Appreciative Performance Appraisals

Performance Appraisal ConversationOn his Business Performance blog, Leslie Allan wrote a great post called “What’s Wrong With Performance Appraisals?”

It’s certainly worth reading! He lists eight key reasons why traditional performance appraisals fail – and we’re sure the list will resonate with most people who have ‘suffered’ through that type of appraisal!

Many, if not most, performance appraisals frequently focus on what is not working – what has not gone well – and how an employee can or needs to improve. Too often the ‘feedback’ part of the interview comes first. And even with the best of intentions – even when the manager or supervisor conscientiously provides positive feedback before highlighting areas needing improvement – the subsequent list of shortcomings puts a damper on the remainder of the interview.

Far too often a performance appraisal becomes a difficult conversation and a stressful experience for both parties. One appraisal like that also means the next one is anticipated with anxiety – perhaps even dread – and things can continue to go downhill from there.

The good news is  – there is another way!

What if your performance appraisals were based on questions such as these …

  1. Thinking over the last 6 months (or 12 months or whatever period since the last review) what do you think has been your greatest success?  What made you proudest? Tell me about it.
  2. What made that time so memorable for you? What was it about you that you think contributed most to making it a success?
  3. Who else contributed? What did he/she do that helped? In what ways did this organisation/company support that success (e.g. our structures, systems, processes etc)
  4. What are you doing that works best – has the most value – for you, for your team, for this company/organisation?
  5. How do you think you have changed since your last appraisal? What did you do that helped you improve?
  6. To become even more effective, what do you want to do more of? What do you think you need to do differently? What would you like to do even better than you do now?
  7. Of all the things you’ve listed, on which one do you feel most inspired to act? What steps will you take to move forward on that?
  8. Thinking of the future, imagine you are in your dream role, doing exactly what you’d love to do and feeling very proud of what you’ve achieved. Tell me about that. What does it look like? What have you done to get there? What has happened to help you get there?
  9. What resources are already in place to support you as you move forward? (e.g. training opportunities, other staff, time, budget?) If you had to pick one thing that would help most, what would that be?
  10. What could I do that would help you most?

Compare these questions with those frequently asked during a more traditional performance appraisal. It’s a very different approach.

Of course, at the conclusion of the interview you’d still need to cover specifics about goals, targets, particular projects and KPIs for the coming year.

And an annual (or biannual) performance review should always happen in the context of ongoing support, reflection and review during the rest of the year!

But starting with questions like these results in a more meaningful conversation; one that is deeper, more reflective, more energizing and more effective for managers and employees alike.

And those goals, objectives, projects and KPIs will be given a powerful kick start! :)


  1. Thanks Sue for a truly inspirational blog post. Think of how different organizations would be if a good dose of positive psychology was used in performance discussions. And what it would be like working for those organizations.

    Regards, Les Allan

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