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January: that means it’s appraisal time!

It’s the time of year to prepare for annual performance appraisals. I did some research for Projects@Work recently, and wrote an article for them about how project managers could best arm themselves for the dreaded one-to-one with their line manager. I ended up in contact with loads of experts, more than I could fit in the article, because the subject was so interesting. Here’s a round-up of things to bear in mind before you go into your appraisal, from people who really know what they are talking about:

Keep a plain text file on your computer, and at the end of each month, spend 10 minutes writing a brief paragraph – or better, a half-dozen bullet points – listing your main accomplishments that month. That way, at the end of the year, you have a ‘cheat sheet’ ready to remind you of all those great achievement during the year – I *guarantee* you’ll be amazed at what you forgot you actually achieved 10 or 12 months ago!
Les McKeown FCA, President & CEO of Predictable Success

It is a great time to ask for specific feedback with examples of how you could improve – what does “more client contact” actually look like, what qualifies “more sales”, what does “better communication skills” really mean? Try to get quantifiable answers as you need this type of information in order to actually give yourself a fair standard against which you can be measured in future appraisals.
Dr Suzanne Doyle-Morris, Director of Doyle Morris Coaching and Development

Take responsibility [for any mistakes you made during the year], don’t blame others, and be solution oriented.
Francie Dalton, a management consultant specialising in employee evaluation

Provide documentation of your accomplishments during the year along with any certifications earned.
Dr Drew Stevens, President of Getting to the Finish Line and author of ‘Pump Up Your Productivity’.

My top tip for preparing is to not wait until the appraisal to know what you boss thinks about you. Talk with your boss throughout the year about your goals, successes, and challenges. Share your perspective and ask for his or hers. Make sure there are no surprises. Nothing ruins an appraisal more than hearing about a problem when it’s too late to do anything about it.
Edith Onderick-Harvey, President of Change Dynamics Consulting

An important element of the performance appraisal process is the self-evaluation. The employee completes a form that initiates the appraisal process. This is the employee’s opportunity to share their thoughts on their own performance, their manager’s performance, and the company’s. Many wonderful ideas were cultivated from employees using this method.
Lee B Salz, President, Sales Dodo LLC

Another valuable communications mistake is talking too much. People are often uncomfortable with silence, leading to talking to fill the void, which can lead to getting way off track or bringing up an issue that you would rather not discuss. Listen! It is important to be completely present during the review, rather than thinking about your response. This is probably the most common factor leading to miscommunications.
Matt Eventoff, President of PPS Associates/Princeton Public Speaking

Be open about what could have gone better. There are always things which you could have done differently in achieving your objectives. Balance the accomplishments with a couple of things which you could have done to have achieved even greater performance. By and large, most rational managers will appreciate the introspection and honesty and not feel as if the wool is being pulled over their eyes.
Lonnie Pacelli, author of The Project Management Advisor: 18 Major Project Screw-ups, and How to Cut Them off at the Pass and CEO of Banzai Sushi

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About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin FAPM is a professional project manager and award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.
Elizabeth lives in the UK with her family. She uses her organisation and project management skills at home, and also to help other bloggers at Totally Organised Blogging.


  1. Paul Ritchie says

    Hi…like the list, and the blog.

    I’ve have some misgivings about #2 (ask for specific feedback). Sure, you should do so when it is unclear, but some of her examples are lame, frankly, and detracts from the point. Does a salesperson really need to be told how to define how to achieve “more client contact” or “more sales”?

    Per some of the other ideas, it is far better to come to the table with a solution. Suggest appropriate measures and targets, don’t wait for your manager to provide them.


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