How to Prepare for a Surprise-Free Performance Review Process!

As with most executive coaches, I am not a big fan of the “annual” review process. By its name alone, this process tends to imply that you are only discussing performance with your boss “annually”. I believe, if both you and your boss are committed to helping you grow and continue to add value, these conversations need to be ongoing and frequent, so no one ever gets to the end of the year and is surprised!

Regardless of how frequently these conversations take place, it is YOU that needs to be prepared to highlight what you’ve done and talk about future opportunities to have an even greater impact on the organization. Don’t expect your boss to know the accomplishments you’ve achieved throughout the year and fully recognize how they have contributed to your group’s success! Even if you are a stand-out performer, your boss has other distractions and priorities, and you cannot depend on them to track all you have done (we call those people micromanagers). Where your performance should speak for itself, a little self-advocacy can really help, if done correctly!

I recommend tracking your accomplishments in a Success Diary. If you want to be recognized for your contributions, you must track them – big and small. It’s as simple as making a list and adding to it in a Word document or OneNote, jotting down your accomplishments, as they happen. Whether you successfully converted a prospect or delivered a key project before an important deadline, make note of it. That way you don’t have to scramble when you are preparing for a review. If you want to learn more about Success Diary’s check out this blog by our President, Jessica Gendron on Thrive Global.

Recently, a leader I was working with recounted a story about their review that sheds light on the importance of keeping a list of your accomplishments. He shared, that in his recent review, his boss downgraded him in a specific area for not being more innovative. Because he was keeping a Success Diary, he was able to cite several examples of innovative ways he solved problems. As a result, his boss agreed and increased his rating!

It is also important to think beyond what is expected of you. Consider how your work performance is tied to the company’s mission or objectives.  Review your contributions and evaluate how those things have added value to the company or your department / division / boss’s goals for the year. It’s important to not only be able to cite your accomplishments, but to also draw the connection to how those accomplishments contributed to the overall success of the organization, your department/division, and your team.

The more you communicate with your boss about what you are doing and where you need support, the greater alignment will be on goals and expectations. These conversations are an opportunity for you and your boss to set new goals / objectives for the coming year (or quarter). Your annual review should be a continuation of these conversations and a collaborative conversation about what’s next.  Make certain to share your goals for your personal and professional growth, as well, so as there is opportunity for more responsibility or promotion they know what is of interest to you and what you are willing to take on.  You and your boss should both contribute equally to these discussions and seek opportunities to promote trust, create clarity, and bridge alignment.

Remember to keep the conversation going! Make sure you are asking for regular real- time feedback.  Don’t ever guess what your boss thinks of your performance.  The more you and your boss can have a consistent, open-door communication about your performance, the more honest and productive these conversations will be. If it’s done right, your annual review should be merely a formality.

To learn more about Success Diaries or about ways to develop and grow your leadership effectiveness through Executive Coaching, contact Patty Prosser at


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