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Active Reviewing for Leaders

Roger Greenaway's Active Reviewing Tips 10.1 ~ ISSN 1465-8046
A free monthly publication from Reviewing Skills Training

ARTips 10.1  Active Reviewing for Leaders


The previous issue 'Reviewing for Teams' is now at


If you have ever wondered what 'active reviewing' looks like, you
can take a peek at three short and sweet videos (soon to be four)
on my new website at: <http://www.activelearningmanual.com>

I will soon be starting a blog which will overlap a little with
this newsletter and will provide you with more frequent glimpses
into the world of 'Active Reviewing'. I receive so many questions
by email that some of my answers to individual enquiries will be
reappearing on my blog (in a suitably anonymous form).

The 'Short and Sweet' theme morphs into a few training tips on
the same theme - following this week's main article on 'Reviewing
for Leadership'.


Roger Greenaway
Reviewing Skills Training

PS Comments, Feedback. Enquiries are always welcome - as are any
offers of short articles on the theme of 'Reviewing for Peace'.


 ~ 2.1 ~ Experience-based learning for leaders
 ~ 2.2 ~ 10 Strategies for creating more leadership experiences
 ~ 2.3 ~ 10 Ways of reviewing leadership experience
 ~ 2.4 ~ Extras: stories, sources and links

If using experience-based learning to developing leaders, then
one essential ingredient is experience in a leadership role.

I have been astonished to find that some experience-based
programmes for developing leaders provide very little experience
of leadership. Even on a multi-day programme, participants may
only get one opportunity to be a leader. And what learning can be
reliably generalise from this one opportunity? What are the
chances that such a participant will return to work as a more
effective leader? Even worse, what if a participant does not
perform well on their only opportunity to lead? What will that do
for their development as a leader. (In the example I am thinking
of, the trainee leader who messed up their one chance did not
even receive any feedback!)

If you want to use the full power of experiential learning for
developing leaders you need to provide plenty of opportunities
for leadership experience. The challenge is to create a programme
that produces a variety of leadership experiences for each and
every person taking part in programme. I have described some
solutions to this challenge in my article on 'Maximising
Leadership Opportunities on Leadership Training Programmes' at:
The 10 strategies are summarised below...

~ 10 strategies for creating more leadership opportunities

1. Dividing a group into two subgroups

2. Using co-leaders rather than solo leaders

3. Using three or more leaders for each project - either passing
the baton at different stages of the project or each leader
having a special responsibility throughout the project.

4. Working in pairs - taking it in turns to be lead partner

5. Leading reviews (why not? - see No. 9 in the next list)

6. Reviewing experiences of leadership that have already happened

7. Using mini-leadership projects of less than five minutes.

8. Creating a leadership challenge in which each individual has
the opportunity to step up and try out a different leadership

9. Exploring the definition of leadership in a way that makes
people realise that everything they do and say in a group
influences others whether or not they are an assigned leader.

10. Making links between leadership and the transfer of learning
and setting up transfer as a leadership challenge.

Use just some of these 10 strategies and every participant should
have a variety of leadership experiences on which to reflect or
receive feedback. Each strategy is described in more detail at:

If you are able to create plenty of opportunities for each person
to experience a variety of leadership roles, then you will also
be able to make good use of these ...

~ 10 ways of reviewing leadership experiences

1) Feedback using the Active Reviewing Cycle
2) SEQ: Style, Effect, Questions
3) Storyline
4) Horseshoe Spectrum
5) Sim Survey
6) Warm Seat
7) Moving Stones
8) Action Replay of Critical Incidents
9) Participants leading a review
10) Reviewing tools for leaders

1) Feedback using the Active Reviewing Cycle

There is little point in providing feedback if people are
resistant to receiving feedback. Resistance is usually less when
feedback is more factual. Resistance is most likely to exist when
a person is being judged or is being given advice. You can use
the cycle to work out (or discuss) the kind of feedback that will
be most useful and effective. Resistance also tends to be less
when the receiver of feedback is in control of the process. For a
full explanation including links to specific techniques see:

2) SEQ: Style, Effect, Questions

SEQ is one of many alternative ways in to giving feedback. A
particular strength of SEQ is that it tends to focus on what many
people want to hear: what they were like, what effect they had,
and how well they communicated - plus an opportunity to ask their
own questions to the group. It is particularly suitable for
providing feedback for leaders, as well as providing a useful
framework for you to receive feedback on your facilitation. You
will find a full description in the success section of the Active
Reviewing Guide.

