Ten top tips every great manager uses at performance review time

Performance Reviews – Appraisals

It’s that time of year again.

Here are 10 tips that great managers use at Performance review time

  1. Be prepared – plan
  2. Be clear about your PVA
  3. What does perfect look like
  4. Know what you are going to record
  5. Know how you will follow up
  6. Allow plenty of time before, during and post appraisal
  7. Think about location
  8. Understand what motivates the individual being appraised
  9. Have examples to back up good performance and of where improvements might be made
  10. Be patient – management/leadership is a long game


Be prepared

Is there a company format to use?

If there is then ensure you have read it carefully. Has the employee read it?

Be clear about what the perfect job performance should look like in both skills and behaviour.

This may be available in a job description or you may have to do a bit of thinking yourself.

Look for evidence of good performance.

Look for areas which might be improved.

It is much easier if you keep a folder in your e-mail to hold onto both good and improvement ideas for each direct report. This will make life much easier when planning the appraisal.


Are your expectations aligned with the job specification for this job?

Are your expectations about skills and behaviours needed realistic, after all everyone works differently, and everyone is motivated differently.

In advance:

Ask the employee how they feel they have performed.

Do they know what is expected of them in terms of behaviour, skills and knowledge?

Ask them to provide examples to you of where they have done well against the skills knowledge and behaviour and to bring along any examples of where they feel they can improve

Look for examples yourself

How do you think you can help them improve?

Use a FLAT wheel as a discussion point [Link]

Allow plenty of time:

Allow plenty of time – appraisals always take longer than you think they will

Planning is the key

Good questioning is critical, no-one likes to be told – practice the questions you will use [Link]

Think Purpose Value and agenda

Purpose: What is the purpose of this meeting – to give praise, recognition, encouragement or to correct errant behaviour or address skill gaps

Value: how will this activity add value to you – better results, more team harmony, motivated staff. What about the appraised individual, how will it add value to their life – recognition, direction, motivation, promotion, easier ways of working, better relationships with colleagues

Agenda: what therefore will you talk about – have a clear agenda, how will you cover the subjects, how will you structure the feedback, how will you record the actions, who will follow up, by when and in what format


What about the location – where will you conduct your reviews – who has the power and how will each person feel about the location and the environment – what is the purpose – friendly, adversarial

Who else have you consulted. Be careful that this is not a ‘witch hunt’ the old adage goes

“You don’t have to like me, you just have to work with me!”

Sometimes others have a different perspective on the individual, you need to be aware of this.

Which departments or colleagues does the employee interface with regularly?

How do they view their performance, you might be surprised by what you hear – listen carefully and seek to understand why they feel like they do.

Don’t let personal expectations get in the way.

Understand motivations:

How is the individual motivated?

Understand what motivates and drives the employee, the danger is that we think everyone is motivated like ourselves, this is often not the case. Once you understand the key drivers, you can help the employee get the optimum from the job.

What do they want form you?

Job satisfaction is quite simple to uncover with a simple questionnaire – [link] what motivates an individual vs what are they currently getting from the job.

How do they want to be managed?

Ask the question – ‘how do you want to be managed?

Listen to the feedback. Generally, it’s a great indicator and it is great advice. You can choose to ignore it… but there are big risks to that.

I once remember thinking I was helping one of my direct reports by constantly asking if they needed help, when I asked them how I could be a better boss, the reply came – “don’t constantly ask me if I need help, it makes me think that you don’t trust me or my judgement and have I ever let you down or missed a deadline you set. Let me get on with my job and I will ask if I need help”

It was quite a shock, I can tell you, but also a “lightbulb” moment in my career as a manager – from then on, I relaxed with this person and our relationship went from strength to strength.

Could you change your approach slightly to get better results from an individual?

Think about situational management, where does this employee fit into the continuum?

Is that changing?

Where would you like them to fit in?

Follow up:

Do you have an official format for the annual appraisal?

If you do – understand fully what you need to do, and the timescales involved

If you don’t have an official appraisal form to fill in, there are several things you might try.

You could always pre-prepare a feedback sheet – for yourself or for the employee

If you are short on time, ask the employee to write up the actions agreed


Have a monthly 1-2-1 this is a point to monitor progress on things that you agree at the appraisal – there is nothing worse than an annual appraisal with no follow up on actions

A very simple agenda

  1. Progress against the agreed targets
  2. Any new issues since the last ‘catch up’
  3. Any carry overs – plus and exploration of the time line –  overlooked or other priorities

I found that this monthly 30-minute meeting gave me peace of mind that there were no big issues, it gave me a forum for minor corrections or refocusing. It gave the employee an opportunity for specific time with me as their boss/leader, to raise issues and or seek guidance in a private forum.

In short it gave both parties a chance to be and feel heard. It also ensured that there were no surprises at the annual appraisal, no difficult discussions and little variation in the two views of performance.

If you think your team might benefit from a refresher you could always try a Skill Shot

But if you only invest in this type of development once per year, then please remember me next time. In any case remember there is always More Than 1 Answer