How to write your performance review

How to write your performance review

You would think that using your job skills to do your manager's work would be enough to give you the performance rating you deserve.

You might want to re-think that.

Managers don't have enough time and have too many people reporting to them to remember everything you did to help them. Plus, companies standardize the performance review so they reduce the potential for lawsuits - and their payroll budget. The result is a performance review that favors the company - not you.

Most employees don't help their cause either: they meekly accept goals that are not good for their skills, fail to report their status in a way that shows their accomplishments and then write a poor self-review -- if they write one at all. They leave their performance review rating to the fate of their manager and hope for the best.

Or, at least hope the worst doesn't happen.

For some, they think knowing how to write a performance review doesn't matter. For others, they don't know how to build goals, report their work and write their performance self-reviews. Their company didn't teach them. And why would they?

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Your coworkers don't know how to write a performance review

Look, I've been a manager for fifteen years. I've supervised anywhere from 4-22 people at one time. Do you think I remembered all the cool things my people did during the course of the year so I could write the evidence needed to prove their performance rating? I'm good. But not that good.

Instead, I asked my people to write a self-review so they could help me get them the performance rating they deserved. And now many companies ask their employees to do the same thing.

You know what's crazy?

Employees write crap for their self-reviews. Of the hundreds of self-reviews I've personally seen, less than a handful -- a handful -- even get close to presenting the work done in a way that gives them a shot at the highest performance rating possible.

Do you think companies are going to teach you to write a performance review? Nope. Their interest in the review is two-fold: keep the raises to a minimum to keep costs down. And don't get sued. Our response to that? Crickets.

If companies actually taught you how to write a performance review, you'd have all sorts of evidence to show your work deserving a bigger raise than your competition. We couldn't have that, could we? Plus, if you don't write your self-review in a good way, you can't easily escalate your poor rating to HR. I mean, they'd take one look at what you wrote and laugh you out the door. And label you a complainer while they were at it.

(Not officially, of course.)

When the only thing your company trains you to do is how to fill out performance review forms, you put yourself at the mercy of your manager for your rating, ranking - and income.

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Here are the two secrets about your performance review

In most companies -- especially in the largest companies -- your performance rating is determined before your performance review is written by your manager. In larger companies, when you write your self-review, that's when your performance rating -- your raise, bonus, stock -- is decided.

Think about it. Performance reviews tie to pay and payroll is part of the budget process. Companies need to get the budget down cold, so they are determining the numbers associated with your raise long before you are given your performance review rating.

You know the other secret about performance reviews?

You start earning your performance review rating the minute the new year starts. Not by what you DO, but by how your goals are set up and maintained during the course of the year.

Companies talk about implementing SMART Goals -- but they rarely have the right tools to measure your work compared to everyone else. Plus, employees do a poor job because they don't know enough about SMART Goals to effectively negotiate their goals with their manager -- or avoid the traps the goals bring.

Yes, your work performance matters, of course -- but only if the work aligns with goals that make sense. Do your goals make sense? Your goal attainment will show up on your performance review. If you worked for a month on your goals and then the business shifted and you no longer work on your original goals, do you think you'll be forgiven on the performance review?

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You must begin right to end right

Most companies and their managers will give you goals to work over the course of the year. Even if they don't label them as "goals," you know that if you don't get them done, you're done.

So the very first thing to learn is how to set goals. How to avoid the traps that goals bring. And how to differentiate goals so that you can show a better attainment than "successful." That's where we start, too.

Let's take a look at the SMART Goals part of the product.

SMART Goals are the most widely used set of tools out there. Most will define what the acronym SMART stands for if you don't know it already. Very few, however, will show you how to set up your goals so that you can define and show a higher performance review rating by using the variables the goals can use. This product does.

Even if your manager doesn't use SMART Goals, you will see how to apply the principles of SMART Goals to your situation.

You know there is a strategy to setting goals based on business conditions, right? Yup, and the strategy changes based on what is going on with your company and your manager.


