Coaching Leadership

Performance Reviews

Lots of you are going into the holidays with a weight hanging on your mind, the annual performance review coming up in the New Year.

The weight can be for a lot of reasons, but they mostly boil down to a well intentioned idea (look at what you did, improve next time), turning into a torturous and badly run process that ends up leaving everyone involved dissatisfied with the outcome.

I can’t save you from a badly run process, or a bad manager who has no interest in getting to a great outcome.

I can share a set of techniques that will help you get the most value from these processes, even if they are badly executed in your organisation. If you follow these, then I guarantee that this review season will be better than the last, and that you’ll be able to take this on into each year in the future.

I’m giving all my readers early access to my eBook, “Winning the Performance Review”. It’s available to download below, and through this early access period, it’s totally free.

If you find this useful, then please let me know! I very much encourage you to share it with anyone else who would benefit from it.

I’d also love feedback, I’m developing and updating this guide regularly. Drop me a note on

Finally, if you’d like to discuss a personalised approach to winning your performance review, then book an initial conversation now, and I’ll help you set effective goals and get the recognition you deserve.


Make Reviews For You

The annual review process has long been recognised as far from the most effective model for measuring performance. However, it’s still likely that you’ll be involved in some sort of review process, and at the moment you might just be somewhere in your end of half review cycle.

If you are required to be in the cycle, then use this current point in time to your advantage, and set yourself up for a great future. Now is a great chance to make the process as good as it can be. There’s certainly immense benefit in stopping to reflect, and deadlines can help sharpen the mind. However, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of the cycle, and only bring this reflection to bear in the days leading up to your review deadlines.

The ideal outcome is to make the formal process as painless as possible, by switching yourself to a constant rolling cycle of learning and growth.

First up, record what’s gone well and what was less good? Really work on this and don’t fall for recency bias. Try and find something from each month, then look for patterns. You can use email, instant messenger and direct feedback as sources for this reflection. Once you’ve built it up, think about how hard that was. If you track as you go then the reflection will come more easily in the future, and will certainly be quicker to pull together.

Take those patterns. Good things are your strengths, less good areas might be places to develop.

What do you want to focus on, think about where you want to grow. Set some strong forwards looking goals, and don’t be vague! Give them different time horizons. Think about three months, six months and other durations. Do this to set even stronger accountability, and use the variation to start to break out of your performance cycle.

Now you can review these goals with your manager. They may be able to provide more insight, or wider organisational context. If you are being reviewed annually, then this might also be a chance to discuss what an outstanding end of year review would look like. Agree this with your manager, and write it down. Documenting agreements like this will make all parties accountable in creating successful outcomes.

Agree to regular reviews and check-ins in weekly one-to-ones. If you don’t have them, now’s a great time to organise them. It’s all about making sure you have the support to achieve great things, whilst showing your progress and course correcting quickly if things are going less well.

This approach will let you get the most out of a fixed review cycle. You’re able to take it, turn it into a rolling process and then use the formal cycle as a point in time check-in.

It’s a great way to go from the theatre and heavy workload of annual reviews to a powerful shared model of constant development.

Own your future, and make reviews work for you.


The End Goal

There’s more than one type of goal. There’s two types in particular that are especially useful to differentiate between. These are Performance Goals and End Goals.

The End Goal is the outcome that you desire to achieve. It’s a big significant change in your life, and it’s likely to be something outside of your full control. It may be gaining a promotion at work, it might be making a large sale or it may be winning a competition or award.

These types of End Goal are a form of recognition or measure of success that it bestowed from the outside. As this achievement is outside of your control, then there is often little benefit to focusing on achieving them directly. You limit your potential because you are handing off your measure of success to a third party, you are losing agency.

Performance Goals are thing that are within your control. These are areas you measure against yourself, that you can recognise when you have achieved them and that you can control the progress towards that achievement.

Setting great Performance Goals will help you to reach your End Goal. If your aim is to win an Olympic medal, then your Performance Goal might be to consistently improve on your personal best. This takes something that’s out of your control, and ties the achievement to something in your control.

Set your outcomes up in this linked way. You don’t control getting the promotion, but you can control your performance, focusing on and improving the skills that will put you in a great place to be the easy choice for the next job that opens up.

Confusing an End Goal for a Performance Goal will set you up to fail. Setting great supporting Performance Goals will start you on a powerful journey of change, and give you the best possible chance of reaching your End Goal.