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Karin’s Leadership Articles

Help your boss give you a better performance review with a little preparation.

Why Preparation Matters

It had been an insane but productive year of game-changing projects and really long hours. I was proud but exhausted. We had our final push just as the holidays were approaching, and I was more stressed than ever. My phone rang and Laura, my boss, told me she needed my accomplishments a week earlier than expected. I was beyond annoyed. Laura knew what we had done. I didn’t have time to write it all down.

But she was the boss so I slapped something together and sent it to her. Ten minutes later the phone rang again. “Karin this is crap. There is no way this is a good summary of what you’ve done this year. Here’s what I need…” Laura then gave me a long list of metrics, correlations, and ROI calculations to do.

Now I pushed back, “That’s going to take all night! What do want, my other deliverables or all this? I can’t do both.”

“Find a way.”

I did.

What I learned a month later was that she had submitted my name for a big award that came with an all-expense paid trip for two (and a week’s extra vacation) to Puerto Rico. She knew I needed the rest. Boy was I glad she’d pushed me so hard. As I sat on the beach sipping my chardonnay, I vowed to never blow off preparing for a performance review again.

Here’s what I learned from Laura about showcasing your accomplishments. Give it a try as you prepare for your own performance review, or share with your team to help them prepare for their meeting with you.

3 Ways to Prepare For a Better Performance Review

1. Numbers, Numbers, Numbers

Don’t just say what you did, calculate the business impact. If possible calculate the ROI on your projects (of course this is a lot easier if you do it along the way versus pulling an all-nighter). If ROI is too much of a stretch calculate percent improvement in key metrics.

Even the soft stuff can be reported in terms of numbers. Don’t say you invested in developing your team; instead share that three of your team members were promoted. Don’t say you conducted three teambuilders; share that absenteeism went down 20% and that you have a 10% YOY improvement in the employee survey metrics.

As you plan for 2015, be sure you’re also planning which measurements and correlations you’d like to be using to showcase your performance this time next year.

2. Write Down Where You Need to Improve

Nothing impresses me more than when employees come to their review with a spot-on list of what they could have done better, areas for development, and how I can help. Approaching your review with such confident humility immediately puts your boss in helping mode. I guarantee the review will feel better and go more smoothly from both sides of the desk.

3. Gather Additional Perspectives

The end of the year is a great time for a Do It Yourself 360. Knowing where you stand with others will lead to richer discussion with your boss.

Often it’s the best performers who are too busy to “toot their own horn” and document their accomplishments well. It’s not bragging, it’s useful. Make life easier on your boss this performance management season, and invest the time to prepare properly.

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today?


  1. LaRae Quy

    Great list, Karin!

    I agree that it really does make an impact when someone comes in with a list of areas in they need to improve…and it’s usually spot-on because all know, or suspect, our weaknesses.

    I also think it helps to come in with a list of areas in which they feel they’ve most improved. Whether that is quite as accurate may be debatable, but it offers an opportunity to remind the rater of those accomplishments as well.

    • Karin Hurt

      LaRae, Excellent add! I love it.

  2. Ewa

    Your experience is interesting (and hope you enjoy(ed) the fantastic holidays!) but what I am interested in is whether or not the annual performance review is the best way to capture a year of effort? As you mentioned, this takes a LOT of time to prepare for to capture all accomplishments. Meanwhile, a solution like iRevu, a mobile app, enables to capture and store feedback between team members and management on the go, and reward hard work instantly. I don’t want to wait a year to find out what I did wrong? Do you think annual performance reviews WILL eventually become a thing of the past?

    • Karin Hurt

      Ewa, I don’t know of anyone who really loves the annual performance review process. I am all in favor of solutions that make it easier to have more frequent performance conversations and timely feedback.


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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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