Expert Advice on Preparing for Performance Appraisals

It's performance appraisal time and this makes many people very nervous. But if you've been performing all year, delivering results, plus have a great working relationship with your boss or your direct reports, why is this?

I've always found it quite odd that every now and then we get to the appraisal time only to learn in the one hour time allocated that perhaps your manager was not happy with the quality of outcome on a project you delivered ........ (wait for it) ........ six months prior.

Surely that would have been part and parcel of open and ongoing discussions? Surely too, this is for a project debrief closer to the actual date of the project delivery, not as a surprise in a conversation about your performance later in the year?

Performance appraisals can make us fearful when we're not certain of the playing field, the possible variable skill level of the person delivering the appraisal, along with a degree of subjectivity that is prone to bias and uncomfortable to navigate.  And for those recovering perfectionists and people pleasers ........  there is an added hurdle of getting out of your own way.

As a result I've asked four experts to provide their best advice on preparing for a performance appraisal to help you feel more confident in both receiving and delivering.

Carrie Gallant

Carrie Gallant

Carrie Gallant is a Canadian based performance coach with a particular interest in gender negotiations and the sometimes challenging tightrope that women can walk when negotiating on their own behalf or talking themselves up.  I particularly like her advice about tone.

Carrie says: Be ready to showcase your accomplishments, without any apology or hesitation. State them as a matter of fact, and use any applicable numerical measurement, such as x% improvement or $Y increased over the past z months. Balance your success as a leader with the success of your team. If you have any hesitation because you "don't want to brag" or appear pushy, consider that it's your job to educate and inform your leader of what you've been up to; chances are good they aren't fully aware of all of your activities and accomplishments. Practice stating your accomplishments out loud in a neutral voice, as though your were giving someone directions, until you can say it easily and effortlessly. 

Sean Spence

Sean Spence

Sean Spence is a Melbourne based coach for executives in the C-suite. Sean coached/mentored me some years back as I transitioned into a C-suite role.

Sean's # 1 tip: Value your executive capabilities rather than getting sucked into a discussion of management skills. They're different.

1. Did you build and run a great collaborative team that frees you to address the big issues?
2. Are you an adept influencer on complex issues?
3. Do you cultivate the 'secret sauce' that's the true intangible asset of the organisation?
4. Do you exemplify excellent performance, the strength of the culture, or enabling the whole organisation to succeed?
5. Are you aligned with the strategy for pursuing the vision and broad aims of the organisation?
6. Do you get what the organisation's key stakeholders really want?

These are some of the big C-suite tasks that you may well be doing already. Focus on the 2 or 3 that build your business case for joining the C-suite. Accept you're not perfect on other aspects - no one is.

Stacey Barr

Stacey Barr

Stacey Barr is a performance measurement specialist who helps organisations change their definition of accountability.

Stacey says: Don't hold staff accountable for hitting targets. We all know the dysfunctional behaviour that drives. Instead, hold them accountable for measuring the results that matter, validly interpreting those measures, and initiating action if and when action is needed to improve performance. Performance measures should be a tool in people's hands, not a rod for their backs.

Sue Parker

Sue Parker

Sue Parker is Australia’s Humanising Hiring champion showing businesses how to hire staff in more humanised ways,  savingtime, angst and money.  She also works with individuals to empower their job search with lively and effective career tools.

Sue says: My # 1 tip is to kick out old style performance appraisals and change the appraisal  framework from an ‘annual judgementof the employee’  to a ‘monthly direct, authentic, real and engaging check in’ of  goals, culture and two-way collaboration  and appraisal of both sides.

Old style and ridged performance appraisals and robotic military KPI’s belong in the past .  The once a year appraisal is nonsense and is the antithesis of human management and development.

Managers should be having fluid, monthly informal meetings with all their staff to check in how they are tracking, issues they are experiencing, skills and knowledge gaps that need training and an overview of the ‘whole of team and individual’ goals.

So there you have it - expert advice for both delivering and receiving performance appraisals.

And my advice for those on the receiving end?


1. Learn the language of value - links below if you want to learn more

2. Do an "credibility audit" on your language habits

Nothing undermines a pitch about your "great performance" than the following habits:

  • "Just", or "actually" or "like" to preface or soften statements
  • An upward inflection that sounds like you are asking for permission
  • Apologising when no apology is needed
  • Deflecting compliments

3. And finally - why not pump out a few Amy Cuddy Power Poses?

Power poses have been found to help reduce your stress levels enabling you to be more "present" in the moment, operating less on your "sympathetic nervous system" which means you are able to operate well in the presence of your nerves and anxiety.  They could be just the thing to keep you from feeling stressed, defensive or like you need to prove your worth rather than that far more confident, capable and eminently worthy version of yourself - who is paid well, has a big voice and makes a bigger difference.

Be fearless! Once you become fearless, opportunities become limitless.

Vive la révolution! #ambitionrevolution #feminineambition #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes


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  • I am the creator of The Ambition Revolution – the science and art of amping smart and savvy.

  • I mentor busy professionals to ensure they remain smart, strategic, agile and focused on the bigger game.

  • I also work with organisations who are trying to increase the profile of women in leadership, but are struggling to do so.



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