How to Write a "Win Sheet"
Get your hard work recognized and eliminate doubts around pay and promotions by tracking your “wins” and accomplishments
How many times has your manager unexpectedly asked what you’re working on, and you stumbled your way through a half-coherent answer, knowing how hard you're working but struggling to recall specifics? Have you ever looked back on a crazy work week wondering what you actually accomplished? Were you ever disappointed by a promotion or compensation decision, knowing you might have done more to convince decision-makers?
At work, many people have a difficult time advocating for themselves. They equate talking about their accomplishments with being braggadocious, arrogant, or political. It's currently June which means many of us are approaching mid-year reviews, making this topic especially timely.
Proactively promoting our work goes by many names - selling yourself, “working out loud,” “narrative offense" - but whatever you call it, it's one of the most critical skills in your career toolbox. It might not come naturally, but luckily there’s a simple, painless routine you can implement immediately to celebrate your wins, get recognized and rewarded for your hard work, and get exposure to more interesting, substantial projects.
It’s time to start your Win Sheet.
I. How it works and why it matters
II. 8 steps to a great Win Sheet
A Win Sheet matters more than you think
Your Win Sheet (aka "brag sheet," "hype doc," or "list of stuff I did") is a list of your career accomplishments and everything you’ve worked on, in one accessible place. It’s like a less formal, more frequently updated resume or CV.
A Win Sheet takes the guesswork out of remembering everything you’ve done and accomplished at work. It can help you:
Advocate for a promotion, salary increase, bigger bonus, or other benefit, like why you deserve a certain certification or training program
Rapidly update your resume or CV
Provide a helpful resource when asking someone to write you a letter of recommendation
Supplement or inform an application (e.g. to Grad school, Business school, a PhD program, etc.)
The list of benefits goes on and on, and some are less obvious than others:
1.) You can’t remember everything
If you're reading this article, chances are your career is relatively high on your value list. So why leave anything to chance? Instead of depending upon others to spread the word about your impact and merely hoping you're adequately recognized and rewarded, with a Win Sheet you can have more control of your career development.
For example, rather than scramble to remember everything you’ve worked on right before a performance review, with a Win Sheet you can access a giant list of accomplishments and examples in an instant, right when you need them. You may be shocked but relieved to look back at some items and realize you completely forgot about them.
2.) Your manager needs you to brag
People like to hope that their performance speaks for itself, and that others can’t help but notice their hard work. Unfortunately, it seldom works that way. The onus is on us to take ownership of our career development and to play “narrative offense,” i.e. telling others our story instead of hoping they do it for us.
You can't expect your manager to remember all the amazing work you’ve done. Of course, it's technically part of their job, but they have their own workload and their own life, not to mention other direct reports. They're juggling countless deliverables, priorities, and stakeholders at any given moment. Again, why leave anything to chance? Your manager will thank you for "bragging" to them, so long as it's done tactfully. It will help them advocate for you, for example when promotion or bonus season rolls around. And don't forget, your success as an employee is their success as a manager, so a Win Sheet not only makes your lives easier but helps make you both look good.
3.) Build self-efficacy and beat Imposter Syndrome
As we've explored before, psychologist Albert Bandura has spent decades studying the concept of self-efficacy, “the belief we have in our own abilities, specifically our ability to meet the challenges ahead of us and complete a task successfully.” The concept is no joke — an individual's perceived self-efficacy consistently predicts better performance and occupational outcomes.
In Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control, Bandura explains that experiences of accomplishment, success, and mastery “are the most influential source of efficacy information because they provide the most authentic evidence of whether one can muster whatever it takes to succeed.” Importantly, Bandura stresses the need to recognize not only our wins, but the grit and willpower we exercised to get there:
“A resilient sense of efficacy requires experience in overcoming obstacles through perseverant effort. Some difficulties and setbacks in human pursuits serve a beneficial purpose.” — Albert Bandura
A Win Sheet is hard evidence of such experiences, and can even help combat Imposter Syndrome, a pattern of thought “in which an individual doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a 'fraud.'" By regularly taking time to reflect on and celebrate our performance and impact, as well as the obstacles and setbacks we’ve overcome, a Win Sheet helps crush self-doubt and cement our perceived competence, merit, and personal efficacy.
4.) Recognize patterns and correct or double down as needed
When you’re good at something, chances are you’ll be given more of it. At work, this can be good... or an absolute nightmare.
In reviewing your Win Sheet, you'll notice patterns — specific areas where you are consistently effective. Maybe you’ve helped write communications on behalf of your department head, and you love doing it. Maybe you constantly find yourself identifying and fixing problems with processes, but you find it tedious and boring.
You can use this time to reflect on where you want to invest your energy, backing away from draining activities and doubling down on high-impact work that fulfills you.
5.) Articulate your story
In her great article on brag documents, Julia Evans points out another benefit of Win Sheets: they help explain the “big picture of your work.”
Your Win Sheet is not just a haphazard list of accomplishments. It helps you identify the broader narrative threads that run through your career, so you can tell your story and illustrate, in vibrant detail, what makes you unique.
8 steps to a great Win Sheet
Without further ado, here are recommendations for creating a top-notch Win Sheet (be sure to read to the end for some important tips and tricks).
This Win Sheet will be your own, so it can be as detailed as you’d like. You can structure it chronologically, or divide your work into subsections or themes. You can include resources that help tell your story: links, images, graphics, shoutouts and other recognition, etc. You can create a new Win Sheet every year, or keep one big running list.
