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de Winter Stewart
de Winter Stewart
Leadership & Management Consultant
Beverly Hills, California

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How To Ace Your Next Performance Review

Perspective, attitude and choice directly influence career success, including performance reviews. Often, employees dread reviews, feeling like sheep headed for slaughter. In reality, you can control the tone, content and outcome of your review.
Written Nov 22, 2009, read 370 times since then.


Perspective, attitude and choice directly influence career success, including performance reviews. Often, employees dread reviews, feeling like sheep headed for slaughter. In reality, you can control the tone, content and outcome of your review.

Why Performance Reviews Are Important

Lower-rated performers are the first to be let go, receive less discretionary compensation and lower merit increases. These statistics are magnified in a weak economy. Acing your performance review increases job security, compensation and career advancement opportunities.

Start Preparing Well In Advance

Give yourself enough time to accomplish everything before review. One to two months before the meeting, review the goals that were set in your last performance evaluation. If you’re new to your job, ask your boss what you'll be measured on, including intangible contributions.

Conduct A Self-Assessment

This is an objective analysis of your performance. Are you on track to meet your goals? Get feedback from colleagues and direct reports. Discuss findings, especially potential problems and solutions with your supervisor promptly. Do your goals need to be adjusted?

Be On Time

Arriving late or asking to reschedule says you don’t find it important or are not prepared. One important exception is if you are handling a true 911 situation or making / saving your firm money.

Be Detailed

Bring your last review. What have you accomplished or not accomplished since then?

Document your successes! Be able to summarize your accomplishments. Don’t assume your boss knows or will remember. (Unlike Santa, he or she will know if you’ve been bad, but not necessarily good.) Quantify your accomplishments (ie. generated revenue, saved money, etc.). Highlight any work you did on top of your normal responsibilities (ie. stayed late to resolve crisis, volunteer work, etc.). Show documentation and discuss any help that you asked for or resources that your boss promised to you in your last review. (Supervisors will respect that you hold them accountable, also.)

Own Up To Your Weaknesses Before Your Boss Points Them Out

Your boss will likely already know what your shortcomings are and it is more professional and accountable for you to acknowledge them. How you are fixing them? For example, let’s say you’re not billing enough hours or handling your work load on time. Your solution could be that you’re using weekends to catch up and taking steps to improve your time management skills.

Identify Your Biggest Challenges

And propose viable, cost-effective solutions. You will earn more respect and be more valuable if you can resolve problems, instead of relying on your boss to do so.

Take Calculated Risks

During a recession, the downsides are probably lower, but with a potentially huge payoff.

Take Initiative

Difficult times create opportunities for leaders to emerge. Volunteer to lead training session on a topic you’re comfortable with. (ie. “Building Customer Loyalty”, “Guerrilla Sales Techniques”, “Teambuilding”) Low morale means low performance: Companies get fewer results from disillusioned employees, so this is great timing for an ambitious over-achiever to soar above colleagues and competitors and impress supervisors and clients.

Offer to Mentor and Ask to Be Mentored

This sends a message that you’re a team player and committed to your firm’s success.

Display Company Loyalty

Be a role model and instill loyalty in other employees.

Deliver Stellar Customer Service

The worse the times, the better the service you must provide. People will notice – and remember.

Note: Don’t confuse service with sales. Clients include any internal or external constituents you service.

Focus on Ethics

Ethics is a hot topic these days. Demonstrate that success and ethics are not mutually exclusive. It will keep negative press away from your company and you and shows your commitment to your company’s long-term success.


Effective networking differs in a weak economy than in a strong economy. Go to events alone. You will meet more people, which is the point. People are less receptive than before, since they have smaller budgets and bonuses (and thus, lower morale), so ask for an informational meeting, instead of going in for the kill immediately. Find a way to provide value to the other person (ie. information, introductions). If you do, they will gladly help you.

Understand Leadership vs. Management

Know the difference and you will be more effective at both. Management is operational oversight. It is telling. Leadership is inspirational action. It is showing by example.

Ask for Help

What do you need to be successful? Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want or need.

Count on Luck

If luck is when opportunity meets preparation, then be ready. Chart your career path. Know how to do your job and the job you want next. Amid so many layoffs and resignations, ask how you can help.

Discuss Job Satisfaction and Career Advancement

Look ahead to what you want to achieve and where you want your career to go; discuss what you should focus on to get there. Be Honest with yourself. Are you frustrated with your job? Is it the economy, your company or you? Should you hang in there and make lemonade from those lemons or move on? What would be best for you and for your company?

Above all, remember that perspective and preparation will help you ace your next performance review, maximize your compensation and further your career.


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Article tags

  • performance review
  • career management
  • career coaching
  • executive coaching

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