Browse Category: career training

How to handle a job appraisal

IMG_0974Some find the thought of a job appraisal scary. The thought of sitting across from your boss or superior answering questions about your performance, defending the decisions you have made and explaining the mistakes you couldn’t avoid.

Here are some ideas on how to handle a job appraisal:

  1. Preparation

Make a list of the most recent projects and tasks that you have worked on. For each project write down a couple of successful points of what went well – how you communicated well within the team, how you used your initiative to implement a new idea, or whatever. Then list what you believe could have been improved, which areas you could develop yourself and how you could go about doing that. By doing this exercise you can intercept most of the questions that may be asked.

  1. Get in the right mind-set

A job appraisal is not an exercise to trip you up, expose you or embarrass you. The purpose of a job appraisal is to allow your employer to understand what you are capable of and what you need to do to improve your job performance. By understanding this you will be able to get in the right frame of mind. Being confident in the knowledge of what you have achieved will allow you relax and perform the best in your appraisal.

  1. Listen and learn

A job appraisal, when done well, will provide you with incredibly helpful advice and opportunities to improve yourself and your work performance. A job appraisal is not about holding you accountable for the things you have done wrong, but instead it is about giving you the ability to learn from somebody else’s experience and opinion.

  1. Don’t go on the offensive

Employers want employees who can identify ways to improve, accept advice and outside opinions, and are willing to advance themselves. By going on the offensive any chance of a promotion or pay rise will be lost. Being overly defensive, or even offensive, will show that you are unable to accept criticism and shows you are unwilling to change.



Articles published in City A.M. this week

City A.M. articles for this week.

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I’m really enjoying writing for City A.M. each week, I hope you are enjoying reading my articles as much as I enjoy writing them. Here are the articles I published this week, be sure to check out what I published last week in City A.M..

Here are my articles published in City A.M. this week:


Stalled career syndrome: What to do when your job’s going nowhere

Are you bored at work? Passed over for that promotion? Find yourself procrastinating or spending time surfing the net to make up office face time? Feel like you’re not getting anywhere? Then you may be suffering from stalled career syndrome.

Two ways to really annoy your boss

Want to annoy your boss? Why wouldn’t you? By simply and consistently annoying your boss you could leave those boring office days behind, forget the early mornings and that rubbish, crowded commute and spend the rest of your days at home in your underwear watching daytime TV. Whoop whoop.


Here are my articles published in City A.M. last week

See all the articles published on the blog this week



Keeping your speaking knives sharp: Executive Coaching for the seasoned speaker

This is a guest blog from a friend and a client, speaker coach Denise Graveline –  It was emotional for me to read. To say the least. 

Denise GravelineKeeping your speaking knives sharp: Executive Coaching for the seasoned speaker

When I shared the news with my clients and readers that I, a speaker coach, had hired Peter Botting, also a speaker coach, to get ready for chairing a conference, I got some pushback from the curious. “Why would you do that?” they wondered. The implication was that I’d somehow admitted I wasn’t as good as I make myself out to be. After all, I’ve been coaching speakers for nearly 30 years, at first within large nonprofit organizations and the U.S. federal government as a senior official in the Clinton Administration, then for the past 10 years in my own consultancy. I’ve put speakers in front of the U.S. Congress, on the TEDMED stage and on, and on national television. And I’ve done the same myself, delivering industry keynote speeches, testifying before Congress, speaking in the British Parliament.

One might consider me, after all that time, to be an expert without having to stretch the truth. A seasoned speaker, certainly.

Of course, Peter had the right comeback for me: “It’s a poor chef who fails to keep her knives sharp,” he said, dismissing the critics and wonderers. I didn’t want to stretch the truth. I just wanted to stretch myself.

I wrote about being a seasoned speaker and getting coaching from Peter on my public speaking blog, The Eloquent Woman:

A trainer who seeks no training after she hits ‘expert’ status is just sharing the expertise of long ago, over and over again. I wanted to set the bar higher for myself. Peter struck me as a professional’s professional, someone who could add value to the skills I already bring to the task. He agreed that I should push beyond rote and strive for exceptional.Then I got what I asked for, and I clutched….Despite knowing better, I acted as any speaker might when pushed. It’s been a while since this shoe was on the other foot, and you’ll be relieved to hear that I’m just like anyone else on this score.

My coach listened, advised, nudged, and teased out the needed results. “I want to stretch you. Quality needs to be pushed,” he’d say, reminding me that “good enough seldom is,” a challenge to the ambitious lion if ever there were one…I knew without question that I’d picked the right coach. He was doing just what I’d asked him to do, and my feeling turned inside-out was something I could control. I went back to responding, rather than reacting, to the challenges. I decided to say “yes” to my coach, and even better, “got to yes” with myself. Instead of running from the power, I ran toward it. At one critical point, my coach reminded me that “turning yourself inside out is a bit like spring cleaning–you find old treasures and assets almost forgotten.” I’d been in search of grace notes and mindset and themes when I decided to seek coaching, and I found them…..