This section teaches you how to set up SMART goals for your performance review. Not your normal, wide-spaced, big font e-book. But 32-pages built in Word with single spacing on the paragraphs separated by headings. Each part of the SMART acronym has its own special traps for Cubicle Warriors. How to write your performance review shows you these traps and how to resist each of them.

This module has several sections. Each of the sections goes beyond the definition to show nuances of the goal setting process.

Speaking of the sections, here’s what’s in the e-book:

  • Why SMART Goals are important to your success.
  • Constructing goals for Performance Reviews. Understanding the goal definitions, how goals are rated in the performance review and what ranking means for your performance.
  • SMART Goals — Specific. This section looks at the normal goal definition of Specific, but then looks at the traps for the Cubicle Warrior from the definition. And how to get around them.
  • SMART Goals — Measurable. This section examines and defines Measurable and then breaks Measurable down into the components. Defining baseline measurements. Examining what goal assumptions are and how to define and measure them. Plus why goal assumptions are critical to your ongoing goal attainment. Even why different types of goals require different measurements.
  • SMART Goals — Attainable. There is a story to attainment, one that you and your manager must agree to in order for a goal to be attainable. This section shows you what attainable means across all ratings and the goal assumptions.
  • SMART Goals — Relevant. Sure, there is the Relevant definition, but this section takes that typical definition and provides you with two critical elements to make the goal relevant for you.
  • SMART Goals — Time Bound. Yes, goals need to have a time frame with them. But what kind of time frame? This section looks at the three date types. Plus a good look at the Time Bound challenges all Cubicle Warriors face with a SMART Goal. And we even look at how dates and relevancy interact in meeting goals.
  • Cascading goals. You do love it when your Senior Vice Presidents cascade their goals down to your level, don’t you? Makes what you do fit so well into that Corporate Objective. Well, not so much. This section looks at how cascading goals can work — and won’t work — for you.
  • Goal Setting Strategies for the Cubicle Warrior. You see, this isn’t just about defining goals and then leaving you hanging out to dry when it comes to negotiating goals with your manager. This section gives you four goal setting strategies to use to fit your goals with your job situation.

It's the complete SMART Goals product I also sell. Yeah, goals are that important for the performance review because large companies give you 75% of your rating based on your goal attainment.

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Writing your performance review

In the end, performance reviews drive our salary, bonus, and stock awards. The performance review even controls our ability for promotion.

How to write your performance review includes 19-pages of single-spaced packed information in the following sections, including what you should write, what you shouldn't write and showing you how your performance rating is determined:

  • 5 strategies to maximize your performance review rating. Different circumstances in your business means you need to adjust your strategy for setting up your review to match the times. When does it make sense to have more goals? When does it make sense to have less? How does having more or less criteria about your review affect your performance review rating. It does, you know. Here's how.
  • Why you should write your self-review. People are afraid to write their review and don't know how to go about it. They think it makes no difference to their rating. Yet, how you write your self-review becomes the biggest influence for your performance rating.
  • Writing the goal section of your performance review. If you have done your goals right, this is a piece of cake. Here's the frosting.
  • Writing the competencies section of your performance review. You know well you work with the team, how good your "business mindset" is and all the soft skills you have for the job. Most people talk about how they are so willing to work extra hours and help their teammates in need. You've done that before, right? Nope. You need the stuff in this section instead.
  • Writing the comments section of your performance review. There it is, that blank section where you can add whatever you want to the review. Most people leave this section blank. Or tell the manager how swell they are and deserve a great raise. But there is a specific purpose to the comments section of your review and this section tells you what that is and how to write it.

Carefully look at how much time management spends evaluating your performance--even if they don't write performance reviews. If they don't spend a lot of time evaluating your performance, you can show stellar structure and results to your performance. If they spend a lot of time evaluating your performance, you now have the tools to avoid the performance review traps and show your performance results with the best of them. But don't leave your income, raise and bonus to the whims of your manager. Make your case.

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But, Scot, I've already done lots of performance reviews; why would I need this?

If you are a veteran of goal setting and performance reviews, you would understandably wonder if this product would be good for you. Let me make the case.

In my career, I've managed hundreds of employees. Employees that were brand new out of college and employees one year from retirement. Out of all of them, only a few ever got close to the level of work here and only one person ever came close to matching up to what is presented here. Only one.