3) Storyline

Part of being a leader is influencing the feelings of others
(feelings that will lead to effective action). So it is useful
for leaders to find out the extent to which their efforts to
motivate did motivate, whether their actions inspired confidence,
whether people felt noticed / respected / involved / appreciated.
Each person creates a storyline (using pen and paper or a rope)
based on one of these themes. For example, a motivation line
would show how an individual's motivation changed during the
period of their leadership. One person's storyline may show that
their motivation moved from high to low, whereas another's may
show the opposite. Or each person's storyline may show much the
same story. Peaks and troughs in a storyline may not have been a
direct consequence of what the leader said or did, but the leader
can obtain useful feedback by asking questions about cause and
effect. Also, the leader can create their own storyline and show
it to the group (or to a partner) to talk through their own ups
and downs and how these affected (or were affected by) their
leadership role.

4) Horseshoe Spectrum

This an instant survey method in which the leader can get quick
responses from the whole group in answer to their questions for
feedback. Questions might be:
* How do you rate my overall performance as a leader?
* Do you think I should have been more directive or more
* How well did I handle the time pressure / the conflict / the
* Was I too task-focused or too team-focused?
Questions can be derived from any leadership or communication
models that have been introduced as part of the course.
Questions can also emerge from other questions. For example, an
initial question about overall performance can bring out other
factors that can, in turn, be explored on the spectrum.
Questions can also be generated from a group brainstorm at the
outset - providing a handy menu from which each participant can
choose the question they most want to ask.

5) Sim Survey

As for Horseshoe, each participant has questions on which they
want feedback. Limit each person to the one or two questions they
really want to ask. Each person then carries out their own survey
throughout the whole group, reflects on this feedback and reports
back to the group on what they have learned and/or on what they
want to try doing differently in future. This process can only
work after everyone in the group has had at least one leadership
opportunity. Everyone should announce their questions before the
survey begins. This serves the dual purpose of giving people
advance warning of questions they will be asked as well as
providing a quality check (and the opportunity to change

6) Warm Seat

Warm Seat works best towards the end of a leadership programme
where everyone has witnessed each other in 2 or 3 different
leadership roles. For a group of 10 people, Warm Seat takes 100
minutes. The Warm Seat generates ideas for action points for the
seated person. Unlike the 'hot seat' where individuals are put on
the spot and face questions from others, the 'warm seat' is a
comfortable seat from which the seated person asks the questions.
The most important feature of this reviewing method is that the
seated person is in control: if they feel 'too hot', 'too cold'
or in any way uncomfortable, they leave the seat to stop whatever
is being said. Sim Survey (No.5 above) is quicker, but Warm Seat
is more open and allows people to adjust what they say in
relation to what others have said. Sim Survey used 40% of the way
into a programme is good preparation for Warm Seat used 80% into
a programme.

7) Moving Stones

Each person, including the leader, makes an arrangement of stones
or other objects showing their view of how they worked together
and of the leader's role in relation to the group. (Each stone
represents a person.) The leader views all arrangements asking
questions for clarification (if needed) and then voices their
conclusions and what they might try differently. This final stage
is important not only because it leads to action but also because
it is an opportunity to check whether any 'messages' from the
stones have been misinterpreted.

8) Action Replay of Critical Incidents

In some leadership tasks there may be one or two moments of
special interest - such as a moment where a poor decision was
made, or where a critical turning point was the key to success.
Much can be learned from restaging critical events and
interviewing people to find out what they were thinking or
feeling at the time. Restaging (much like reconstructions of the
scene of a crime) brings back people's feelings and memories from
the original incident and makes for a more interesting and
focused review.

9) Participants leading a review

What kind of reviewing can participants be asked to lead? Maybe
their organisation has a protocol for reviewing such as 'After
Action Review'. If so, they can simply practise the review style
required or preferred by their organisation. But do not assume
that participants are only capable of leading discussions: there
are many other reviewing techniques that participants can quickly
learn and apply. For example, most people developing their
leadership skills should be able to rise to the challenge of
directing an action replay - whether or not you are able to
provide them with a film director's chair! If participants do
take lead (or shared) responsibility in a review, ensure they
have the opportunity to self-assess and to receive feedback.

10) Reviewing tools for leaders

Taking part in a leadership programme is one step in a lifelong
journey of developing leadership skills. Participants can benefit
from thinking about how they will learn from future experiences
as a leader. How will they reflect? How will they obtain
feedback? Will they keep a diary? Will they hire a coach? Will
they re-use or adapt any of the reviewing methods or principles
that they have experienced during this leadership programme? If
time is short, perhaps you will present them with a ready-made
reviewing toolkit to help them with their future development as a
leader? But with more time you can talk through the options as a
group and encourage each person to adopt a strategy that best
fits their preferred learning style and that is also realistic to
sustain in their current workplace. An individualised plan for
future learning from experience as a leader is one of the most
powerful tools people can take away - because it helps to ensure
continuing development as a leader.