In Washington, you can’t throw a rock without hitting a speaker coach or media trainer. I’ve hired or worked with many of them, and have heard them say the same things over and over again. It’s a cookie-cutter, off-the-shelf, robotic method of coaching. Peter takes a personalized approach, uncomfortable yet powerful precisely because it focuses on you as a unique speaker. Far from merely spouting tips and advice, Peter listens and reads with care, catching nuances and seeing gaps I miss. His ear is especially sensitive to what an international audience will hear, a real advantage as I head into this global conference. But it’s also good at catching woolly thinking and flabby language.

He’s also good at pushing and insisting you do better, saying, “Good coaching can change my clients’ careers, their reputations, their income and their lives. So I apologise for not apologising to my clients if I am sometimes tough with them.” Peter’s seismic approach to speaker coaching can make you feel as if there’s earth moving under that once-stable place you were standing. You can view that as a danger, something outside your control, and run away from it. Or you can view it as the early rumblings of your own power as a speaker, and run toward it.

You, too, may be an experienced speaker with a big speech or speaking task coming up. Perhaps you’ve just been elected an officer of your professional society, or started a new management role, one that requires presentations to the board of directors or to external audiences. You might, after speaking in smaller halls, be about to give that TEDx speech you’ve always dreamed of doing, or be tackling an important keynote or AGM speech. Your friends and colleagues will tell you this is a sign of your expertise, and it is. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t use some coaching right about now. Peter makes the case for 1:1 coaching to improve your performance and notes something he learned as a tennis coach from a pro:

Ian Barclay coached me in Johannesburg. He was Pat Cash’s coach and I was a young, ambitious tennis coach totally focused on learning all his best coaching techniques and skills. He said that teaching beginners, like he taught Cash initially, was all about skills and just 5% about what’s in your head. By the time Cash was playing serious professional tennis, the ratios had reversed and it was now at least 95% head and the rest skills. If you are helping people with what’s in their head – it’s personal. Huge trust is needed and that’s best done very carefully and sensitively without others listening in.

Peter says 1:1 coaching is for people who want to win.That’s the kind of coaching I chose to keep my speaking knives sharp. Here’s how I did at the task for which I was coached, chairing an international conference of speechwriters in Brussels last year. What will you use your coaching with Peter to advance?

Performance Coaching is best one to one and designed for those who hate losing.

Group Coaching

I used to do a lot of group coaching. I do very little now and when I do, I take another coach along to help make the coaching more effective.  The groups I used to coach were typically groups of 12-15 from companies like Grace Chemicals, ThyssenKrupp, BASF and SAP. They were very typical corporate coaching sessions for middle management and the budget for the day was split between all the participants’ personal development budgets. German firms are better at this most – personal development is both encouraged by the companies and sought after by the employees.

Coaching PyramidThen Mercedes hired me to do an 1-2-1 session over ten days with a senior guy on a very sensitive issue and I loved it. More importantly than that – the results were better too.

Norming Training

Group corporate coaching normally is what I call “norming training” – it gets everyone up to a minimum level of competence. Or at least it should! Far too often norming coaching is seen as just something to survive and it is approached by participants and coaches without focus or energy.  Coaching without a specific target is harder to focus and too often includes handouts that soon become, and remain, dusty on unvisited shelves. Tennis coaching is fine and good and important – but preparing for a match against a specific opponent on “that court” is far more fun!

Norming training gets people from the bottom of a pyramid to half way up. It is important but it has its downsides and its limits.

One is the fact that the participants can’t open up completely to the coach with making them themselves vulnerable to the others in the room – who invariably are, will be, or are friends of, current or future competitors in the corporate or political career race.

Secondly – the higher you get up the performance pyramid, the less coaching is about transferring skills and the more it is about what’s in your head. Ian Barclay coached me in Johannesburg. He was Pat Cash’s coach and I was a young, ambitious tennis coach totally focused on learning all his best coaching techniques and skills. He said that teaching beginners, like he taught Cash initially, was all about skills and just 5% about what’s in your head. By the time Cash was playing serious professional tennis, the ratios had reversed and it was now at least 95% head and the rest skills. If you are helping people with what’s in their head – it’s personal. Huge trust is needed and that’s best done very carefully and sensitively without others listening in.

Performance Coaching

Most of what I do now is performance coaching – in other words coaching aimed at a specific event with a time limit and a specific outcome.* It is taking people who are already quite competent and pushing them up the pyramid – leaving good, and the competition, behind. Coaching people who want to work to step up from being “good enough” and who now want to make Partner, bring in the business and the bonuses and get promoted. Since that session with Mercedes I have worked in the same way in politics, career development and with corporates: –

  • Politics – preparing wannabe MPs for selections and selection speeches, successful MPs for their maiden speeches, campaigns for elections, the No2AV referendum campaign and even the Sri Lankan Prime Minister for an address to the United Nations
  • Career/Personal Development – preparing graduates and senior executives for interviews
  • Corporate – preparing business development, management and MBO teams and individuals for major events, pitches and proposals.

All of them are focused on specific events, with defined time limits or dates and a specific win/lose outcome. It is for those want to perform as well as they possibly can – not just a bit better than the others and who resent being called “good enough”. It is for those who, like me, hate losing or coming second. If you know somebody who might fit into one of those categories – why not forward this post to them and introduce us by email?


