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Published November 1, 2020 Updated December 12, 2021
Performance Reviews

If you want to see someone in real pain, watch someone who knows who [they are] and defaults on it on a regular basis.

 — Pat Murray as quoted from Fierce Conversations.

Many companies perform some form of a periodic performance review. They are designed to help the business evaluate their workforce and sometimes, if you are lucky, help you grow as an individual. The problem is no one is 100% invested in your growth, only you are. In truth, these reviews are about whether your manager can sell the achievements of your work to their peers and stakeholders. Everything else is ceremony and noise including peer feedback.

With the above in mind, the following describes how to take control of the situation so it best benefits you and, subsequently, the business.


This exercise requires and deserves time. Ideally, a personal retreat. At a minimum, several hours…​ [This] will boost your ability to see new horizons for your life and career.

Get out of your normal environment and go to a different location. This can be a different part of your house, public library, park, remote location in the woods, etc. Regardless of location, ensure where you end up is quiet and distraction free. Give yourself time and space to be honest with yourself.


The schedule depends on you and what you are most comfortable with. At a minimum, do this monthly. It’s up to you to be disciplined about this as no one will care more than you. You can schedule this as a recurring action in your task manager or as a calendar event, for example. Use whatever best fits your workflow and be diligent about it.


The following is an amalgam of questions from Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott and Your Professional Growth Questionnaire by Michael Lopp. The list is broken into two sections: Life and Career. The Life section focuses on the high level, macro, perspective of your life’s trajectory while the Career section hones in on the micro details. Both sections help you assemble a holistic picture. Feel free to use and/or customize as desired.


  • Where are you going?

  • Why are you going there?

  • How are you getting there?

  • Who is going with you?

  • Are you on the right path and realizing your full potential?

  • What are your core values and have they changed?

  • Are you living a life that is an authentic expression of who you are and wish to be?

  • What are your next actions?


  • Are the core values of the business still aligned with you?

  • What value and fulfillment are you finding in your work?

  • What is new that has you most excited at work?

  • What are you worried or feeling down about?

  • What is the last thing you enjoyed working on?

  • What is the last major failure you learned from?

  • What do you wish you were doing more of?

  • What do you wish you were doing less of?

  • When was the last time your manager gave you feedback?

  • What compliment do you wish you could receive?

  • What lessons have you learned from your team and how has each improved your work?

  • What is the most recent feedback that has impacted/changed your thought processes?

  • What are your current strengths and can you explain them?

  • What are your current weaknesses and what steps are you or the team taking to improve them?

  • How long have you been at the business?

  • How long have you been in the current role?

  • When was the last promotion and can it be justifiably explained?

  • When was your last salary increase, was compensation fair, and has any or no compensation been discussed with your manager?

  • Who is your mentor, when did you last meet, and what have you learned?


Capturing your answers to the above questions when conducting your performance review, is important and can be done via a journaling application, a series of log files, or whatever fits your workflow. Before each scheduled review, be sure to read over past journal entries to rebuild context and reflect. The long tail of this information will help you better understand your current trajectory and help you make informed decisions on how to course correct, if necessary.


All of the above is a form of Second-Order Thinking and critical to helping you determine whether you stay the cource or pivot. May this help you lead a more focused life. 🎉