I am always shocked by the lack of effort that a majority of people I know put into setting their objectives.

They tend to treat it as a boring administration task or expect their boss to do it for them.

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail – Benjamin Franklin

I see it as a great opportunity to set out a year of work, that help you contribute to the company’s success as well as build your competencies.

I also make use of this time to identify ways to outperform my peer group and get me one step closer to the next stage of my career.

But maybe that is why I achieved success over my peer group during many performance reviews with a multitude of different bosses.

Don’t get me wrong it also took hard work, sacrifices, building relationships and building a lot of skills. But it was always aligned around two plans. The one my boss signed off and the secret one.

In this post, I am going to share with you the strategy I use to create the secret plan so you too can get the competitive edge over your peers.

The visible plan

At the start of the year, draft up a set of objectives, negotiate, update and finally agree them with your boss.

This is an expectation levelling exercise. If you achieve these or even exceed the measurement you agreed, then you will have met your boss’s expectations and nothing more.


Well, put yourself in your boss’s shoes. He needs to distinguish your performance from others who may have also overachieved on their objectives. He must even be able to justify the criteria he used to HR if required.

So, what can you do differently than your competitors?

The secret plan

To give yourself the edge over your peers, create yourself a private set of objectives.

To do this, ask yourself a series of questions.

Stop reading. Get yourself a pen and a piece of paper and let’s step through these questions together.

You have time now or you would not be reading this post. So, let’s get it done.

  • What were your boss’s pain points last year and how can you help with these?
  • What went badly last year for the team and how can you turn this around?
  • What are the team’s, department’s, company’s strategic objectives and can you have a positive impact on them?
  • What are the local initiatives your company participates in and how can you help with these?
  • Who in the team can you mentor/help?
  • Who can mentor you?
  • Which one of your peers can you help achieve their objectives?
  • Who can rave about you at the end of the year and how can you have an impact on them?
  • Who are your top competitors and what did they do extra last year?
  • Which one of your boss’s peers can you have an impact on?
  • What else could you do?
  • What would your closest competitor tell you to do?

Break it down

At this point you should have a big list of what you could do.

It was now time to prioritise them in order of which ones can move your further towards the next stage of your career.

  • Which skills will they build?
  • What relationships can you create?
  • What impact can you make?
  • What will be challenging and push you out of your comfort zone?
  • Which are fun?
  • Which really motivate you?

Now pick the ones you think you can achieve this year, that are challenging, but that will not derail the commitments you have already made to your boss.

Review and refactor you objectives

Review this list each month ensuring you are on track and update it if a new opportunity present itself.

Wrap up

At review time or your 121s, you should have plenty to talk to your boss about on how you have gone above and beyond. It also shows how proactive you have been in not just meeting your objectives, but helping others, the team, the department or the company.

If you liked this strategy, please help your closest friends by sharing. But keep it away from your closest competitors.

If you have any questions, please let me know at nick@nicholas-foster.com or add to the comments below.


Categories: Personal Development