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Coach’s Diary: Making the Most of Appraisal


Fearing the annual "tick-box" style appraisal, Olivia Stephanino helps a client get more out of her review.

An ambitious middle manager with a prestigious international organisation, Yasmine was disheartened about her forthcoming appraisal. Even though she and her boss, Pete, got on well, Yasmine was concerned that her appraisal session would be every bit as unsatisfactory as the previous years’ experience.

Hers is not an uncommon story. Many employees complain that they – and their bosses – go through the annual appraisal only because it’s a company requirement. Many fear that following an appraisal, all the documentation is filed away – ready for a similar exercise the following year. No wonder Yasmine wasn’t looking forward to what she feared would be a complete waste of time.

As luck would have it, Yasmine and I had a coaching session booked prior to her session with Pete. Understanding the urgency of the situation, I first asked Yasmine what she wanted to achieve during her annual appraisal.

“It’s not so much about what I want to achieve – it’s more about what Pete wants to tell me!” she said.

“Wrong!” I replied. “It’s even more important for you to have a clear agenda for the meeting – after all, it’s your career at stake.” At this, Yasmine had broken into a smile and she looked relieved at the thought that there was something she could do to improve her own situation.

I first suggested that she look at how much she’d achieved in her job over the previous year. Listing her achievements, Yasmine looked up at me and asked, “I guess you’re going to suggest that I also remind Paul about all I’ve done over and above my job description?”

“Absolutely,” I replied, “and when you’ve written that down, I’d next like you to consider where you’d like to be – realistically – this time next year. It’s important to realise that your appraisal isn’t only for your line manager to give you feedback about your performance, it’s also an opportunity for you to discuss your future. And of course, if you’re going to make the most of this opportunity, it’s vital that you first have an idea what you want to achieve.”

Yasmine stopped writing for a moment and commented that she’d been upset when a colleague had been promoted – when she herself had thought she’d been better qualified for the job.

“Did Pete know that you wanted the job?” I gently asked her. “I guess not,” she replied. “I suppose I thought that he ought to know – and that it was his job to choose the person he thought could do the job best.”

I asked Yasmine to think back to before the point at which her colleague had been promoted. “What kind of behaviours did she display? What things did she do differently from you?”

“Well, I’ve always thought she was a lot more pushy – and she was always telling Pete about her successes. But that’s just not my style!”

“I know – I do understand. But if your colleague got what you wanted, perhaps it’s time to think about changing your style? After all, you’re going to feel very bitter if the same thing happens to you twice.”

Laughing in agreement, Yasmine began to outline her own career aspirations. I asked her to tell me why she was suitable for a promotion – and she answered my interrogation lucidly. All she had to do now was to convince Pete!

Two months later: Yasmine had burst excitedly into the room for our follow up coaching session. “You were so right! I took command of the conversation and as well as outlining last year’s successes to Pete, I also summoned up the courage to ask him for a promotion!”

At this, I’d smiled. But there was more to come. “And you’ll never guess what…” she said, “but as well as promising me the next promotion when the opportunity arises, he’s also given me an immediate pay rise. He said he really didn’t want to lose me!”

* Olivia Stefanino is a leadership development consultant and executive coach, who works with blue chip organisations, SMEs and individuals. Download your free e-booklet “128 ways to harness your personal power” at


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