3 Steps to a Successful Performance Review

3 Steps to a Successful Performance Review

 A performance review is one of those events that everyone tends to dread – not just employees, but managers too.  It’s so hard to know how to perform a successful performance review -one where the employee leaves motivated and encouraged to become the best asset possible for the organization.

But I have a simple, easy to remember, 3 step process for a successful performance review that I remember whenever this time of year rolls around.


  • Assess.
  • Challenge.
  • Support.

A.C.S. is a guideline for staff performance reviews.  It works for the routine performance review, as well as, the course correcting ones or more bluntly, the something better change or else performance review.

Before we begin, I should step back and remind you that a successful performance review is a joint effort between the supervisor and the employee.  The best reviews actually have the employee talking MORE than the supervisor.

3 steps to a successful performance review

Step 1: Assess

This is the step of the performance review where you assess the situation.  It is your responsibility to be clear and honest with  your feedback.  It is not where you tear the employee apart (try to keep a 4 to 1 ratio of positives to negatives), but it is necessary to make sure the person’s current reality (strength’s and weaknesses usually or a summary of the event or issue) has been clearly conveyed.

Unfortunately this is where many a performance review stops.  But this is just the tip of the iceberg to be a truly successful leader.  The next two steps are crucial for staff development and therefore a successful performance review.

Step 2:  Challenge

This part of the performance review is when you challenge the person to stretch themselves.  As a good leader, it is your responsibility to encourage each person to reach their full potential, not just tread water.  Yes, you want them to keep their job, but you also want them to be able to grow and gain the skills necessary to become the best asset possible for your organization.   You want to optimize their strengths to benefit both the staff and the company for a win-win.

This is when you outline what steps or improvements the employee needs to reach in order to achieve their goal.  It’s the part of the performance review where you motivate them to set short and long term goals and help them identify a path for success.

Step 3:  Support

This step of the performance review is fairly simple really – just say:

“What do you need from me?  How can I help?”

And then listen to what they say and do it. That’s the tricky part.  You have to follow through with your end of the bargain too.  Sometimes that means sending staff to training, sometimes it means giving them an opportunity, sometimes it means flex time or even moving to another department.  And of course sometimes it’s out of your hands.

Don’t hesitate to guide the employee toward achievable goals, but balance it with having their buy in.  Buy in is essential for success and implementing the plan you develop together.

Performance Review Example Using ACS


Sally Staffer’s review – Sally, you’ve been here for 3 months now.  How do you think it’s been going?  Often the employee is more critical of themselves than anyone else.  More often than not they are also aware of their weaknesses or performance issues.  Asking them first can be enlightening. 

You’ve done a great job over the past 3 months learning our procedures and taking responsibility for organizing the break room.  Your attitude has been positive and you have been very reliable.  You seem to have an aptitude for organization and coffee making.  That can be enough.  It is not necessary to have a negative. If you do have an area with room for improvement – mention it!  It is your responsibility to let them know.

You seem to struggle with keeping the kitchen stocked with tea.


Sally, where do you see yourself this time next year?  5 years? What goals do you want to accomplish? Again, asking their input is invaluable insight.

With your aptitude for organization I’d love to see you work toward a file clerk position, but I’m afraid your inability to keep the tea stocked may hold you back from reaching that goal.  How do you suggest we improve your tea stocking skills?


I hear you Sally that you’d like the opportunity to screen new tea vendors and try out a new one, but unfortunately we just ordered our annual supply of tea so that opportunity won’t be available for quite a while.  What other ways could we tackle this?

What are some other key elements to a successful performance review that you’ve learned in your career?

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