Jun 23

The Performance Cycle

I had a long conversation with an candidate yesterday that was similar to many that I have every single week.

The candidate was telling me that they had failed in a promotion process three times previously but had decided to give it one ‘last shot’. “Great!” I said. I then asked the questions that I always ask:

  1. What went well on the last board?
  2. What didn’t go so well?
  3. What feedback did you receive?
  4. How will you change as a result of 1, 2 and 3?

I asked the questions pretty much knowing what the answers would be, namely;

  • “Personally I think I had some good examples, I’ve been doing this job for 20 years and so am massively experienced.”
  • “I think I just waffled on a bit on occasion.”
  • “Not much, they just said that the examples weren’t all at the required level and that the standard was high.”
  • “Nothing really, I’ll just work harder next time I suppose.”

This really frustrates me. It’s a common theme that results in candidates lurching from one disappointing result to the next. No-one really wants to spend hours and hours preparing for, lets face it, the really boring topic of promotion. So why don’t they do a better job of these re-sits?

I think the answer is that they don’t really know what they should be doing, they are getting conflicting advice on how to best prepare (often from those who have no real idea) and lastly it’s just easy to do what you have always done. And this really is the point – candidates don’t change their approach. You all will know the definition of insanity; doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

I know that many candidates spend a significant amount of time preparing. That’s usually not in question. What is in question however is the quality of that preparation. How many of you sit at your desk and tidy it for 30 minutes so that you are ‘ready’ to study? Or, you watch a few funny videos on YouTube before you get going and I know that you are making an extra brew before you settle in to study!

In my opinion the issue here is two fold 1) You need to learn from your previous experience and change your approach. And 2) you need to focus your efforts better.

The Performance Cycle can really help you with this. It’s a simple concept that is used by most top athletes to help them improve their performance time and time again. To be successful at your board, your need this athletes mind set.

Lets take a quick look at each part of the process and how it can help you.


Preparation really is the key, but it must be focussed. You need to ensure that your concentration is on all the things that will make the difference, and not waste your time on trivialities.

It will be easy to go into your interview without having prepared as well as you could have and say to yourself “I couldn’t have done any more.” But, the truth is that you could have done more. And, if you want to smash the process, you need to do more. You need to leave no stone unturned and be fastidious in your efforts.

You will certainly need to set a goal and a detailed plan of how to achieve that goal. Take a look at our previous blog here to help you will this.

Remember, there is a ‘correct’ way to approach a competency-based promotion processes, but the reality is that most candidates do not know this and therefore prepare and practice inefficiently, wasting their valuable time, effort and setting up for failure. Clearly the help of an expert coach can alleviate this issue and help you be as efficient as possible with your precious time. Time you can them spend doing the good stuff like being with your family, going for a run or walking the dog.


Put the plan into practice. Simple.


A key aspect of learning and improving is self-evaluation. All top athletes do this routinely, even after major success.

When you are reviewing your performance you need to be honest with yourself. It’s essential to take the emotion of the situation out and objectively appraise your performance, even if you feel hard done by. You should consider:

  • Did you implement your plan perfectly? If not, why not?
  • What worked well?
  • What didn’t land as well as you thought?
  • Which areas of the process did you struggle with?Where did you feel most confident and why?
  • What feedback did you receive? Is there a common theme from previous feedback?
  • Did you get any feedback at all? If not how can you seek it out?

It’s vital to ask yourself these questions. You will not improve if you do not analyse your performance in depth and use the findings to change and develop a new plan that will mitigate the risks and shortcomings that you identified. It’s essential to hold yourself accountable.

If you do put the Performance Cycle into practice will definitely help you improve your performance at interview, and remember the margins for success are very slim. Just increasing your performance by 1 or 2 marks may be the difference between success and failure.

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