People Management: Coaching session

Q: I am due for my annual performance appraisal. How can I prepare for this?

A: Congratulations - you've completed the first step successfully.

You've accepted the need for preparation.

Do remember that an appraisal is a two-way process. You may be apprehensive about it, but the chances are that your boss won't be relishing it either.

Take a look at any online bookshop and you'll soon discover that there are as many books telling managers how to conduct performance appraisals as there are John Grisham novels.

Look at the meeting as an opportunity to ask questions, to highlight your achievements and to consider what help you need in your career development.

Use it to discuss with your boss how you can both work towards achieving the organisation's goals.

Think of it like a job interview. If you're in a well ordered organisation you will already have been set performance targets. Set out how you have met those targets; where you haven't, establish what the issues were.

Remember to think positively as well as corporately. You are not in your job because the boss felt sorry for you and wanted to give you a job; you are there to deliver. Think carefully about the areas where you haven't delivered. Don't come up with that tired old cliche about "overwork" - it's not impressive. The use of "I didn't have time" to justify not performing is very tiresome to a boss.

You'll want to focus much of the discussion on your strengths and achievements.

Your boss should want to do this as well, as it is only by playing to your strengths that the organisation moves forward.

A good appraiser will focus on any professional development needs, so think about what would be most useful to you. Please remember that this doesn't always mean an expensive residential course that has just taken your fancy.

Two final tips. First, don't turn up for the interview in the jumper granny gave you for Christmas, or with a hangover. Second, remember how to deal with 'upward appraisal'. You may be asked to give opinions on how the boss is doing. Be diplomatic, don't be sycophantic, and don't whinge!

- Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo). Send questions to

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