How to Write Performance Reviews for Managers (7 Examples)

Ben Goodey
Published on 
March 28, 2024
Ben is an HR enthusiast & researcher with an obsession with creating human-centred content.

It’s that time of year again—performance review season. And with that realization comes an organization wide groan. 

Why? Because an overwhelming majority believes they’re ineffective and unfair. 

We don’t blame them. Traditional performance review processes are too infrequent, too biased, and too vague to positively impact employee performance.

But that can change.  

The right approach, delivered continuously, could turn performance reviews from an administrative nightmare everyone dreads to a process that triggers meaningful development. 

In this article, we explain how to write performance reviews for managers—the group most likely to boost or hinder the performance of their team, and thus the organization.

Key takeaways:

  1. Continuous performance enablement is the key to effective manager development. Ditch the outdated annual review and opt for frequent, specific feedback woven into the daily workflow.
  2. Data-driven reviews beat gut feelings every time. Leverage tools like Mesh to gather concrete examples and multi-source inputs throughout the review period for fair, well-rounded evaluations.
  3. Feedback that sparks growth is specific, timely, and action-oriented. Equip managers with clear insights on what to keep doing and what to work on, backed by recent examples.
  4. Approach reviews as a two-way dialogue, not a top-down verdict. Share evaluations in advance, discuss them live, and collaboratively set inspiring yet achievable development goals.

Jump ahead: 

Why Conduct Performance Reviews for Managers?

Managers are employees too. And unlike software engineers or other individual contributors, they’re unlikely to come trained for the job they have.

82% of managers become managers without any formal training, according to CMI’s 2023 Good Management report.

I don’t know about you but when I have to learn something on-the-job, I require feedback, praise, and redirection to improve. 

And trust me, you want your managers to improve. A manager’s performance has a trickle-down effect on their entire team which in turn impacts the performance of the entire organization.

“Good managers are the difference between high-performing teams and under-performing groups of individuals; between projects that get done and those that don’t; between organizations that succeed and those that fail.” - CMI 2023 Good Managers Report

But it’s not just employee performance that managers impact, it’s employee loyalty too. 

Employees with good managers are more likely to stick around, while a bad manager is more than enough reason to leave:

Given that impact, it’s concerning to find that only a quarter of workers feel their manager is ‘highly effective’ in their roles.

How do we get that number higher? We give managers feedback on their performance through continuous performance reviews. 

Should Manager Performance Reviews Be Any Different?

In principle, no. The only differences will be in the capabilities you judge them against but the evaluation process and the steps you’d take are the same.

Here are some areas you could evaluate a manager on that you wouldn’t other employees:

  • Leadership Skills: Managers play a pivotal role in setting the vision and direction for their teams. Their ability to inspire, motivate, and guide team members is crucial. Evaluations should assess how well managers embody leadership qualities and demonstrate effective decision-making.
  • People Management: Unlike individual contributors, managers are responsible for overseeing the work of others. Performance reviews should consider how managers delegate tasks, develop their team members, handle conflicts, and maintain a positive team dynamic.
  • Team Success: Managers are often judged by the success of their team. Evaluations should look at how the manager's leadership has directly influenced team achievements, productivity, and morale.
  • Talent Development: The ability to identify and nurture the growth of team members is a key aspect of managerial effectiveness. Reviews should assess how managers contribute to the professional development of their employees.
  • Strategic Thinking: Managers typically play a role in strategic planning and execution. Their performance reviews should include an assessment of their ability to align team objectives with the overall goals of the organization.
  • Innovation and Improvement: Evaluations should consider a manager's effectiveness in fostering innovation within the team and implementing processes or strategies that improve efficiency or quality.
  • Internal and External Communication: Managers act as a bridge between their team and other parts of the organization, as well as external stakeholders. Their ability to communicate effectively in these different contexts should be a focal point of the review.
  • Decision-Making and Accountability: Managers often make critical decisions that affect their team and the company. It's important to evaluate their decision-making processes and how they take responsibility for the outcomes.
  • Collaboration: The capacity to work collaboratively with other departments, managers, and external partners is vital. Performance reviews should reflect on how managers facilitate and contribute to collaborative efforts.

