14 must-have performance appraisal and 360 review questions

When it comes to getting honest, helpful feedback at year-end, not all questions are created equal. These examples are guaranteed to help employee AND employer.

Getting an accurate picture of someone's performance is hard. Giving career advice that's inspiring and not demotivating is also hard.

So when it comes to getting honest, helpful feedback at year end, not all questions are created equal.

With that in mind, here are 14 performance management questions guaranteed to power-up your people.


1. What is my most unique strength (knowledge or skill related) that you’ve noticed while we’ve been working together?

This question sets a strong foundation for performance discussions.

It's important because:

  • We're often unaware of our strengths, even as adults
  • What others perceive to be our strengths can differ to what we think they are
  • ^Realising this improves our self awareness
  • Strengths-based feedback improves performance more than weaknesses-based feedback (see for example Aguinis, Gottfredson and Joo (2012), Cohen et al (2014))

It also gives a nice little confidence booster. We know that in sports, greater confidence leads to better performance. It's no different in the workplace.


2. Thinking about my role, my strengths, and the team's goals, what one thing do you think I should focus on most in the next few months?

This is a lighter way of saying "What should I be doing better or different?", except that it's future-focused, so there's no blame being cast on past mistakes.

And because this question focuses on leveraging strengths, it's encouraging. It's more motivating than "What should I stop doing?", which invokes an admission of guilt.

Finally, the responder needs to tie their advice to the team's goals. This helps to connect everyone back to the company's north star.


3. Do you think I’m a good listener? Do I allow you to speak without interruption and do I respond with empathy and patience?

Do you know anyone that listens too much? Probably not.

Hence the famous saying that knowledge speaks but wisdom listens.

Listening is the most powerful and underrated skill. Not just in the workplace, but in all relationships.

Those that listen well build trust and respect faster than anyone else. Those that listen well have a tremendous advantage in conflict resolution and negotiation.

Unfortunately, most of us are terrible listeners and we are blissfully unaware of it. This question can be like a cold slap in the face, but much needed if you want your employees to become great leaders.


4. Do you think I’m engaging and persuasive when speaking? Do I get my point across clearly and convincingly?

While listening is a more helpful skill than speaking is, it helps to be able to give a killer presentation to a room full of people.

Every day, whether we like it not, we're selling. We're selling our business to prospects. Our ideas to our colleagues. Our weekend plans to our partner. Our principles to our kids.

And when we "sell poorly", we get frustrated. That's why the ability to persuade others has enormous benefits in all facets of life.

Because public speaking can be scary, positive reinforcement can be very powerful. That's why a recommended follow-up to this question would be:

When do you think my speaking is most persuasive and engaging? What topics, situations or audiences do you think bring the best out in me?


5. What have I done in the past few months that you liked and that helped you?

Reinforcing positive behaviour is more effective in new skill development than punishing negative behaviour.

Yes, you need to call out mistakes and correct them, but do that in the moment, not three months later. Continuing to refer to past fails has diminishing returns.

It's important to focus on the wins more than the losses.


6. What have I done in the past few months that made it hard for you to do your best work?

This is a difficult question to answer and responses can be difficult to read.

You're calling out something someone did, that wasn't helpful, that can't be undone.

But it's very likely that we are doing things that aren't helpful for others. These things will come to the surface at some point in the future. It's best to address them sooner rather than later before things spiral out of control.

A word of caution here. It's near impossible to avoid evoking a fight-or-flight response and get a knee-jerk reaction.

To reduce this, make sure the feedback is separated into FACT and FEELING.

FACT = The action that made it hard for you to do your best work.

FEELING = Why, for you, this was unhelpful. Recognise that while it may have been unhelpful for you, not everyone will think the same way.

The below video goes into the FACT v FEELING approach a little more.


7. Can you give an example of where I positively contributed to our team culture?

It's not all about the work. It's also important how you do the work.

Accumulate enough d*ckheads and you will struggle to attract and retain a diverse pool of talent.

