The one sentence summary

You can deliver effective feedback and drive great performance with three simple steps.


  • The book suggests a simple three-step model. For feedback to be acted on it needs to be fair, focused and credible.
  • To prepare a FairTalk Statement, you need to:
  • Identify what matters: name it, refine it, check it (tell me why it matters)
  • Check for accuracy: control your social, cognitive and organisational biases, such as a tendency to give weight to things we personally value, and making swift judgment based on just one opinion (tell me how I’m doing)
  • Validate your opinion: collect information from others before sharing (tell me what to do)
  • Performance is affected by capability, characteristics and context. Feedback is fair when it is tempered to take account of why performance is the way it is. Then it’s easier to explain what needs to happen next.
  • Capability: competencies, experiences, intelligence (what I bring to it)
  • Characteristics: personality, drive, mindset/attitude (how I get it done)
  • Context: culture, people, places (what made it hard or easy for me)
  • All this adds up to observable performance.
  • The reasons that managers don’t give feedback can be boiled down to:
  • Nil: “I don’t” (lack of personal accountability)
  • Skill: “I can’t” (don’t know how to, or lack experience)
  • Will: “I won’t” (rational thinking with skewed beliefs:  “I don’t have any answers,” or rational thinking with bad leadership: “I don’t want to be the bad guy.”)
  • Myths about feedback include: feedback happens anyway (it doesn’t): employees don’t like feedback (yes they do); bad feedback is bad (no, it can be helpfully corrective); feedback is a panacea –it isn’t.
  • Reasons people don’t change include low self awareness (I don’t know): insufficient motivation (I don’t care); and strength of habit (I can’t change)


  • There are three characteristics of the contemporary working environment:

1. Blurred line of sight – can’t see the work or the worker

2. Erratic environment – complexity, speed and competition

3. New worker deal – end of job for life, rise of the freelancer, disengagement

  • Much feedback is ineffective because it is:
  1. Baffling – not clear or actionable
  2. Bogus – inaccurate or manipulated
  3. Brutal – some things are better left unsaid.
  4. Women are more likely to ask for feedback; they respond positively to an expert giving feedback, especially male; they like absolute feedback; see feedback about low performance as a reflection of overall ability; are more likely to act on feedback they do not expect.
  5. Men are less likely to ask for feedback; are less driven by the expertise of the feedback giver; like to understand how they compare to others; driven to improve by feedback about low performance; like comparing their performance to others.


  • Not much. This could help many managers make a better job of giving feedback.