Updated: Mar 25, 2022
In episode 25 of Think Big Podcast, I discuss the language we can use for annual reviews. During my time as a language coach for architects I've found that this can be one of the most stressful situations for my clients as they want to say the right things for the situation. In this episode I'm packing as much useful information as possible to help you navigate the challenges associated with speaking about yourself and your goals and how to align it to the company values and objectives to help you grow your architecture career.
In the episode I discuss:
✨ The tone we should use in annual review documents
✨ Diplomatic language
✨ Question examples and some sample answers
✨ Follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/archienglishteacher
✨ Connect with me on LinkedIn Tara Cull
Extended Show Notes
Come and join the ArchiEnglish Community to take your English communication skills to the next level.
pursue - follow a course of action
undertake - started or carried out
initiate - start something new
proficient - having or showing knowledge, skill and experience
integral – necessary; a part of something that cannot be separated from it.
below expectations – not as good as hoped
exceeded expectations - better than expected
phrasal verbs related to annual reviews
to go over (something) again - to check or revise something
to bring up (something) - to mention something, especially in order to disagree with it or criticise it
take something into consideration - think about something
give (something) a shot - try something
look back on - think about the past year's events
stepped up - to take on more responsibility
to give (something) a go - try something out, to see if it works
to pull someone upon (something) - to correct them for making a mistake
to put (something) off - to delay doing something
to go above and beyond - to do extra
Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 00:00
You're listening to think big episode 25.
Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 00:18
Hello, big thinkers and welcome to episode 25 of Think Big English for architects. I'm your host, Tara Cull, Australian language teacher, and coach, and landscape architect. And I'm bringing all these things together to help you build more outstanding communication skills. If English is your second or your third language, and you're an architect, a landscape architect, interior designer, or a student, or you work in the built environment, then you're in the right place. To find out more about my coaching programmes, you can go to archienglish.com And as always, you'll find the transcript with key vocabulary, and expressions at archIenglish.com/podcast, you are definitely going to want to visit the show notes for today's episode. Because it's that time of year again, when we have to sit down and have a chat with our boss about how we did over the past 12 months. Annual reviews can be daunting, especially if you've just started working at a new practice, or in a new position. And especially if English is your second, third or fourth language. But reviews don't have to be difficult. You may wonder what to expect from this process or how your manager will evaluate you on things, or how to sound more polite and diplomatic. Many of my clients say they're not sure how to play the game. In this podcast episode, we will discuss the language that we can use for writing your annual review documents before you go into your meetings. Because yes, that is often this document that you have to fill in before you go into your meeting. Which is good news because you might feel prepared. But what exactly do you need to write? So in today's episode, we are going to look at the tone we should use in annual review documents, diplomatic language, and question examples and some sample answers. So let's get straight into today's episode.
Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 02:36
What is a work evaluation or an annual review? And why is it important to get them right? Before we dive in today's episode, let's quickly go over what an annual review or a work evaluation actually is. Essentially, it's a formal review where your manager will evaluate your performance, offer feedback, highlight your strengths and weaknesses and suggest ways that you can improve. It sounds scary, but I can assure you in today's episode, I'm going to give you lots of tips to help you get through them. It's also your opportunity to ask questions and give your employer your own feedback. These are a great chance to help you learn how to develop your skills become more productive and also develop your career. They're a win win for everyone involved. What you need to do to prepare for your annual review varies from business to business. Of course, over the last few years, I've helped many people do their annual reviews, and it changes from business to business depending on the structure and the size. Some will ask you to complete an annual review form. Before you have your meeting. Others will ask you to submit a huge document where you can share your feedback and sometimes you won't have to do any of this. Regardless of the requirements. It's important that you take the time to prepare your review accurately and understand the kind of language that you should use. Because it can make a difference. Let's first talk about how you can remain professional, polite, and use diplomatic language to get the most out of the experience, even if your last 12 months has been a challenge. First, let's talk about the writing tone. When writing your annual review letters or your emails or your documents, it's important to maintain a professional and courteous tone. So keep the focus on your achievements, and how you can continue to be an asset to the company. How do your values align with the values and the goals and the direction of the company that you're working for? Make sure you thank them for their time and express your excitement about working together in the future. Now this is really important because you want to make retain a professional and positive relationship with your manager. Even though the annual reviews can be stressful, or as I said before, perhaps your last 12 months have been a challenge. It's important to be diplomatic, and be polite so you can get the most out of the review process. And your review documents, letters or emails should not sound confrontational or negative. Even though deep down, you might want to unleash all your frustrations on paper. Remember, when you do the document, this is on paper so people can see it. It's on record. Keep it short and positive and reframe challenges or negative aspects into opportunities to use diplomatic language. So what exactly is diplomatic language? And we've spoken about this in a previous episode? Well, it's simply wording or phrases that are used to avoid conflict or offend anyone. It's a way of communicating without sounding too confrontational. And it's often used in professional context. It's often used in phrases such as I believe, or in my opinion, this type of language helps to keep the conversation constructive, and positive and shows that you're taught you're talking about the annual review process, and you're taking it seriously. And you want to be a valuable asset to the company. By using it, you're also indicating that you are interested in growth and development opportunities. So what exactly are some examples of diplomatic language that you can use in an annual review? The following are some examples of diplomatic language that you can get an idea of what I'm talking about. I'll focus specifically on what you use these examples for, in what situations and according to what you'd like to say.
Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 07:03
If you want to talk about what you've achieved, and your commitment, you could say things like, I have demonstrated an excellent work ethic by finding more efficient ways to draft my projects. For example, I put in extra hours to ensure that this project was completed on time, and we were awarded first prize in the competition. By the way, before I continue, all of these examples that I'm using today have been nicely summarised into the show notes for today's episode, so you'll also be able to see them written, as well as in the transcript for today's episode. Continuing, I was able to complete X project on time and within budget, I increased productivity by 20%, compared to last year, I was able to develop a new process that saved the company X amount of time. On the other hand, if you were disappointed about something, you could say this, I was disappointed that x happened. I was hoping we could discuss this further. And by using I was hoping it suggests that you would like to resolve that challenge. Or you could say, I was disappointed that x happened, I think it could have been handled differently. Or I would like to discuss what went wrong with x and how we can prevent it from happening again. Notice how each of these sentences, avoid the negative and instead frame the situation positively, suggesting that you already understand what went wrong and could provide a solution. And I think this is a really important step if you are wanting to grow, and you're wanting to show that you are willing to grow as a person and as an asset to the team. Although your manager is likely to provide extensive feedback, you might also want to ask for feedback on your own. By doing so you also show that you are open to feedback and willing to improve your performance. Great sentences to use include the following. I was hoping to get some feedback on my work from you. Or I was hoping to get some feedback on X project from you. I would love to know what I can do better next year. Can you give me any examples of things I could improve? Or can we discuss x in more detail? I would appreciate your thoughts. receiving criticism or negative feedback can be difficult to handle. Especially if you love your job or you're working hard to achieve your best. So what can you say in these circumstances? And this can come up quite often for many of the people that I've worked with before and they will To know, in my opinion, the best approach is to say thank you for your feedback, I will take your comments into consideration. But you can also use this as an opportunity to talk about the areas you'd like to improve. By doing so, you'll show that you're proactive and driven to achieve your best. So here are some example sentences that you could use. I'm working on improving my time management skills. If for example, somebody gives you feedback about your time management skills, you might say thank you for your feedback, I will take your comments into consideration. I'm working on improving my time management skills. And that is what I want to focus on for next year. Or I'm currently enrolled in a course to improve my x skills. I'm going to focus on becoming more familiar with Zed next year. I would like to be more involved in client meetings. Can we make that happen? Or in the next year, I want to improve my presentation skills? How can I do that? You could also use this as an opportunity to ask your manager for extra support using sentences like I'm struggling with this area of the job. And I could use some help. Or would you mind helping me improve my presentation skills, especially in client meetings,
Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 11:30
you might also want to make suggestions for improvements. And this is again, something that often comes up. But make sure you're using positive language and not focusing on the failures, but areas that could be improved. Use your new diplomatic skills by saying something like, I think it would be great if we could try this. Or I'd love to see us do more of this next year? Or could we consider trying? Or what if we thought about this? Or I think that or I believe that as we spoke about earlier, you might want to use this as your chance to suggest that you take on more responsibility. So you can develop your career and meet new challenges. If so you could say something like this, I would like to take on more projects in the coming year. If there are any opportunities. I'd like to know how I can work with you to achieve this. But what if you've decided that you no longer want to work for the company, which can happen? How do you break the news to your employer in a polite and positive way. And sometimes this can happen in a review. You can say something like the following. Thank you for allowing me to work here. But I've decided to pursue other opportunities. Or after careful consideration, I've decided that remember, you don't need to just try and memorise all of these example sentences right now. As I said, just head to the show notes for this episode. And you'll find a very useful rundown of everything that I've talked about on here today. Just listen and get some ideas for how you might approach your next annual review. Now, what I'm going to do is take you through some of the possible questions, you might be asked in your annual review and give you some possible answers. Now all of these examples are real ones that were either taken from my annual reviews, or some of the annual reviews that I've been working through with some of my clients. I'm just going to give you a few examples in this section. But there are many, many more examples that you will find in the show notes for today's episode. So I suggest going there, if it's that time of year again for you, and you really need some help with how to answer these