4 tips for how to give great review feedback


It’s that time of year for many of us, when staff reviews are due. If like me, you are snowed under with requests for feedback – here are some thoughts on how to make the input you give great and the process as painless as possible for you!

1) Remember it is a privilege to give actionable feedback to peers and colleagues. Authentic engagement in the growth of others is a wonderful attribute (I admit it, this can be challenging after the first 5 or 6). To make it actionable I love the advice Kathryn Britton gives to

  • Tell people what to keep (what you love them to do)
  • Feedback that leads to higher goals
  • Reach for the best of you (not be more like me!)

2) Imagine a face to face conversation. You do need to be honest but don’t say something you would not say looking the colleague in the eye. Most likely you will be very specific with either your good or bad feedback if you are face to face – so don’t waffle with bland hints in your written feedback.

3) Be fearless. Just as Edmond Burke said “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil was for good men to do nothing” The same is true for reviews and the opportunities to provide feedback for colleagues. Your choice here is to stand up and be counted. It is increasingly important to many corporations that just getting the work done is necessary but not sufficient. This is a great time to pull out the Corporate Values, tenets or other PR / HR material that the organisation uses to set it’s aspirations if you are struggling to benchmark a behaviour that you feel it appropriate to give feedback on

4) Take time: I can’t do more than 3 reviews in a row justice. So if I have fifteen to complete, 3 before lunch each day for the week is my goal.

Other resources:

7 ways to make feedback more valuable

How to give feedback so people can hear it

Critiquing etiquette: six ways to provide gracious feedback

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Advocating: a leaders muscle


It is an important challenge to address, and I’ve learned the hard way, that the most powerful advocate for the team is the Leader; the most likely to be out of touch with the will of the group is also me, the Leader.

My enemy is my growing emotional intelligence, which will lull me into believing I am super connected to the zeitgeist when more likely I am growing more influential and powerful which means there is no question that many are beginning to tell me exactly what they think I want to hear. The Emperor is beginning to have New Clothes!

If you take the study of leaders and leadership seriously (highly likely if you are reading this!) are beginning to learn that your experience and growth in part depend on an instinctive intuition, your growing inner compass helping you be more and more effective as a leader – but my experience is that it is exactly this that starts you on a fork from what is really going on in the team.

  • As a wiser soul you spot this and embark on a tactical set of methods to keep your connections
  • Informal chats with co-workers at ‘off duty’ numeral ground, the coffee pot, the corridor, the lunch queue
  • skip level one to ones
  • Listening tours
  • Office hours
  • Employee polls
  • Formal feedback tools

But it is all a waste of time if you have already decided, are not actually listening or even if you are listening slip into post rationalization as a method for proving your intuition was right all along.

It is important to know what is on the mind of the group and not because you should parrot it. That lacks authenticity and I am not a fan of the concept of ‘servant leader’ (not because I am not a fan of the excellent and nurturing shepherd) but because I believe leadership is more than administration, requires risk and inspiration, creativity and failure making the shepherd role necessary but not sufficient for great leaders. It is important because of the critical role of advocate. To trust and to follow you your constituents need to know you will advocate for them with fairness, equity and consistency. How can you do that if you don’t know what matters?

As well as not parroting, you are not seeking popularity – if you learn what the group believes and you know it to be wrong, mistaken, misguided still you must stand against it, offer another way while giving the belief validation and representation anyway.

To hear and not listen is about as stupid as a leader can be. Exercise your advocates muscle every day. Go! Start now..

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So you want to be a leader? Be an evangelist/enthusiast!


Develop the habit of being all about what you stand for, what others can believe in. The bad habit is to be the critic who has become cynical – and can only be evaluated by all the things you are against, dislike or believe worthless.

I would need a sociologist or behavioural physiologist to fully explain the phenomena – but closely related to “Bad News Sells” is the fact that crowds, groups, choose to pay attention to the cynic, the knocker over the evangelist, enthusiast. However, don’t be fooled by that attention – who and what they follow is rich, wholesome and creative when it is the evangelist, enthusiast.

We only need tune into twitter or the TV to find a deluge of folks purporting to lead but with nothing other than bile and negative intent for us to consume because it can be

  • entertaining in small doses,
  • readily available,
  • no doubt cheap
  • a quick road to ‘fame’ if you are shallow enough to buy it.

However, we also find hidden gems, little nuggets of the human spirit making a different choice, to stand up and be counted as being for something we can build or create together – how refreshing and energising is that?!

I talk of this in terms of habits and it is important to think of it thematically that way, since it’s easy to fall into this bad habit everyday, in every meeting or communication. There are tips and tricks, and I’m as sceptical as anyone when they stray toward the politically correct, such as ‘find and replace’ problem with opportunity for example – but that is not what I am talking about here. What I am talking about is an authentic belief in something or someplace that you describe again and again and again.

Good would be things you are going to create, transform, build or become. Bad would be things you would beat, destroy, marginalise.

bottom line – The cynic drags crowds to the bottom – The leader draws followers to the top

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You’re too nice – and that’s a problem


Develop a habit of shooting projects and ideas in the head not in the foot.

It is not my job to be nice – it is my job to make good, clear decisions that further the interests of the business – yet so often I can be tempted with laziness and fear of failure dressed up as compassion or fair play or worst of all incubation innovation. When I do this, I shot something in the foot since I was unprepared to invest resource as a priority when really, I should have shot it in the head.

If I am not going to commit to the success (and I mean commit resources) of a project, make certain that no-one else is either. That means targeting the wounded, unsupported projects that limp about the campus dragging their bloody stumps of project plans and milestones with them – and terminating them.

There have been mammoth Darwinian contests between equal teams that result in spectacular innovation and rate of progress, and I am not talking about those since their success involves at some point the ingestion of the rival or it’s natural demise – no, I’m talking about the hubris programs, the vanity projects that simply should not be drawing a single bean of resource from shareholders and staff alike.

My job is to be rigorous, apply the rules fairly and consistently and develop a habit of killing off stone dead an idea or plan whose time has not come or that I cannot provide adequate resources for given my current priority.

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