Your stories of your successful application of these or related
ideas are always very welcome - whether or not they are offered
for publication. Please write to: <roger@reviewing.co.uk>

For more sources, links and research-based findings about
feedback see my recently updated page at:

~ 3 ~ SHORT AND SWEET: Active Learning Videos

Would you call three training videos of just over one minute each
'Short and Sweet'? You can view my briefings for Action Replay,
Moving Stones and Talking Knot at:
Each briefing includes video clips showing people trying out
these techniques. If you are inspired to spend a total of 4
minutes viewing these video shorts, please spend an extra minute
entering your feedback comments in the form provided at:

A more ambitious 4th movie is on its way!

~ 4 ~ SHORT AND SWEET: Are you a one minute facilitator?

Ken Blanchard's 'One Minute Manager' is short and sweet. What
could be shorter and sweeter than a one minute conversation
including positive feedback and appreciation?

Active Reviewing can also be short and sweet. Sometimes
environmental conditions (such as outdoor programmes in the
middle of a British winter) require that reviews should be short
and sweet. But even in a British summer (the warm dry bits) or in
air-conditioned rooms, 'short and sweet' can be more effective
than 'long and balanced' reviews.

Here's why SHORT can be more effective:

1. It is easier to maintain attention and interest for short
2. People get to the point more quickly if time is short.
3. It is easier to stay focused on what matters most.
4. See 'Quick Reviews'

Here's why SWEET can be more effective:

1. Positive feedback helps people learn from what they do well.
2. Positive feedback highlights good examples worth emulating.
3. A positive climate creates the energy, desire and support for
further learning.
3. See 'Reviewing Success'

Short and sweet reviews can be used at almost any time on a
training programme - whether as quick process reviews during a
meeting or as a refocussing exercise in the middle of an
activity. You also catch events while things are 'hot' or
'fresh'. This helps to keep people tuned in and sharpens their
awareness. As a 'One Minute Facilitator' you will be catching
people doing things right and encouraging participants to be
doing this for each other.

'Short and sweet' is a handy strategy but it is not a total
philosophy. Edward Tufte warns us that not all knowledge comes
conveniently wrapped in bite-sized bullet points. Just as there
is a limit to what (and how) you can learn from a Powerpoint
slide, so there is a limit to what (and how) you can learn from
short and sweet review sessions. So don't remove those longer
review sessions from your programme just yet - they can also be
wonderfully valuable opportunities for learning!

And it takes time to follow a full sequence ...


Dynamic Debriefing is the title of the chapter I wrote for Mel
Silberman's 'Handbook of Experiential Learning' (2007).
The first four instalments were:

1: What is Dynamic Debriefing?

2  The Role of the Facilitator

3. Models of Debriefing

4. The Experience of Debriefing

Here is Part 5:  which was also available in Russian Russia at www.metodmaster.ru/articles/dinamicheskii-debrifing-posledovatelnost-v-debrifinge


Several sequences have already been described in the preceding
text (Borton, 1970; Greenaway, 2002; Priest and Gass, 1999;
Thiagarajan and Thiagarajan, 1999) so they will not be repeated
here. This section is an exploration of principles and issues
associated with sequencing within a debrief.

>> Finding a starting point

You can start a debrief with the experience and let issues or
topics emerge, or you can start a debrief by using a topic as a
lens through which to select and view an experience. If starting
a debrief with the story (or stories) of what happened, you can
use techniques such as Action Replay (described later) that rerun
the experience pausing to investigate key moments. There is no
law of debriefing that says you should give equal attention to
everything that happened or that you should give equal time to
each stage of a learning sequence. It is in everyone's interest
that you focus on what matters most, even if this is not apparent
until the debrief is under way. At other times a debrief will
start with a question that leads people to draw on whichever
experiences best answer the question. This might, for example, be
a search for teamwork highs or lows in the exercise just
completed, or in a recent period at work. Or you can simply ask
the group to list issues, questions or topics they wish to
explore. You can then introduce debriefing methods that will help
them to explore their enquiries in ways that take them back into
the experience. Wherever they begin, they are probably entering a
learning cycle which, strictly speaking, has no start or finish

