Surviving appraisals and delivering feedback that lands

Posted by & filed under Blog.

It’s April and a popular time for appraisals. Whether your company uses structured 360s or a less formal system, it’s rarely anyone’s favourite time of the year and can, if done badly, be a monumental waste of time, energy and resource for all concerned.

The biggest mistake people make is the feedback game: only requesting feedback from colleagues they know will say ‘nice things’ and only saying ‘nice things’ when it’s their turn. Being nice is all very lovely, but it won’t get you respected and it won’t help you to get on.

So how can you turn appraisals into an opportunity to fast track self-awareness and power charge your leadership development? Here are six top tips, three that will help you give the most valuable feedback and three to ensure you get the most from appraisal time.

Giving feedback

  • On no account reach for the excrement sandwich, which people can smell a mile off. Popular a few years ago, this system nestles the ‘negative’ criticism on a bed of ‘positive’ platitudes. Rather than being nourishing, it’s unfulfilling, leaving people with a nasty case of heartburn and little clarity on how to proceed.
  • Instead, make your feedback as specific as possible. The SBI (Situation, Behaviour, Impact) model works well, whether you’re offering positive or constructive feedback.
    • Start by describing the Situation, including what, where, when, how and why their actions were good/needed to change. For example: “last Friday, during the team meeting, I was surprised to hear you criticising the company’s decision to A, B and C”
    • Then describe the Behaviour: “Although you may have a legitimate concern, the way you slammed the table and interrupted Colleague X looked like you’d lost all control”
    • Then outline the Impact of their behaviour, on themselves/the team/department/organisation: “This came across as unprofessional and undermined your credibility in front of the team and department head”
    • Finally, make sure you discuss what they will do instead – it’s no good highlighting something that’s not working unless you help them to find a solution. You can use the SBI model again, exploring together the new behaviours they will demonstrate and the positive impact this will have.
  • Make sure your feedback is a two-way conversation, not a one-way diatribe. Your intention is to help them learn, not make them feel small. Be prepared for an emotional response, which is often a sign that your feedback has landed. If they are extremely upset, you may need to give them time to compose themselves and reflect. And remember to seek their opinion on what took place and what they can do differently as you may not have the full picture.

Getting feedback  

  • Seek feedback from people who will tell it like it is. Choose a mix of colleagues who rate you, people you’ve found challenging and others who hardly know you. It’s amazing what you can learn about your personal brand from those who’ve observed you from a distance.
  • Ask for specific examples of what you’ve done well and what you could do to improve. The more information you have, the more you’ll be able to replicate the good stuff and ditch the bad.
  • Be grateful for all of it. Whether someone’s given you a glowing endorsement or been brave enough to highlight a flaw, they have given you a gift based on how you come across to them. And you can’t argue with that.

For more insight into feedback that lands, check out the Self-awareness chapter of Leading with Gravitas, by Antoinette Dale Henderson. Go to and for information on Antoinette’s leadership and management development programmes. 

“When it comes to leading with gravitas, what’s most important is not what you think about yourself, but how you come across to other people. To accelerate your development I encourage you to actively seek out feedback and find as many opportunities as you can to share this valuable gift.” From Leading with Gravitas, Antoinette Dale Henderson. Rethink Press, 2015


Leave a Reply