How to Conduct Performance Reviews for Managers That *Actually* Drive Manager Effectiveness - 6 Steps

If you want your performance review process to work, you need to turn it into one your people want to take part in because they trust the results will be fair, accurate, and helpful. 

These 6 steps will get you there:

  1. Make performance expectations clear to both you and each manager
  2. Reduce bias by collecting data points from across the period, from multiple sources 
  3. Use examples of the employee’s behavior to back-up claims
  4. Write the reviews in a way that resonates without putting them on the defensive
  5. Share the review async, discuss it face to face
  6. Work with the manager to set development goals 

➡️ As we explain each step, we’ll also explain how a performance enablement tool like Mesh can streamline and enhance performance reviews in your organization.

Step 1: Make performance expectations clear to both you and each manager

The first step in writing a performance review that creates a more effective manager is making sure they know what’s expected of them from the get go. Managers can't hit a target they don't know exists—and if they do, it’s a fluke. 

You, or whoever is reviewing their performance, also needs to know what these expectations are. 

The best way to do that is through documentation. Some organizations use a career framework which outlines capabilities of every role, at every level.

This framework can then be used to judge performance and show employees the road to progression. 

There are career framework templates you can borrow from other organizations and customize to yours.

We like this one built by Lauren Gomes, the current VP of People at Build a Rocket Boy and inspired by JooBee Yeow.

You’ll also want to make sure goals, OKRs, and KPI’s are set in a way that aligns with performance expectations.

Step 2: Reduce bias by collecting data points from across the period, from multiple sources

Recency bias is one of the greatest plagues on the performance review process. When asked to review someone’s performance, we’re more likely to be swayed by recent events and personal relationships unless we have systems in place to prevent it.

You should ensure performance reviews are completed with the help of data that’s been collected across the entire period being reviewed. You should also ensure they give a 360 view of the manager’s performance by seeking multiple viewpoints. 

This is most easily achieved with a performance enablement platform.

For example, with Mesh, you can refer back to feedback and praise given, goals met or missed, and capabilities acquired during the review cycle. 

The reviewer can use this data to create a fairer, unbiased review that accurately reflects employee performance.

And the Mesh AI coach, Maven, helps individuals write great feedback rooted in evidence that recipients are more likely to resonate with.

Teams that run reviews/feedback cycles on Mesh see a ~42% drop in grievance reports on the final feedback reports.

Check out how Mesh enables better 360 Performance reviews or read our guide to 360-Degree Reviews here.

Step 3: Use examples of the employee’s behavior to back-up claims

Vague platitudes like "great job!" or "needs improvement" hold little weight without specifics to substantiate the feedback. 

Effective reviews require concrete examples illustrating the employee's actions and impact. That way they know what behaviors to replicate and what skills to work on.

Mesh simplifies this by automatically surfacing praise, developmental feedback, goals, and other data trails generated and saved throughout the performance cycle. 

Instead of racking your brain during a review, you can simply refer to these recorded instances, taken from peers and 1:1s over the last 6-12 months as evidence backing up your evaluation points.

For example, if assessing a manager's ability to develop their team, you could pull up the feedback conversations where you recognized their impactful coaching moments. 

Or cite a project where their strategic guidance measurably upleveled the team's capabilities. Tangible examples give reviews more credibility and accountability.

Step 4: Write the reviews in a way that resonates without putting them on the defensive

Managers want feedback, good or bad.

83% of employees really appreciate receiving feedback, regardless if it’s positive or negative—Workleap's The State of Employee Engagement Report

But how you frame it can drastically impact whether they become defensive or stay receptive to areas for improvement.

Take care to write reviews using language that is objective, empathetic, and focused on actionable improvements—not demoralizing criticisms. You don’t want them to feel their position is at risk, especially if they’re a new manager with a lot to learn. 

Given the lack of training most managers have, the slightest criticism could trigger imposter syndrome and low confidence, negatively impacting future performance further.