That means there is lots of room to improve what we do.

On the goals side, even veterans fall for the SMART Goal traps. On the performance review side, no one really hits what results and goal attainment look like--and consistently miss the timing of when to do the work to hit the greatest time to influence your performance review rating. And even fewer present their results weekly in a way that shows they deliver results to their manager.

Really, this is a job skill that we've never paid that much attention to doing or improving. Seriously, when was the last time you sat down and thought to yourself, "Well, (me), I really need to sit down and rethink how I go about establishing and tracking my goals. I need to figure out a better way to show I'm producing results. And there must be something I can do to influence my performance review rating."

We don't. We do the task, cross it off our list, and move on. In today's economy, that's not going to get you to effectively working your career.

Think of this as a reboot for this critical function in your work and one that you need to master. The reason you need to master this new job skill is because it differentiates you for the better compared to your coworkers. Oh, and if you get a better performance review rating because of it, you make more money. Opens you up to more opportunities, too, since you are the person that gets results.

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Did I mention there were bonus items?

The SMART Goal sample spreadsheet

In my research, the most requested need of Cubicle Warriors is example SMART Goals and how you can differentiate ratings in your performance review. What counts as "satisfactory?" What about "Exceeds?" What does a SMART Goal look like? What are the goal assumptions? What are the ratings and how can we decide what each rating means based on the goal?

The sample SMART Goal Worksheet takes SMART Goal examples and gives you multiple ways to rate them based on the criteria in the e-book. You get 16 different SMART Goals with different ways of measuring against the ratings using the e-book criteria. Once you see the goals and how they are rated, you should easily adapt these combination measurements of goal attainment in your own work.

Killer Status Reporting

Many of us report our performance through status reports - either written or verbal with our manager. Most of us don't even realize that every time we do, we are killing our performance perception with our manager.

We look at the status report as administrivia - instead of the performance powerhouse reporting tool it is for us.

You get this 8-page white paper on Killer Status Reports for SMART Goals that shows you what to include and exclude in your status reports. Plus the language to use to show results. In Writing the Killer Status Report, we cover:

  • What not to include in your status report
  • What to include in your status report
  • What other inclusions should go in your status report
  • What language you should include in your status report

You want to be known as the person who "gets things done." All. The. Time. The status report can show that effort to your manager -- and give you a record of your accomplishments you can use for your performance review. Hey, you didn't think I wouldn't give you every advantage in writing your performance review, did you?

And, there are WIG's!

Wildly Important Goals are a specific subset of SMART Goals used by companies. I love Wildly Important Goals (WIG's). But Wildly Important Goals only work in certain situations -- would they work in yours?

This white paper defines a Wildly Important Goal and how it fits into the SMART Goal method. Plus, where Wildly Important Goals will work in a company -- and where they won't.

30-Day Money-Back Guarantee

The cost is $97.00. And there is a 30-day money-back guarantee. When you buy the product, you will get a download link to all the files -- the 35-page e-book all about SMART Goals. The 19 pages from the differing modules for writing the performance review. Plus, your bonus items.

Seriously, the difference between a "satisfactory" rating and an "exceeds" rating on your performance review translates into a lot more than $97 in a year. Plus, if you can get stock or other perks as part of your performance review, the difference between "satisfactory" and "exceeds" -- or "outstanding" -- is huge.

Yet, these very same people who can earn thousands of extra dollars a year through a better rating on their performance review don't know how to do it. Don't be one of them and lose out on more money for your family.

Learning how to write your performance review and negotiating your goals is high-end career management. Most people won't learn. Cubicle Warriors will.

Will you? Click the Buy Now button.

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PS Here's my last thought: with the Great Recession, the world of work has entirely changed. We need to build our portfolio of career skills to help us get the next gig. We need to show results to our current management team to get the best opportunities, promotions and raises. It's really getting this down cold to make sure we help our family live the lifestyle we want and providing as much security in our work as we can. That's what setting your goals right, showing your results all year long and influencing your performance rating through your self-review do for you.