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Maximising performance appraisals – Boss Level!

“Most video games, you build up toward the big, bad boss. And it’s just a bigger, more powerful version of what you’ve been fighting all along in the game.” – Jim Lee

Dominic Ayres, author of How to advance your career in professional services marketing and a senior marketing manager at Eversheds Sutherlands offers advice on how to approach your appraisal.

Like many, myself included it is that time of year most of us dread, performance appraisals. They are like that boss level in a computer game, that comes at the most unexpected times, sprung upon us when we are still reeling from the hard slog to get to them. Boss battles are generally seen at climax points of particular sections of games, such as at the end of a level or stage or guarding a specific objective, this is no different to performance appraisals you have with your boss.

We often enter our appraisals on our last life with the wrong resources to successfully navigate the boss level.

Understanding the importance of appraisals
Rather than seeing your appraisal as a difficult level to overcome, you should understand that it is your chance to progress your career and test your progress so far; this is why going about it the right way will result in significant benefits for you.

In your appraisal, you want to have an end goal in mind: what are you hoping to accomplish or cover in the process? Consider various options, such as promotion, more training, or a pay raise, and plan the conversation accordingly. The key to unlocking your future ambitions is preparing yourself to make a case for why they are important to you and how they will help you grow and contribute to your firm’s growth.

Preparing for your appraisal
Before the meeting, make sure you review your goals and progress toward them. Additionally, it is essential to check recent activities and examples of success, including marketing initiatives that led to new clients or positive client engagement.

This stage is where you should invest your time gathering evidence of all you have done for your firm. Focus on highlighting the results of your work and their worth to your firm.

Just like a computer game when you are prepared for the boss level, having the right resources, equipment and having a clear mindset, are all essential then “hope for the best” strategy many deploy.

Try finding areas to develop
In an appraisal, you can also determine what areas you need to improve to perform better and ultimately progress in your career. You and your manager can use your appraisal to discuss what needs to be developed and what specific resources are available to support you internally and externally. 

Before your appraisal, identify the training and resources available to you, both internally and externally, and consider what the business case will look like – how will the firm benefit from funding you to enrol? After gaining this insight, how can you share it more widely?

Gathering feedback effectively from stakeholders
To get formal feedback, use your firm’s internal feedback process or reach out directly to your vital internal stakeholders a few weeks before the meeting.

One recent strategy I have utilised effectively to identify development areas and build on the Kaizen principle of “Continuous Improvement” is whereby you email your key internal and external stakeholders (yes clients if client-facing) using the below template:

“Hi X,

I have my performance review [insert date], in advance of this and as an important stakeholder for me in my role, I wanted to reach out and get your thoughts on one focus area you would like me to work more closely with you on over the next quarter with [insert client, initiative, service area] – any thoughts as to what that would be?

If you have any other general feedback/comments, then by all means share them so I can share these with my manager ahead of my review.


Review and compile before your appraisal. The purpose of this is to understand your performance from the viewpoint of your peers and stakeholders. You should send your feedback ahead of the meeting so your manager can see it.

Looking ahead
Consider what tasks and objectives you need to focus on over the next few months. Ensuring you are focused on the right priorities and aligned with your manager’s expectations. Put some thought into ways you can add additional value above and beyond your current responsibilities, such as:

  • What marketing initiatives could you lead?
  • What ideas do you have that could streamline the existing marketing processes?
  • Additional training required to take on more responsibility?
  • Create a specific plan for how you can solve problems in the firm
  • Any other ideas you have that could help your firm and your clients

How to implement what you have just read

  • Consider what you want to get out of your appraisals, such as promotion, more training, or a pay raise so you can plan accordingly.
  • Obtain feedback from your key stakeholders to understand how your performance is perceived using the above template.
  • Review your goals and progress toward them. Consider the tasks and objectives you need to focus on over the next few months.
  • Before your appraisal, it is crucial to research external courses and resources that your manager could allocate to enrol in.
  • Good luck, and remember work is a game….so lvl up!

PS: the whole boss level theme is purely for fun – my current boss and previous bossess have all been fantastic during appriaisals and I find them really helpful to check in on progress. No scary monsters and other computer game style bosses to contend with.

Dominic Ayres, an international senior client, marketing and strategy manager at Eversheds Sutherland. His book, How to advance your career in professional services marketing, can be obtained here.

Matt Baldwin
Matt Baldwin
Co-founder – Coast Communications

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