I don't much like performance reviews - never really have, whether giving or receiving. Slowly I'm beginning to understand why. As a lawyer, I don't particularly like them for the reasons I expressed in Conducting Performance Reviews and Performance Evaluations for Lawyers and Non-Lawyers.
But Kathy Sierra at the outstanding Creating Passionate Users blog puts her finger on the issue. She jumps off the theme in Marcus Buckingham's book Now, Discover Your Strengths in her post Mediocrity by "areas of improvement". I heard him speak last Friday and Kathy does an excellent job distilling the message, which is pretty simple one: Focus on your strengths. To paraphrase Mr. Buckingham in his presentation "if you improve things that are 'bad' you become 'not bad'" or "mediocre". By focusing on strengths you leverage your uniqueness, and you become "outstanding" and, in the process, you have fun. Not a bad message from where I sit.