*I have also worked on ongoing campaigns, e.g. against Human Trafficking, but there is a difference to this type of campaign – they are drip, drip, drip although they obviously include specific events and critical dates.

Career stalled

Career stalled?

Buster, my Jack Russell, and I go for a walk every day – usually about 4-5 km. It’s a great start to the day for both of us and it takes about 50 minutes. But there is a route we often take when we are in London that causes an unusual disagreement between us. And it does that every time.

It happens in a woody piece of path that is at the beginning of our walk. After he has down his business (so that is not the cause of the disagreement) but before the walk has really got started. This woody 100 metre stretch is a favourite of dogs and must have a thousand smells for Buster to catch up on – a bit like a Facebook for Dogs stretch of wooded area – where he does his version of likes, comments and pokes to all the dogs who have been there since yesterday.

I use some of the time we walk to phone my aunt, chat to friends or Skype or talk to my clients if they have a big speech or event coming up that day. But Buster’s favourite area is also where there is no phone or internet coverage – (you would have thought that O2 would have London SE16 sorted by now but apparently not) – which means exactly where Buster wants to take his time and mooch – I am just getting going and can’t call or Skype anyone. Frustration!

Career stalledSo I drag him forward and he puts out all 4 legs like an anchor, turns his 9kg into a total dead weight and looks at me in an evil way. He wins, of course, and I laugh – at him or me, not sure which exactly. The calls are delayed until we get back in an area O2 has managed to conquer. “Whose walk is it anyway?”

Career stalled

I guess our daily conflict is a bit like one of the frustrations for job hunters or those with careers that seem stalled. Sometimes you just want to press forward, to “do stuff”, to be busy, to get ahead. But sometimes you are supposed to go slowly, or stop. Even if it feels wrong. Sometimes we needy to reflect on what is really important and not rush. Often when I do get back in the land of O2, after Buster has shown me who is boss and reminded me of my priorities (he is a huge Golf Ball in my life) I am more relaxed, leisurely and tolerant with my aunt, more use to my clients and more chatty with my friends.

So whether you feel your career is stalled or your job-hunt is on the rocks – sometimes you go forward faster by stopping for a while. Getting perspective. Spending time with family or friends, getting healthy or even taking a holiday to clear your head and get back some focus.

Sometimes our lives are supposed to go slower – adrenalin 24/7 is not a good thing. Although we may feel frustrated sometimes when we think we are achieving nothing – when life and work seem a bore and a dull drudge routine, without realising it we are actually growing/consolidating/recuperating. Most high achievers take time out from time to time to recuperate and refuel – why not you?

Life Priorities – The Empty Pickle Jar Test

Life Priorities – Sometime you need a SatNav to help you make decisions

One evening a couple of weeks ago after a particularly long and busy day, I met up with an old friend. A good friend. One who has stuck his head “above the parapet” for me. We met by accident – we both were heading home. We went to the pub. 

We discussed some important things going on in his life and some important choices he faced. Choices are only ever tough when there are costs involved. And there were – personal, time, money and relationships.

He had seen the video above on my Facebook a few weeks earlier. We discussed it again. It helped that night, along with a few beers, to establish his real life priorities – and those that were less so. I have done the same in my own life because the story in the video above touched me (in a slap around the face sort of way) and made me re-evaluate and reassess. A continual process.

Or perhaps “makes” (present tense) is the right word. As we parted that night – I shouted out “Decide on who or what your pebbles* are!”

I am not sure if I was talking to him or me. But there I was, 45 minutes later, still writing about it.


*I prefer pebbles to golfballs. 🙂

Coaching is the most rewarding job

Coaching is a brilliant job. I love it and I love the human interaction. But there is so much more to it.

Helping people to develop, to grow, to overcome difficulties and conquer challenges makes my life a series of real, relevant and human challenges that need to be won. The buzz from helping somebody get their first job, a new job or a promotion or helping someone get selected as a parliamentary candidate or elected as an MP is huge. The raw, excited and unedited phone call or text saying “I won!”, “I got the job” or “I can’t believe it – I am an MP!!” are little trophies and cherished memories in my life.

graduateBut sometimes you change lives as a coach in different ways. Giving people confidence – seeing an aura of quiet calm replace a person’s nerves or insecurities is the brilliant part of helping people with pure technical communication skills. Although the two are often interlinked.

A few days ago I received an email that moved me and showed how fortunate I am in what I do. This client, a GP!, came to me for communications training – and their confidence grew and they became much better and more competent and more confident – they visibly blossomed. I thought no more about it – “Job done” sort of thing.

We exchanged emails last week and I asked how they were – this was part of their response:

“Much more like my old self, and I have you to thank. When we came to see you, after the video, you told me to see a doctor about my breathing, cut a long boring story short I did … They found a small area of lung damage … (now) All healed, no cough or breathlessness now… I had no idea I felt so poorly.”

You could easily argue that changing people’s confidence or their career prospects is as important as helping someone go to the doctor and get treatment for something they shrugged off. I am not too fussed to be honest – being that little bit of change in somebody’s life is special. Full stop.


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