8 Key Questions for a Better Performance Review

As I’ve written about previously, I’m not a fan of the annual performance review. There are so many ways to get it wrong, and very few ways for it to be useful. So, I have been searching for an alternative.

Through trial and error over the last number of years at ACHIEVE, we’ve come up with an alternative approach that we like. First, as a principle, we strive to make performance feedback continual, not annual. We delink performance feedback conversations from an annual meeting process.

However, we have not gotten rid of an annual meeting altogether. We all agree that it’s good to have an intentional meeting time to reflect together, but instead of spending much of our energy looking back, we focus on the present and the future.

We call it the “Annual Goal Setting Meeting.”

Each employee, from the President through to our newest hire, participates in these meetings, and everyone answers the same set of questions. These meetings are normally done in groups of three, with a supervisor and manager present, or, in the case of leadership, they are done with peers. Instead of the supervisor or manager facilitating the meeting, the employee uses a prearranged agenda to take the lead. In these meetings, leaders provide a listening ear and assist with the employee’s reflections.

The meeting itself focuses on helping each of us re-anchor ourselves in our organization’s purpose, our contribution to that purpose, and our experience at work. We also use the space to spend time thinking about what we hope to accomplish and learn in the year to come.

8 Key Questions for a Goal Setting Meeting

Here are the eight questions we use in our Annual Goal Setting meetings:

  1. What parts of your work make you happy, and/or bring you satisfaction?
  2. Does the work you do draw on your strengths? If not, how could it?
  3. What do you wish you could do less of?
  4. How do you find the balance between your more satisfying tasks and those you find unpleasant?
  5. Considering the balance of your work, how meaningful are your tasks and projects?
  6. How are you contributing to our organizational purpose (Our purpose is to inspire learning and improve lives)?
  7. What are you doing to contribute to a positive working environment?
  8. What are your goals for the year – work projects, new learning, skill development, other?

We’ve found that these questions and others like them help us build the kind of organizational culture we want, and that we’ve written about in our book, The Culture Question. This is a culture where everyone is connected to something meaningful, doing work they find satisfying, and in an environment of positive relationships. These meetings help us focus on what we are doing right now, and what we want to do going forward.

As always, I am curious what you have found helpful in transforming Annual Review meetings into productive meetings.

For more FREE RESOURCES on this topic and others, visit our free resources page.


Eric Stutzman

Chief Executive Officer

Eric is co-author of ACHIEVE’s book, The Culture Question: How to Create a Workplace Where People Like to Work. This book is available on our website.

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