questions. Question number one, what were your major accomplishments this year that you were proud of? I think this is really important to be able to talk about yourself in a way that shows that you are proud of what you do. You're really excited about your work, and you enjoy the projects that you work on. So here are some examples. I was able to complete the X project on time and within budget and even better, it made a real difference to the local community. Or I was proactive and I stepped up by taking on the role of senior architect while x was away on holidays. I learned about a new software this year, which has helped me become more efficient at work. Many people that I've worked with have tried new examples of software or they've decided that they are going to really take on board some of the things that they company needs. And they take the initiative. So you could say, I took an initiative and introduce an idea that resulted in X X improvement. Or I was able to develop a new process that improved the workflow. final example for this question. I think my biggest accomplishment this year was improving my time management skills. However, think about those examples, and how does it relate to you? How can you use some of those examples when you think about what you have achieved in the last 12 months? Number two, how did you contribute to the success of your team or projects. Now, this can be a tricky one. But here are some examples. And I want you to think about them in the context of your own examples. I had a major role in the success of my projects, I made sure that everyone on my team knew what their responsibilities were. So we could meet deadlines without any issues. My project was completed on time and within budget, thanks to the hard work of my team. Or last example, I was always willing to take on extra tasks this year, when needed, and to do whatever it took to help my team succeed. For example, in X project, I worked X number of hours.
Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 16:31
So think about how some of those examples how you could apply some of those examples to your projects from the last 12 months. Number three, what challenges or opportunities did you face this year? And how did you address them? What shortcoming did you experience? When answering this question, make sure you focus on sharing what you're going to do to overcome the challenges, or what you did to overcome those challenges and highlight any opportunities you could address with extra training. For example, this year, I had to step up into the role of project manager for our largest client. It was challenging at first, but my team and I were able to figure it out by and explain how you were able to figure it out. Or I had to deal with a lot of last minute changes from the client. But I was able to do them with ease because my team were able to help me. Or I took on several human training courses this year, which helped me to address some of the shortcomings I'd faced with using different software programmes, including Revit, grasshopper, and incorporating Dynamo. Lastly, I attended several networking events, which helped me meet new people. And I learned about new opportunities for growth in my career such as so think about with this question, think about what were some of the things that you found hard, but you were able to overcome them? Because you were proactive? Or you, you did something that was a little bit out of your comfort zone. And you took something on board, you really tried your hardest to achieve something. Number four, what was the most satisfying project you worked on this year? And why was it so rewarding for you? Now this question is a great opportunity for you to share your successes, and demonstrate your passion for your job. So why not use one of the following sentences, think about how it could apply to some of your own projects, and some of your own experiences. The most satisfying project I worked on this year was x. Because I was able to use my skills and knowledge to the fullest extent on this project. I was really excited by what we were able to achieve. Or I enjoyed being given the opportunity to lead the X project. I learned a lot of new skills, and I was able to achieve things that I never thought I was able to achieve. Number five, are there any areas in your job that you'd like to improve upon in the coming year? And if so, what are your plans for doing so? Here you have a great opportunity to show that you're proactive when it comes to your career development and our future focused. So you're really, really wanting to be at this particular practice or you're really wanting to grow these skills. So possible answers include in the next year I hope to improve my leadership skills by taking on more responsibility within projects such as I've been watching other team members work On Revit models, and they seem very good at it. So I think that is something I want to dedicate my time to next year. Or lastly, something I'd like to further develop next year is my construction administration skills. I know this will require further training. However, I would love to learn more about this area of project management. Number six, since the last review, what actions have you taken to follow through on your development plan and goals? So this question should be relatively easy to answer. So when they say follow through, it means what have you done? So since the last review, what have you done to make sure that you have met your development plan and goals. If you've only just started at this company, think about some of your goals that you had prior to starting, what had you set for yourself, you can always tell them that as well. So here are some examples. In my last review, I said I was going to improve my ability to work on Revit models. And so since then, I've taken a course in the software.
Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 21:13
Or I attended the annual conference last year, which helped me to learn about new trends and technologies that are changing the industry today. I'm particularly interested in X, or since our last review, we discussed how I could increase my involvement in project management. And I took steps to make sure that this happened. And finally, number seven, do you have any goals or objectives for the upcoming year that you'd like to share with us, either professional, or personal? Are there any challenges that you would like to take on? This question is the perfect opportunity to share your goals and ambitions for the coming year. So use it to your full advantage. Of course, you can talk about your personal goals, but try and align it to the goals of the company. How do your own goals and objectives fit within the scope of what the company might be talking about in the future? Are they opening a new office internationally? Are they taking on projects that you're really excited about working on, think about how you can attach those goals to the company goals. You can say things like my professional goals for next year include. And these are something that I have thought long and hard about because they match to the company goals. I would like to or I will be doing this by I would like to further advance my career and take on more responsibility. So I'm going to be doing this by explain what you're going to do. Or lastly, I plan on taking courses so I can become more proficient with X software. And this will help me prepare better drawings for our clients and increase the efficiency of our workflow. Let's quickly summarise before we end today, what we've been talking about in this episode, because we've talked a lot about some of the language that you can use. There are so many examples. And I hope that you do find this useful and listened to it many times. We've talked about what annual reviews are and why they are so important. We've learned the importance of using positive language and why diplomatic language is key, even if you're frustrated, and just want to complain. I've also shared with you various example sentences to help you prepare for your meeting and get the results you want. At the end, I shared the typical questions you can expect to be asked during your meeting and gave you several examples to help. Now of course, they may be different in your review. But I'm sure that if you listen to some of these examples, it will help to inspire you or motivate you with some of your own examples. So for each of the questions that I've given, you try and think of how it relates to your own projects. As I've mentioned several times in the episode, go to the show notes if you want to refresh your memory or find even more example sentences. I'll also include those in the vocabulary section, and other useful links so make sure you go and check it out. As always, thanks for listening to the Think Big podcast. If you enjoyed the show, make sure you subscribe for more English tips for architects and share with someone else who you might find who you think might find it useful. And remember that you can find the free podcast Transcript with key vocabulary and useful expressions at archIenglish.com/podcast. Until next time.
Summary of Vocabulary from the Episode
General idea for language
If you want to talk about what you’ve achieved and your commitment:
“I have demonstrated an excellent work ethic by finding more efficient ways to draft my projects. For example, I put in extra hours to ensure the x project was completed on time and we were awarded first prize in the competition.”
"I was able to complete x project on time and within budget."
"I increased sales by 20% compared to last year."
"I was able to develop a new process that saved the company x amount of money."
If you were disappointed about something:
"I was disappointed that x happened, I was hoping we could discuss this further ."
"I was disappointed that x happened, I think it could have been handled differently.”
To ask for feedakdoing so, you’ll show that you are open to feedback and willing to improve your performance.
Great sentences to use include:
“I was hoping to get some feedback on my work from you"
“I would love to know what I can do better next year. Can you give me any examples of things I could improve?
"Can we discuss x in more detail? I would appreciate your thoughts."
Talking about areas for improvement
"I’m working on improving my time management skills."
"I’m currently enrolled in a course to improve my y skills."
"I am going to focus on becoming more familiar with z next year."
"I would like to be more involved in client meetings
"In the next year, I want to improve my presentation skills."
To ask your manager forMake suggestions for improvements.
"I’m struggling with this area of the job and I could use some help"
"Would you mind helping me improve my presentation skills, especially in client meetings?"
You might also want to MMMmmmmkmnjcndjsMake suggestions for improvements:
"I think it would be great if we could…”
“I'd love to see us do more of this next year."
“Could we consider trying …?”
“What if we thought about …?”
“I think that ...." or "I believe that …”
To take on more responsibility:
"I would like to take on more projects in the coming year. If there are any opportunities, I'd like to know how I can work with you to achieve this.”
Run down of some possible questions and some possible answers with extras not mentioned in the episode.
Number 1. What were your major accomplishments this year that you were proud of?
“I exhibited perseverance, tenacity, and hard work for x project”
“I was able to complete the x project on time and within budget and even better it made a real difference in the local community"
“I was proactive and stepped up by taking on the role of x”
“I was able to finish my design for y project and have it approved by the client in time for construction.”
