Surgical performance is increasingly under public scrutiny and non-technical behavioural issues are more frequently the focus of complaints. Currently, there is a lack of a suitable framework or template to assist surgeons in the assessment of their own performance or that of their colleagues. A Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) Working Party considered the methods currently available to define and assess surgical performance. The scope included assessment tools, resources available, and support for surgeons. The Non-Technical Skills for Surgeons (NOTSS) programme developed by the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh and the School of Psychology, University of Aberdeen was of particular interest. This programme was reviewed, adapted and expanded. The nine RACS competencies were used as the foundation for developing a set of three behavioural patterns within each competency domain. Each behavioural pattern was then described by a set of eight behavioural markers--describing four good and four poor behaviours. A variety of resources were identified to assist surgeons, including College and other similar courses and guidelines, publications covering professionalism and health issues and support through various agencies. It was recognized that the College has a role to support its Fellows and to ensure any review of performance is conducted impartially, competently and confidentially. The resulting guide was approved by College Council in June 2008 and later distributed to Fellows and hospitals throughout Australia and New Zealand. It is intended to be used for self-reflection and self-assessment, although it could equally be used as a template for the review of an individual surgeon's performance by a clinical director of surgery or other agency. Considerable progress has been made in the assessment of performance of practising surgeons. This guide has been published to address performance issues across all RACS competencies. It also outlines a variety of assessment methods and strategies to support surgeons.