>> The role of debriefing in experiential learning

Experiential learning is often presented in the form of a cycle
in which an 'experience' is followed by a sequence of different
processes until the next 'experience', after which the sequence
is repeated until the next 'experience', and so it continues.
Debriefing can assist any part of the learning sequence that
comes after the 'experience' - from sharing feelings through to
transfer planning. With so many potential directions to take in a
debrief, a poorly sequenced debrief can become dissatisfying and

>> Poorly sequenced debriefs can result in:

* clichéd conversations with no questioning or learning
* meandering discussion going wherever the most dominant people
happen to take it
* paralysis by analysis with learning stagnating at the
investigation stage
* post-mortems producing a distorted negative bias that drains
* jumping to false conclusions by missing out significant stages
* future planning that is not well grounded in what was learned
from experience
* chaos and conflict with people being out of sequence with each
other (while one person is talking about the future, another is
still 'in the exercise', another is speaking their mind, another
is excited about a personal insight...)

Sequencing is not the only answer to the above problems, but
having an understanding of sequencing can certainly help identify
the problem and indicate solutions worth trying.

>> There is no best sequence for debriefing

There is no single 'correct' or 'best' sequence to follow. There
are many different theories, each promoting a particular
sequence, and there is no standard 'best practice' that can be
routinely applied to all opportunities for experiential learning.
Facilitators should be familiar with a variety of useful
debriefing sequences, as well as having a variety of debriefing
tools that enable learners to fully engage with any sequence that
is adopted.

>> Decisions about sequencing

* What should be included in the sequence?
* In what order should these items be included?
* What should be the pace of the sequence?
* Should the sequence be followed once or several times during
the debrief?
* How strictly should the sequencing be adhered to?
* How dynamic should the process be?
* Who should make these decisions (and how is this decision

>> What to include in a sequence

It may not be realistic to include all of the features listed
below in every debrief, but over a series of debriefs it would
usually be important to include all of these aspects:
* clarification and/or negotiation about the process and purpose
of the debrief (which changes from one debrief to the next)
* past, future and present perspectives
* plus, minus and interesting perspectives (suitably balanced)
* individual and group perspectives (both 'I' and 'we'
* feedback to everyone and to individuals ('you' statements)
* opportunities for all learning style preferences to be included
and engaged (both for the sake of inclusiveness and to extend
everyone's learning skills)
* support and challenge in a spirit of inquiry
* opportunities for connection and transfer to the wider world
* a debrief of the debrief! (so that everyone can contribute to
improving the experience and quality of their debriefing

>> Begin at the very beginning?

Beware of assuming that a debrief begins at the start of the
'official' debriefing session. Some important informal or
independent reflection may have already taken place. For example,
if participants have already spent time independently on stage
one and stage two (of your particular sequence), they may be
ready to dive into stage three at the start of your debriefing
session. Also, the more that participants get into the habit of
debriefing, the greater the chances that they will be doing
debriefing (formally or informally) during the training
exercises. So even if you start your debrief immediately after a
training exercise, you may still discover that the learning
process is already well under way. The best starting point is not
always stage one. It is always worth checking where people are at
- and there can be wide variation in any group.

>> Whose agenda? Whose cycle? Whose pace?

One decision you need to make is whether the whole debrief is to
be structured as an agenda (possibly equivalent to one tour of a
learning cycle), or whether the goal (or goals) of the debrief
would be better achieved by participants making several journeys
round a learning cycle. A related issue is whether each
participant is travelling around their own unique learning cycle
- and if so, do they each travel at their own pace or in unison
with others? If working with a group, your answer to the above
questions will necessarily be a compromise. This is because
experiential learning theory is about how individual learners
learn, rather than about how facilitators work with learning
groups. But there are clever ways of making this compromise. If
you keep the whole group together all of the time it is practical
and convenient if everyone moves at the same time at the same
pace. But if you include individual and paired work, this gives
more opportunity for individuals to move at their own pace, and
the group session can be used for finding out where each person
has got to. In this approach, debriefing happens in ones and twos
and the whole group is used for sharing information rather than
for moving round the cycle. The 'clever' compromise is to move
between the two approaches. Many debriefing methods described
later in this chapter have this compromise built in.

>> How important is the original experience when debriefing?

