to be there in the first place.

The executive was not clueless, nor doing some sort of power play just to show off.

Instead, the executive didn’t use the easy way to boost job performance.

Prototyping boosts your job performance

The easy way to boost your job performance is to prototype your work. Let’s use our example of helping put together a presentation for our fearless executive.

The initial session, of course, lays out what needs doing. Here is the purpose of the presentation. Here are the points I want covered. Here is the product we’re going to pitch. Go forth and deliver a presentation; you have one week. After all, it’s a management technique to “provide the goal” but don’t worry about the methods to get to the goal. Let the employee figure it out. Right…

Usually, we diligently work through the week and create the presentation. Then, on the due date, we proudly show off our work. Then we get our heads chopped off for not getting the presentation right. Then, because the work is due tomorrow, we now have an “emergency du joir” where we work half the night getting the presentation “right.” Or, the way our manager wants it. And when the performance review comes along, here is yet another example of where the manager had to “step in” and help you do your work. Yuck.

By prototyping, we build a portion of the work and then, with only 20% of the work done or 20% of the time elapsed to the due date, we show our work to our manager. We show the work and then ask questions. Is this the work you are looking for? Is it at the right level of detail? Is it enough content? Is it done in the right format? Is the language right for your audience?

The work is never done right

And you know what? None of the work is done right. Because what your manager thought were the right instructions was interpreted as something different by you. It’s always different.

But, the big difference here is that only 20% of the time and/or 20% of the work has been done. Now, with something tangible to look at, the manager can clarify what was really needed because half the time the manager honestly doesn’t know what was really needed. Get the right detail level. Decide to change the format of the presentation.

No emergency. No scrambling. No blowing up quality to get the work done on time. And a manager who doesn’t see a blown assignment by you when it comes time to the performance review.

Prototyping gets easier

The deal is, when you prototype with your manager (or team), expectations about the work are fixed so there is no emergency. The more you prototype with your manager or team, the more likely you will continue to get the work “right” in terms of what your manager wants done. If you prototype consistently, soon your manager says to “just do it like we did the blah-blah project” and you immediately know the output needed.

All because you prototyped.

If you want the easiest way to boost your job performance — and get some time management back into your work life — then start to prototype your work. Build a bit of the final work product and ask for feedback early.

Have you ever prototyped your work?

  • Payroll Goddess says:

    Absolutely – positively! I’m now at the point in my position (just started my 4th year) that my content can be “trusted” and so now we’re on to “cosmetics”. I never understood my manager’s absolute obsession with cosmetics until he explained (a mere couple months ago) that if the cosmetics are tight, the content is trusted by those it’s being presented to. LIGHTBULB. I would have LOVED to have known this two years ago…

    Great advice and great blog!


  • Scot says:

    See, PG…you do a little prototyping and soon enough you are a trusted adviser. And…how good is that?

    Thanks for the comment; it is appreciated.

  • Pras says:


    I'm reading this old post and find it to be a golden one. This alone can set you far ahead of competition in many cases. Its funny though, I've actually worked on projects where the manager will intentionally give very vague unclear directions to see what initiative you take to clarify things with them.

    Then on the the performance review there is a catagory called ability to solve and clarify poorly defined problems. Its a paradox in a sense. Have you heard of managers doing this??

  • Scot Herrick says:

    Pras — not deliberately. They may be vague for a while to test your clarification abilities, but in the long run, managers need to provide clear direction so goals get accomplished.

    But, most managers THINK they provide clear direction. I've done it myself many times. Then the employee comes back with something totally different than what I thought I said to do. Not their fault, you know. But many managers will interpret what they did as the employee's problem, not theirs.

    That's why prototyping is so important. You get to see how close you get early on and find out all the other hidden directives not thought through by the manager because he or she assumed you knew all those other things. Then you get enough time to get the deliverable right instead of working long hours.

    In the end, consistently prototyping your work helps you collaborate with your manager and because you have worked so long on getting it right, you get to a different level of collaboration compared to your coworkers.

    That's what you want. Thanks for the comment!

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