Avoid harsh phrasing like "you failed to meet expectations" or "your leadership was lacking." Instead

The goal is to facilitate a growth mindset dialogue about their professional development, not reinforce feelings of being irrevocably judged or criticized. 

We built our performance platform, Mesh's, to include an AI-coach who analyzes your draft reviews and suggests adjustments to make your phrasing clearer, more encouraging, and focused on actionable next steps—this means your entire company can worry less on getting the “phrasing” right.

If you introduce Mesh to your organization, you’ll be able to help everyone write reviews that resonate and drive meaningful impact. But without it, you can still introduce training that focuses on writing feedback (but that’s time consuming and less effective). 

The performance review process should not be too time consuming. 

We’ve heard of employees taking a personal day to complete the review process 😲. Not only is it inappropriate for them to have to take personal time to complete work, it’s unacceptable for it to take an entire day.

It doesn’t take a novel to give great feedback, keep yours succinct and to the point.

Step 5: Share the review async, discuss it face to face

Once the performance review has been written, it’s time to share it with the manager. 

Don't ambush them by springing the review on them in real-time. Instead, share the written evaluation asynchronously ahead of your meeting. This gives them time to thoroughly read and reflect on the feedback without being put on the spot.

With Mesh, reviewers can easily submit the review and share it with the manager. They can also set up a dedicated 1:1 video call to discuss it. 

Having the review in hand helps managers digest the positives and development points, formulate clarifying questions, and prepare their perspective.

The actual discussion should happen face-to-face (or video call). This creates a psychologically safe environment for an open two-way dialogue. 

You can provide supportive context, they can share their side, and together you can align on the takeaways 

Step 6: Work with the manager to set development goals 

A performance review until this point is all about reflection. But at this stage it needs to change gears and focus on the future. 

How can the manager move forward to either carry on performing at the level they are or improve their performance and action the feedback delivered?

This is something the manager needs to do with their manager.

Together, they can outline specific development goals based on the areas that need improvement.

Make these goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) so they are actionable, not just vague aspirations. Devise a clear plan with concrete steps the manager can take through learning resources, projects, mentoring, etc.

Be sure to get their buy-in on these goals. You want the manager to be just as invested in their progress as you are. 

With Mesh, you can easily set these goals within the platform for seamless tracking and adjustments over time as situations evolve.

The End of Periodic Reviews—Why Your Manager Performance Evaluations Should Be Continuous

Seven years ago, Gallup’s ‘Re-engineering Performance Management Report showed only 29% of employees strongly agreed performance reviews were fair while 26% strongly agreed they were accurate. 

We don’t have an update on those numbers, but any organization following traditional performance management processes will be seeing a similar distrust in performance reviews. 

It’s why the world of HR is still talking about redesigning performance reviews today: 

Traditional annual or semi-annual reviews suffer from several flaws that undermine their effectiveness and credibility. That’s why they’ve started to be abandoned by forward-thinking organizations

What are those flaws pushing organizations away?


  • Recency bias: Evaluations based on memory tend to overemphasize recent events while overlooking important contributions from earlier in the review period.
  • Limited data points: Infrequent reviews rely on a narrow slice of information that may not represent the employee's full performance spectrum.
  • Lack of specificity: Vague feedback without concrete examples leaves employees unclear on what behaviors to continue or change.
  • One-way communication: Top-down evaluations can feel like a verdict rather than a constructive dialogue about growth.
  • Disconnect from day-to-day work: Periodic reviews often feel detached from the realities and rhythms of employees' actual job responsibilities.

Solving those flaws is simple. Feedback on performance needs to be continuous and that real-time feedback needs to feed into the formal review process.

By weaving feedback into the day-to-day work life of your people, you’re giving them the tools they need to adjust their performance in real-time and take steps to develop capabilities they’re lacking in the moment of need—not six months to a year later.

With tools like Mesh, managers and employees engage in regular check-ins to align on priorities, discuss progress, and adjust in real-time. And feedback is collected from multiple sources throughout the year, creating a rich tapestry of performance data.