“I learned about a new software/skill this year, which has helped me become more efficient at work."
“I took an initiative and introduced an idea that resulted in xx improvement”
“I was able to develop a new process that improved the workflow”
“I think my biggest accomplishment this year was improving my time management skills."
“In my annual review last year, I said that I wanted to enhance my skills in REVIT ... This year I have been able to do this by taking on several training courses and applying what I learned in several projects.”
“This year, I have been able to develop my skills in project management and learn about the business side of architecture. This has helped me take on more responsibility and contribute more in meetings with the client.”
“I was able to secure a few new clients for the company, which helped boost our revenue stream.”
“My manager has given me a lot of responsibility which has allowed me to grow professionally and personally as well!”
“I was able to develop a new process that helped the company secure x clients and successfully deliver projects such as x, x and x.”
Number 2. How did you contribute to the success of your team or project(s)?
This can be a tricky one. Here are some examples:
“I had a major role in the success of my projects. I made sure that everyone on my team knew what their responsibilities were so we could meet deadlines without any issues.”
“My project was completed on time and within budget, thanks to the hard work of my team.”
“I was always willing to take on extra tasks when needed and do whatever it took to help my team succeed. For example, in x project I…”
Number 3. What challenges or opportunities did you face this year, and how did you address them? What shortcoming did you experience?
When answering this question, make sure you focus on sharing what you’re going to do to overcome the challenges and highlight any opportunities you could address with extra training. For example:
“This year, I had to step up into the role of project manager for our largest client. It was challenging at first, but my team and I were able to figure it out by …”
“I had to deal with a lot of last-minute changes from the client, but I was able to…”
“I took on several new training courses this year which helped me address some of the shortcomings I faced with using different software programs including…”
“I attended several networking events which helped me meet new people and learn about opportunities for growth in my career such as…”
Number 4. What was the most satisfying project you worked on this year, and why was it so rewarding for you?
This is a great opportunity for you to share your successes and demonstrate your passion for your job. Why not use one of the following sentences?
“The most satisfying project I worked on this year was…because...I was able to use my skills and knowledge to the fullest extent on this project.”
“I enjoyed being given the opportunity to lead the x project.”
Number 5. Are there any areas of your job that you’d like to improve upon in the coming year – and if so, what are your plans for doing so?
Here you have a great opportunity to show that you’re proactive when it comes to your career development and are future-focused. Possible answers include:
“I want to continue improving my project management skills, especially when it comes to managing budgets and meeting deadlines.”
“In the next year, I hope to improve my leadership skills by taking on more responsibility within projects such as…”
“I would like to .... So I am going to do some training in this area by taking a course on x and attending the annual conference next year.”
“I’ve been watching other team members work on REVIT models and they seem very good at it, so I think that is something I want to dedicate my time to next year.”
“Something I'd like to further develop next year is my construction administration skills. I know this will require further training however, I would love to learn more about this area of project management.”
Number 6. Since the last review, what actions have you taken to follow through on your development plan and goals?
This question should be relatively easy to answer. Here are some examples:
“In my last review, I said I was going to improve my ability to work on Revit and so since then, I have taken a course in this software.”
“I attended the annual conference last year which helped me learn about new trends and technologies that are changing the industry today.”
“Since our last review we discussed how I could increase my involvement in project management and I took steps to …”
Number 7. Do you have any goals or objectives for the upcoming year that you’d like to share with us (either professional or personal)? Are there any challenges you would like to take on?
This is your opportunity to share your goals and ambitions for the coming year. So use it to your full advantage! Say things like:
“My professional goals for next year include…”
“I would like to ... I will be doing this by…”
“I would like to further advance my career and take on more responsibility, so I am going to be doing this by…”
“I plan on taking courses so I can become more proficient with REVIT. This will help me prepare better drawings for our clients.”
“I would like to enhance my skills in Adobe Suite programs to create more visually appealing graphics for presentations or other marketing materials.”
“Developing my communication and presentation skills so I can contribute more effectively in project meetings.”
“Construction detailing training so I can work closely with the builder and contractors.”
Back to top
Have any questions about anything you've heard in today's episode? Send me an email.
Want to uplevel your communication skills to present your projects with more confidence? Find out more about my 1:1 & coaching programs. Find more examples to help you feel more prepared in our Coaching Guide, Planner and Language Guides.