Richard Maun – 4 Great Questions For Appraisals

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4 Great Questions For Appraisals

7 October 2018

Wouldn’t life be interesting if, once a year, we sat down with our life partner and gave them an appraisal? Obviously they would love us to point out when their cooking was poor, or when they made us late to the cinema. Relationships would flourish with this kind of honest feedback!

Ok, maybe not.

The appraisal wouldn’t account for all the love and joy they bring into our lives and the fact that dinner was cooked after a tiring day at work. The late cinema was down to them making sure the online food order went through on time and so was perfectly reasonable. We lead busy lives and we are not going to get it right all the time.

Instinctively we know that ‘family appraisals’ are a shockingly bad idea, guaranteed to breed resentment. Your partner works hard all year and you score them as only 3 out of 5 …must do better. Ouch! Arguements guaranteed I think.

So, if we know they’re bad form at home, why do companies insist on appraising staff in such arbitrary, flawed and unfair ways?

And, in my experience of listening to appraisal grumbles during coaching, the time taken to actually get an appraisal at all is way too long.

Oh and staff really hate it when their line manager delays their appraisal. That’s a great way to make people feel undervalued. They get psyched up and then feel let down.

What’s needed is a quick and effective process, one that actually happens on time.

One sheet of paper.

The staff member fills it in.

The line manager listens.

They agree new actions.

The staff member is praised.

Everyone is happy.

(Waiting for the appraisal in order to deliver bad news is also poor management).

Here are my 4 great questions for that single sheet of paper…

1. When have you performed to a high standard? (Work delivered on time, problems solved, difficult situations handled well and so on).

2. What could you have done differently? (Do not ask ‘done better’ as people find it a bit of a trap to own up to mistakes and tend to avoid answering).

3. What changes would you like to make to your role in the next six months? (Think about training, changing processes, starting or stopping a piece of work, changing hours or workload).

4. What resources do you need from me, as your line manager, or from the wider organisation, to make these changes work effectively? (Ask for what you really need, no limits!)

That’s all we need.

No complex scoring systems (which people either game or abuse anyway).

No ‘here is where you let me down’, because these events need to be resolved at the time.

No good-bad-good process, because people ignore the good and chew on the bad.

4 great questions to focus people on being objective and encouraging them to think about continuous improvement in their role.


Have fun conducting simple and worthwhile appraisals!

Next week: The Essential Numbers Quiz


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