The more stages there are in a sequence, the more layers of
separation there can be from the original experience. For
example, Wight (1991) describes an eight stage experiential
learning cycle, with from three to five topics per stage. That
moment of action and experiencing is receding into the distance
as each new stage adds at least one more filter. This distancing
can be beneficial. But even if it is beneficial, the chances are
that a multistage debrief does not feel 'experiential' when the
original experience is no longer central to the debrief. This
does not necessarily mean that it is 'better' to keep referring
back to the experience at every stage of a debriefing cycle,
because it is usually also important for each new stage to refer
back to the previous stage of the sequence. This is yet another
situation where the facilitator needs to play things both ways.
In this case, the facilitator needs to work with what's coming
out from previous stages as well as referring back to the
original experience. There are many debriefing methods which help
to achieve this balance by 'bringing' the experience into the
debrief, for example - through video replay, re-enactment,
creating a storyboard, map or lists that provide a visual record
of the experience. If the switch from 'experiencing' to
'debriefing' is too sudden and abrupt, there is a risk that the
learning will be poorly grounded and detached from the
experience. The challenge is to maintain some interplay between
experience and reflection throughout the debrief - unless it was
your intention to use the experience simply as an energiser to
precede a discussion rather than as a significant source of
learning and development.

>> Follow a sequence or just move together in any order?

There is at least one interesting midway position between
following a predetermined sequence and free-flow. You can avoid
the potential chaos of free-flow by at least ensuring that
everyone is on the same page at the same time - whatever the
order in which the 'pages' are being visited. A good example of
this solution comes from Edward de Bono who realised that there
can be a lot of wasted energy in free-flowing meetings that
become chaotic and argumentative. He introduced his 'Six Thinking
Hats' model to help people conduct meetings in a more orderly and
effective way. (de Bono, 1985) 'Six Thinking Hats' does not
require people to follow any particular sequence, but it does
require that when a particular coloured hat is showing people may
only contribute according to the rule associated with that
colour. For example, when the yellow (sunshine) colour is
showing, only positive comments are allowed. There are also hats
for critical views (black), creative thinking (green), facts and
figures (white), feelings and intuition (red), and a blue hat for
commenting on the thinking process itself. Of course, some free-
flowing meetings can be highly effective, so a facilitator needs
the judgement to know when free-flow is best, when a structure is
best, and which structure is best. In other words, the
facilitator always needs a 'blue hat' which allows them to
clarify, when necessary, what kinds of contribution are most
welcome at any particular point in the debrief.

NEXT: The next instalment of 'Dynamic Debriefing' provides more
examples of debriefing methods.


Facilitation Fundamentals

November 4th-5th 2008
Freshen up your facilitation skills, increase your confidence and
have more tools and techniques to get the most out of meetings &

    This two day open programme has been designed for
    professionals who want to spend quality time exploring core
    facilitation roles and responsibilities when working with
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Reviewing Skills Training

My next open training events are with Lindeblad Consult in
Copenhagen on 26th and 28th August 2008

If you would like to host an open event closer to where you live,
or arrange for an in-house customised trainer-training programme
please get in touch. Write to: <roger@reviewing.co.uk>



Teams for a New Generation: A Facilitator's Field Guide
Robinson, G, & Rose, M. (2007)

My review of this book is published (with permission from AJOE)
in the reviews section of the Active Learning Bookshop at:

Please support SAVE THE CHILDREN by buying your books (and any
other Amazon goods) via the ACTIVE LEARNING BOOKSHOP.







Roger's Active Learning Bookshop has raised £893 for Save
the Children since January 2006 - thanks to everyone who has been
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If you have other purchases you want to make at Amazon please go
there via <http://reviewing.co.uk/reviews> Not only do you get a
good deal, so do children around the world who need our help.
I worked for Save the Children for 4 years so I know about the
value and quality of the work they do.


'Peace' includes topics such as conflict resolution,
reconciliation, healing relationships and working with volatile
groups. Your offers of paragraphs or short articles are welcome.

What would make you think of a future issue as 'Reviewing for
Me'? or 'Reviewing for the People I Work With'? Your answer will
help me to extend the 'Reviewing For _' series by writing for
readers just like you!

Please send your answer to Roger at: <roger@reviewing.co.uk>

~ 10 ~ About Active Reviewing Tips

EDITOR: Dr. Roger Greenaway, Reviewing Skills Training
9 Drummond Place Lane STIRLING Scotland UK FK8 2JF
Feedback, recommendations, questions: roger@reviewing.co.uk
phone (UK office hours): +44 1786 450968

The Guide to Active Reviewing is at http://reviewing.co.uk
'One of the best training sites I've ever seen' Training Journal

COPYRIGHT: Roger Greenaway  Reviewing Skills Training

Are there any ideas in this issue about REviewing for Leaders that you can use in your work? Do you have other good ways of reviewing leadership or providing leader feedback? Please share your thoughts.

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