The Art of a Successful Performance Review

07 October 2022 Kirra Gaskell

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​So, we all just made it through another financial year. For most of us, that financial year runs from July to June. For others, it can be aligned to a calendar year, particularly if the organisation is headquartered outside of Australia. 

Regardless, the significance of getting through a 12 month period is accompanied with that dreaded meeting… the Annual Performance Review. It is not uncommon to have nerves approaching this time… being judged … waiting for that “constructive feedback” and too often we focus so hard on our potential failures, those few bad days we had, that one time we didn’t quite make the deadline or where we may have room for improvement, that we can actually lose focus on the real opportunity that is in front of us. 

They say, “failing to plan is planning to fail” and in this circumstance, we couldn’t agree more. A performance review is so much more than just the opportunity for your team leader to tell you where you can improve. It is an opportunity for you to consider and communicate how you want to grow, opportunities you might see to take on more responsibility, or for the company to improve and how your manager can, and should, assist in that development. 

In a fickle market where lawyers are totally aware of the opportunities that they have in front of them, it is important for them to feel that their own growth and career goals are being met. Staff retention is of significant importance and managers are aware of how important it is to consistently provide the drive and excitement that an individual needs to happily remain in their role, long term. 

Now, we’re not suggesting you walk in with a list of demands and present this with an entitled attitude OR that you don’t allow your manager to provide you their own feedback as that should be most certainly noted. But if you have left your performance review in the past, finally getting over those pre-meeting jitters, feeling like you haven’t got your own personal growth and opportunities checklist clear, then here are some helpful hints to get you through your next review so that you both can feel that your objective is clear.

Leave the nerves at the door

Yes, it can be a stressful time, and it is normal to have some anxiety during these discussions but if you are able to shift your focus to the organisation as a whole, your part in that business and how you are able to contribute to its success, then this is an excellent way to frame your thoughts more toward growth and development than it being a personal attack on you and your shortfalls. 


Rather than trying this a week before your meeting, a good way to properly prepare for these meetings is to take notes on your own personal device starting today! Keep records of your progress throughout the year. Record actual circumstances where you’ve felt you could have done better with a different style management/more support/less micromanagement. 

Being able to refer back to actual situations and work through how they can be done better in the future is a really great approach. Your manager will appreciate this, because often these situations are directly tied to a revenue shortfall which would serve the business’s best interest to improve. 

Have confidence in knowing your conversation is confidential

If a co-worker has been inhibiting your success, weighing you down with tasks that are not your responsibility or not showing you the respect and support you really need, there is a professional manner in which you are able to raise this at these meetings. A good manager will recognise the delicate balance in confidentiality and managing conflict. It isn’t just your right to discuss these issues, it’s your responsibility. If it’s happening to you, chances are it will be happening to others in the team and you are entitled to communicate an individual’s poor behaviour, so it can be rectified. You should have some confidence in knowing your manager will not repeat it if you say you’d like to remain anonymous and managers within the legal profession have a strong ethical responsibility to ensure confidentiality and that your Fair Work rights are met. 

Be clear with your career goals 

Your manager is not a mind reader. They most likely consider growth plans and career progression goals working from a framework they have developed during their own experience, yet this framework is not necessarily tailored to you and your own timelines and expectations. Making sure you’re clear on your expectations and capabilities is a really good way to guarantee career satisfaction. Whether you are wanting to dedicate your additional time to a NFP outside of work, have a family, or want to climb that career ladder at a faster pace than others it is crucial that you document and discuss these particular motivations of yours so that your manager is able to personalise your workload, training and responsibilities. 


Finally, and most importantly, don’t forget to congratulate yourself for making it through another year in the same company. Whether you received financial recognition, a promotion in title or just managed to stay employed in a role you’re happy in, all are worthy of your own personal credit. These last few years have been a huge hurdle for most individuals and businesses transitioning through lockdowns, illnesses, and of course the economic downturn. Every Australian should be proud of supporting the country as best as we can and working toward a career path that provides us all … true satisfaction.

Author: Kirra Gaskell

Editor: Craig Ashton-Sward -Director & Senior Client Advisor