The prompts below are recommendations, but feel free to make your Win Sheet uniquely yours. Remember, it’s not about writing the perfect brag document. It’s just a tool - a means to an end - and that “end” is to track, reflect on, and celebrate your accomplishments, not to mention get recognized and rewarded for your incredible work.
Here's what to include in your Win Sheet:
1.) Any formal descriptions of your role(s), like a job description, if available
This will provide a high-level view of your responsibilities as a frame of reference. Sure, you’re probably performing above and beyond what’s included in your job description, but it’s a good starting point to see what is expected of you, where you’ve exceeded expectations, and where you’ve accomplished things outside the normal scope of your role. This is important if you want to avoid being rated as merely "meeting expectations" and paid accordingly.
2.) Objectives / goals / priorities / KPIs
What goals / KPIs / etc. did you discuss with your manager? If you’re required to document these in an HR system, they should be readily available for you to simply copy and paste.
Keep notes on your high-level progress, any obstacles, and whether you’ve accomplished each goal.
3.) Personal goals and professional development
What personal goals did you set for yourself? What have you learned? What knowledge, skills, and abilities have you gained? Describe where you came from and where you want to go in your career.
Maybe you learned a new programming language, or you got better at managing difficult conversations with direct reports, or you learned about an important new regulation or law. Maybe you got a new set of responsibilities, or you’re successfully leading a larger team than any of your peers. Maybe you want to learn about something or gain a new skill.
We’re not just tracking goals and progress here. This is a great opportunity to reflect on your personal and professional growth, and identify trends and the career narrative we discussed earlier.
4.) Highlight reel
When you think about your performance in your role, what are some highlights?
Did you build a strong relationship with a particularly challenging stakeholder? Did you crush your revenue expectations? Did you design a feature that’s regularly utilized by lots of users? Did you drop order fulfillment time or improve some other key metric?
These wins generally align with your core job, i.e. your job description and formal performance goals.
What projects did you lead, or participate in? What problems did you help solve?
These projects often fall outside of your job description, but they’re critical for showing our impact at work. For example, maybe you helped fix a process that causes a lot of pain for you and your team, or you participated in quality assurance testing for a new tool or technology, or organized a training or offsite for your department.
If your job is mostly project-based, then it may be easier to combine sections 4 and 5.
6.) “Culture carrying” and behavior
This category relates to your impact on the broader organization. How have you role-modelled its core values or positively impacted the employer brand?
Here are just a few examples:
Holding a training or info session for a cohort of new interns
Playing a key role in an employee resource group
Getting involved in graduate recruitment and interviewing
Mentoring or sponsoring an up-and-coming employee
Consistently demonstrating valued skills, like strong decision-making, strategic thinking, collaboration, strong communication, etc.
This section is often overlooked but essential. I've worked in Performance Management related roles before and know that many HR teams design performance processes to evaluate not only what you accomplished, but how you did it, meaning your behavior and other less-tangible impacts.
7.) Other accomplishments
In this section, capture anything that doesn’t fall neatly into another bucket, or anything hazy, hard to articulate, or unquantifiable.
Maybe you did some code cleanup, or filled a gap left by someone who resigned, or got great feedback following a client presentation. Nothing is too large or small for your Win Sheet.
8.) Extracurricular activities
This is where you track your wins outside of work, like:
Volunteering and community service
Blog posts or articles
Giving a talk or speech, or participating in a panel or roundtable
Awards or other industry recognition
Any other accomplishments (e.g. starting a new exercise regimen, starting a side hustle selling homemade fishing poles, or completing the Iron Butt Association’s Saddlesore 1000)
This section helps demonstrate your well-roundedness as a professional, and that you care about more than simply doing your job.
Other important tips:
If you really want a stellar Win Sheet, use the STAR technique to explain each accomplishment or work item. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result — four steps to ensure you can consistently articulate the full magnitude of your duties or accomplishments.
Be sure to include numbers or concrete metrics to quantify your impact, just like you would on a resume or in an interview (e.g. “...resulting in a cost save of $300,000 per annum). This doesn’t need to be fancy over overbaked, and helps hammer home your indispensability.
Use a non-work device
If you can avoid it, don’t maintain your Win Sheet on your work computer or phone. If, for whatever reason, you unexpectedly lose access to your device or files, your Win Sheet will be one of the items you miss the most. Save yourself the headache and use a personal machine to maintain it, even if the process is a little less streamlined.
Done is better than perfect
I'm sure we'd love to have unlimited time to work on our Win Sheet, but let's be realistic here.
Set aside time to update your Win Sheet regularly — aim for consistency, not perfection. Ideally, block 20 minutes in your calendar at the end of each week to update your win sheet. If that’s not feasible, ensure it’s updated at least once a month. Review and update it ad-hoc leading up to major performance reviews or other important discussions (e.g. promotion conversations, skip-level meetings, etc.). If you've never maintained a brag document before, carve out an hour this month and catch up on recording your contributions to date.
Don’t let this fall by the wayside or it defeats the purpose. The more frequently you update your Win Sheet, the lower likelihood that you forget or miss anything important.
If you have a close friend at work, consider reviewing your Win Sheets together. They can provide feedback, remind you of items you forgot, or simply celebrate your accomplishments. You can also hold one another accountable for keeping your Win Sheets updated.
A trusted mentor or manager can take a second look at your Win Sheet and provide an experienced, outside point of view. They may even point out something you missed or challenge you to take it deeper.
A friend or significant other, being less familiar with your work, can also provide a useful outside perspective (and you have the side benefit of helping them understand just what it is you do all day!).
Download Bring Ambition’s FREE Win Sheet template — click here [COMING SOON!]
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