Effective feedback is critical to professional growth, strategic alignment and talent retention. The year-end review should be a culmination of real-time discussions and micro-adjustments, rather than a moment to unveil major surprises.

A key ingredient—and one that is sometimes surprising to both partners and associates—is inviting the associate to open the review discussion and give his perspective on the year. This invitation, and the timing of it, can yield powerful results in the form of associate growth, engagement and commitment. Basic neuroscience tells us that triggering the fight-or-flight survival instinct is never a good strategy if the goal is complex thinking and listening to other perspectives. Yet, too many reviews begin with pronouncements that do just that. Consider the different gut reactions these approaches might provoke.

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