Word will get around that your beloved business has become a crappy place to work.

Culture is the glue that keeps all the weird and wonderful personalities in your business moving north. Without a strong culture, teamwork won't sustain. Few businesses survive a lack of teamwork.

Below is a summary of what means to positive contribute to Howamigoing's culture.


8. What have you noticed lately about my demeanour or wellbeing?

Around 93% of information that gets exchanged between people is non-verbal. Without even thinking about it, we pick up signals about the wellbeing of our teammates.

And we give off signals about our own energy, attention and motivation. But we don't always notice our own body language.

If your teammates really are mates, then they'll help you to stay in balance. Letting a close colleague stay unbalanced will soon impact the team, and the business.

To help answer this question, it's helpful again to split FACT from FEELING.

Rather than saying:

"You seem stressed, is everything OK?"

which is dangerous because you may have labelled the wrong emotion, try:

"I saw that you've been working late for 4 days straight now. Makes me think you've got a lot on."


9. When have you observed me at my best? What were the conditions?

This is a great follow-up to question 8 and the answers can be very therapeutic to read!

Self-reflection is a powerful tool. It's even more powerful when done with someone you trust and respect. We get caught in our own heads and tell ourselves so many stories that just aren't accurate. Or they might be accurate, but they're unhelpful, and ought to stop.

To get the best out of people, sometimes you need to focus less on the tasks you're giving them, and more on the way in which they're required to complete those tasks.

Do you require that employees:

  1. Respond to all emails immediately?
  2. Be always available to answer calls?
  3. Only bring you solutions and not problems?
  4. Stick to "they way it's always been done"?

If so, you're probably stripping them of any unique and innovative skill or talent they bring. Consider trying this approach instead.


10. How would you describe me to a friend?

It's OK to include these type of personal questions in a professional setting :)

We are all people and we all have personalities.

Getting a deeper understanding of how others perceive you helps to elevate your self-awareness.

And self-awareness is the first step in developing greater emotional intelligence. Emotionally intelligent people make for the best leaders.

People with high EQ are able to:

  • Manage themselves better,
  • Manage others better, and
  • Manage relationships better.


11. What’s one thing that you think I could benefit from learning about (personal or professional)? Why this thing and why now?

Sometimes it's better to recommend a book or video to someone than to give advice yourself.

You simply cannot become a master of your craft if you are not seeking inspiration and experiences from outside your work. You can't learn everything by "colleague osmosis".

Even when working at the most forward-thinking business with the smartest people, game-changing things are happening elsewhere that your peers don't know about.

Some of the best inventions come from using a solution in one field (sawmill cyclone technology) to a problem in another (household dust). Enter the Hoover vacuum by Dyson.

Here are our most recommended books at Howamigoing...


12. During which past project or workstream do you think my leadership was at its best?

This question is very similar to question 9, except that it's focused on leadership.

As you get more senior you tend to get less feedback. This is despite you having more responsibility and more impact. It's as if you have nothing left to learn once you've amassed 10 years' of work experience. Which is a silly and dangerous assumption.

The best sportspeople in the world have the most coaches. Yet they're the best.


13. Is there anything you think I could change about the way I’m working remotely to help you/ the team stay on track?

The current pandemic has thrust upon us a new type of workplace relationship.

We had little time to adapt and without realising it, we'll be doing things differently to cope. Some of these things will be helpful to others, like not distracting them as much. Some will be unhelpful, like not keeping them updated on certain things.

COVID-19 will become a thing of the past. Flexible working conditions are a thing of the future.

Best to adapt and evolve lest you get left behind.


14. Assuming you have my permission to be honest, what one piece of advice would you give me? (Optional)

It's always helpful to have a soft catch-all question that's open-ended and optional. Sometimes the best feedback is unscripted.


For advice on how to adapt these questions to your culture, or to see all of our questions...

Send an email to hello@howamigoing.com. We're feedback geeks and have a huge library of tried and tested performance management templates!

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