How to achieve the best from appraisals

As is the nature of what I do, ie ask a lot of questions to gain clarity of thought and direction, it wasn’t surprising when I was recently asked to help a client with appraisals.

This brought about a shudder running down my spine remembering days where the big boss would hold appraisals. Or rather, interrogation, where you felt placed in beaming spotlights, asked a myriad of questions extracted from some manual that bore no resemblance to what you actually did.

Bombardment of questions with answers not even considered. A one way conversation on how you need to improve is not, I know this will be hard to believe for some, the correct way to hold an appraisal!

Remove the shackles of normality, re-look at what the appraisal should be about. This is a joint venture for all to develop better ways to harmonise the workforce. Dare I say, ways for the company/manager to also improve as a result of observations from the staff! Now there’s a thought.

Fine tune your LISTENING skills too. Avoid the ‘Why’ question (justification) and ask questions that open with What, Where, How, Who, When (exploratory), eg ‘What would the reason for this be’.

Prepare a report of the appraisee.

  • List training needs and discuss.
  • Note both what organisation and the appraise needs to do.
  • Look back – how well has the appraisee performed against set actions
  • How could they have done better?
  • Look objectively, not emotionally. Work off ‘evidence’ based aspects.
  • What hurdles did the company put in their way as well as what they put themselves
  • Look forward – what achievements are you looking for over the next 6mth/yr
  • How will you assist them in reaching their objectives?
  • Draft a report within 3 working days, both sign and conclude the process within 5 days

Art of listening

  • Show the appraisee that you are listening – look at them
  • Listen to what they DON’T say – look for avoidance around issues
  • STOP TALKING! – once asked, let the appraise answer. If there’s a pause, allow them time to process what they are thinking about.


  • Review appraisee’s documents (ie time keeping, job description, client/customer feedback etc)
  • Allow at least half as much time again as anticipated to carry out the appraisal
  • Highlight success and initiatives taken.
  • Question how failings could be handled better (without reprimanding!)


  • All evidence based. NOT around personality or assumed motives
  • Provide examples and not generalisation of observed behaviours
  • Ask appraisee to describe their thoughts and feelings about the impact that an identified behaviour will have (ask rather than tell)
  • Stephen R. Covey stated “First seek to understand, then to be understood”. Use this philosophy throughout the appraisal. Both will get so much more from it

Before starting, create questions under headings such as Job & Expectations, Supervisory, Fulfillment & Morale, Continued Personal Development (CPD), Teamwork, Equality & Impartiality, Communication, Organisation’s Overview, Clients/Customers so you gain a broad spectrum of understanding.

If you wish to go through the process of Appraisals and want to get the best out of managing them or help running them, contact Coaching to Success’ Neil Nutburn. We also have 60 incisive questions based on the above headings too.

Coaching to success is all about creating successful businesses, firms and organisations. We’re here to insure you succeed.

Having read this, why not check out Neil too by watching our YouTube video HERE.