This ongoing dialogue and data collection bring several benefits:

  • Timely insights: Continuous feedback allows for course-correction and improvement in the moment.
  • Comprehensive views: Drawing from diverse data points over time paints a more accurate, well-rounded picture of performance.
  • Clarity and specificity: Frequent discussions and timestamped examples provide tangible guidance on what to keep doing or do differently.
  • Collaborative growth: Ongoing two-way conversations create a partnership mindset focused on employee development.
  • Integration with work: Performance enablement becomes a natural part of the workflow, not a separate administrative task. 

Continuous employee performance enablement is even more vital for evaluating managers. 

As leaders, their actions (or inactions) have ripple effects across entire teams. Waiting for an annual review to address managerial missteps or missed opportunities can be costly.

By consistently gathering feedback from their direct reports, peers, and own manager, organizations can identify and resolve leadership issues before they fester. They can also spot and reinforce positive managerial behaviors in a timely way.

7 Manager Performance Review Examples - How to Give Better Feedback Continuously

Effective performance reviews for managers hinge on the quality and regularity of feedback provided. 

Vague, infrequent, or overly critical comments do little to drive growth and engagement. In contrast, specific, timely, and balanced feedback can be transformative.

But what does strong managerial feedback actually look like? Here are some examples of continuous feedback in action:

  1. "In today's team meeting, I noticed how you deftly navigated the heated discussion around project priorities. You listened actively to each perspective, validated concerns, and guided the group toward a collaborative solution. This showcased your emotional intelligence and facilitation skills."
  1. "I appreciated your proactive communication this week about the potential roadblocks in the Q3 product launch. Flagging the issues early gave us crucial time to adapt and iterate. Moving forward, I'd encourage you to also propose some initial solutions when raising problems to drive momentum."
  1. "Your presentation to the executive team was well-structured and data-driven. Your clear slides and confident delivery secured buy-in for the proposed initiative. One area to work on is anticipating likely questions and preparing responses in advance. This will boost your ability to address executives' concerns in the moment."
  1. "I wanted to acknowledge your stellar work navigating the recent client escalation. Your calm demeanor, empathetic listening, and creative problem-solving turned a tense situation into a win. One suggestion for the future: loop in relevant internal stakeholders earlier in the process. This can provide additional perspectives and resources to resolve issues more efficiently."
  1. "I noticed in the recent project post-mortem that few team members spoke up with their insights. It might be worth reflecting on how to foster a safer environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing candid feedback. One idea is to start the meeting by emphasizing the goal of learning, not blaming, and model vulnerability by sharing your own areas for improvement."
  1. "While your technical expertise is invaluable, there have been instances where diving too deep into the details has derailed strategic discussions. Consider delegating more granular problem-solving to your team leads. This will empower them to take ownership while allowing you to focus on higher-level strategy and cross-functional alignment."
  1. "I've observed some inconsistency in how performance expectations are communicated across your team. It's important that all team members have a clear understanding of their goals and receive regular feedback. Let's discuss how you can establish a more standardized approach to setting objectives and providing coaching to level the playing field."

Notice how these examples are:

  • Specific: They reference concrete situations and behaviors rather than vague generalities.
  • Timely: They provide feedback soon after the relevant events occur, not months later.
  • And forward-looking: They include guidance on how to apply the feedback going forward.

Consistently providing this caliber of feedback can feel challenging amidst competing priorities. 

That’s where nudge technology can help. Mesh uses science-backed nudges to prompt managers and employees to take action. The actions range from tracking goal progress and booking in their next 1:1 chat through to giving timely feedback.

By leveraging Mesh's nudge technology, organizations can build a culture of continuous high-quality feedback that accelerates manager development. 

Frequent bite-sized inputs add up to robust performance reviews backed by concrete examples. 

The result is fairer evaluations, more targeted coaching, and ultimately, more effective leaders.

See how Mesh can transform the performance review process in your organization, make feedback continuous, and enable better performance in managers and employees. 

Book a demo today.

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About the Author
Ben Goodey
HR Content Strategist
Ben is an HR enthusiast & researcher with an obsession with creating human-centred content.
About the Author
Ben Goodey
HR Content Strategist
Ben is an HR enthusiast & researcher with an obsession with creating human-centred content.

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